Parking Areas and Caveat Emptors

Ever walked into a bank and noticed various sign posts located in the parking area with the inscription ‘Cars are parked at owners’ risk’? These warnings can even be found in hotels, malls, supermarkets and at times, in churches and mosques! In plain terms, the warning simply indicates that the owner of such institutions would not take responsibility for any car theft that happens within the premises. In other words, if after reading the warning, the car owner still decides to park his car in the facility’s parking area, he and he alone is liable for the theft of his car while he is within the facility’s premises.

Thus, one is prompted to ask the question: “What are the legal implications of this warning?”

1. According to legal practitioners, this warning cleverly frees or acquits the owners of such institutions of liability or culpability in the event of commercial vehicles theft.

2. It also serves as a kind of advice to car owners to provide adequate security for their vehicles.

In law, this kind of warning is called a caveat emptor. It is similar to notices such as ‘Not for sale’ placed on lands or landed properties. Anyone who ignores such warnings and goes ahead to invest in such lands or properties does so at his or her own risk.

Caveat EmptorsCaveat emptors are notices that act as an alarm bell, warning unsuspecting or ignorant buyers and vehicle owners as the case may be to beware and be careful. The term ‘caveat emptor’ is a Latin word meaning ‘let the buyer beware’.

However, if car thefts in a particular institution or facility has become a recurring incident and there are irrefutable records to support this claim, then the owner of the establishment can be held responsible because such re-occurrence definitely suggests foul play.

Thus, it is essential that both vehicle owners and organizations incorporate extra security measures regardless of the existence or absence of a caveat emptor. These measures could include:

1. Use of cameras: Parking lots and other strategic places in the building should be fitted with close circuit television cameras for enhanced security coverage of the premises.

2. Security personnel should be watchful and vigilant.

3. Tag System: Tags can be given at entry points to drivers, and at the exit points, the drivers return the tags. In this way, an individual without a tag would not be able to drive the car out of the premises. Some college campuses employ this method.

4. Payment of token: This is similar to the tag system. However, this security measure involves the payment of a token fee in exchange for a receipt. Vehicle owners must present this receipt before they can be allowed to leave the premises. This method is used in large market areas.

5. Have an efficient manual or automated car security system. Cars can be stolen anywhere, either in offices, shopping areas or places of worship. Thus, it is advisable to take proper precautionary measures in safe-guarding your car.