Saab 99 story: Who Is Responsible When Your Car Is Damaged: Hotel, Valet Parking or Both?

Very interesting Saab story comes to us from Seattle.

Jawara O’Connor’s 1976 SAAB 99 has been sitting at a Seattle repair lot for more than a month. O’Connor says the car ran fine until a “valet broke a part in the manual transmission”.

O’Connor used valet parking at Seattle’s Andaluca Restaurant, which is run by the popular Mayflower Park Hotel. When he went to pick up his car he was told something was wrong. The car would not go forward. The transmission was stuck in reverse.

The unique and somewhat tricky feature of the SAAB gear shift system requires the car shifter to be in reverse in order to remove the key from the ignition, which is located on the floor near the gear shift. But shifting easily into reverse requires an extra step. O’Connor said the transmission could  only have gotten stuck in reverse if the gear was forced.


The hotel denied responsibility, reasoning that with such an old car, internal parts could break down at any time. Who’s to say what caused the problem?  While that argument might be reasonable in some cases, local Saab repair specialist Nate Everson, owner of Troll Motors, says O’Connor’s Saab damage does not fall into that category. O’Connor asked me to take a look.

Everson displayed a piece that was broken off a part called the reverse actuator. A portion of the solid bronze part that controls the gears had been sheared off.  Everson said that part has no history of defect and  would not fail, unless someone pushed it.

I’m no mechanic, but I was convinced. So I and asked Mayflower Park’s General Manager to  reconsider.

The hotel sent an insurance adjuster to actually look at O’Connor’s car this week.  In addition to confirming the broken part, the adjuster had to make sure the cost of repairs, $3,300 plus tax did not exceed the value of the car.  Base on condition the estimated current market value of O’Connor’s in excess of $10,000. As of Thursday morning,  the hotel’s insurance company approved all mechanical repairs- plus all the charges O’Connor racked up while storing his prize possession at the shop.

Valet parking operators will  warn you on the ticket and with posted signs that they’re not liable for damage or theft –  in order to protect themselves from third-party damage or unsubstantiated customer claims. But according to the Northwest Insurance Council,  that doesn’t automatically absolve them from responsibility.  If you feel you have a valid claim, don’t leave before you take pictures, and call a manager to the site. And be prepared to back up your claim with good documentation.

For it’s part, the Mayflower Park Hotel says it values O’Connor as a regular customer and acknowledges the need for thorough investigation-  saying they try their best, and at the same time,  need to make sure they do their due diligence, as well.

O’Connor says he understands that businesses must  protect themselves from unfounded damage claims, but in this case, there was no question. He hopes to be back in his car in about a week.

source: KOMOnews