Vehicle Damage on Campus
If Westmont has liability for damages occurring on campus to vehicles not owned by Westmont, we will see that appropriate restitution is made. If Westmont is not liable, then we will gladly cooperate in providing access to information we possess that is necessary to assist vehicle owners in seeking a way to recover their damages.
The key factor in our response, then, is liability. Under the law, liability arises when a party has been negligent. Negligence refers to a failed duty. So the hinge is whether we had a duty with respect to a given loss. Here are some examples of how that can play out. Obviously, many other circumstances could be illustrated or could occur, involving both human and natural causes.
Westmont Employee Driving Golf Cart Hits Parked Student Car
Our employees have a duty to exercise caution to prevent damage to others in the course of their work. Although the outcome could depend upon particular circumstances, it would appear in this illustration that the college would be obliged to cover the cost to repair the student's car.
Student Driving Personal Vehicle Hits Guest's Car
Since both the student and the guest are independent third parties, then--assuming for this illustration that nothing the college did or failed to do was applicable to the circumstance--resolution of this matter would be between the student and the guest. If we had happened to take photos or have other information pertinent to the matter, we would share the same information with either or both parties upon request.
Tree Limb Falls on Parked Employee Car
If Westmont had specific reason to believe that a particular tree posed a threat, and did not take appropriate and timely action to mitigate the threat, then it would appear in this illustration that we would be obliged to cover the cost to repair the employee's car.
If, however, among the many trees on campus one were to fall during a storm, then unless that particular tree had previously been identified as posing a danger we would regard this as an act of God outside of our control, and the employee would need to pursue recovery independently thru their own insurance carrier. There exists no industry standard of care--nor would it be reasonable to expect--that every tree on campus be checked routinely as if to guarantee that no storm could cause any tree to fall. The college does have arborists inspect our trees from time to time, so in the event of damage from a falling tree or limb we will check our records as to the tree involved and be forthright in disclosing if that tree had been brought to our attention prior to the loss.
Wayward Baseball Damages Vehicle
Signs posted at parking lots near baseball field are to warn people of the possibility that damage could occur to their vehicle. Furthermore, someone parking a car within range of a foul ball is presumed to be aware of the potential hazards associated with choosing to park in proximity to an athletic activity, in this case baseball, in which errant balls are an inherent part of the game (or practice).
To illustrate the rationale, with reference to the tree limb scenario described above, parking in an area with posted signs near the baseball field is comparable in concept to moving cones or caution tape in order to park near a tree that we'd observed as hazardous and placed barriers around in order to prevent damage.
Consequently, the college will not assume responsibility for the costs associated with such damages. The loss should be reported to the vehicle owner's insurance company if they want insurance proceeds to assist with the cost of repair.