Jacksonville, FL asked in Small Claims for Florida

Q: Can I take an invited party to small claims court for damage to my property they accidentally caused?

An individual, not a company, knocked on my door to ask if I needed my lawn mowed. They accidentally shot debris hard enough at my back door to cause the exterior glass to shatter. They admitted they were at fault and lied about paying for damages. It has been weeks and I have seen no money from him.

A police report could not be made as it was not criminal intent. The same officer also told me that the case would largely be he-said she-said as our working relationship is largely undocumented outside of text messages of him saying he was liable and would pay. The officer also noted that the person was invited onto the property to do the job and might not be held accountable by the judge because it is an accident.

Is this true? If I were to take them to small claims court for the cost of repair, is there a legitimate defense that the person mowing a lawn (and was still PAID after causing property damage), is not to be held accountable for an accident ( NOT intentional/negligent)

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1 Lawyer Answer
Terrence H Thorgaard
Terrence H Thorgaard
  • Freeeport, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: First, I assume that the damage is a deductible from you homeowner insurance so you have not made an insurance claim claim.

The damage may well be considered negligent on the part of the individual who was mowing you lawn. If you decide to take him to court, be aware that at the small claims pretrial conference the judge may order mediation, but you won't present your evidence. If the case isn't settled then, it would be set for trial. At that time, be sure to bring printed copies of the text messages admitting negligence (as well as any other evidence on your phone).

A police officer's area of expertise is criminal, not civil, so a good rule of thumb is not to take legal advice from a police officer. For example, the fact that the person was invited on your property is of no consequence in this case.

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