*Disclaimer: This post discusses general legal issues, but does not constitute legal advice in any respect. No reader should act or refrain from acting based on information contained herein without seeking the advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Ryan K. Hew, Attorney At Law, LLLC expressly disclaims all liability in respect to any actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this post.
Today’s Post is Not About Sledgehammer Time: It’s Only Focused on the Shopping Cart Law
Hey all, I decided to jump on the bandwagon (may be the shopping cart?) and talk about shopping carts. However, I am not going to get into whether Rep. Brower’s actions exposes him to civil or criminal liabilities or if they were right or wrong. I think Civil Beat, attorney Marcus Landsberg, and the news outlet and social media has already beaten that cart into disrepair (yeah, I am going to keep trying to hammer away with the lame jokes and puns).
Anyway, what I would like to do is take a look at this matter from a business establishment perspective (those that put out the carts) and what the legislature has put forth as a law on point (looking at what is on the books. It turns out that we have enacted a law specifically for shopping carts. HRS § 633-16 discusses the unauthorized removal of shopping carts. Further, as it is in Chapter 633, it puts this matter in small claims court.
Breaking Down the Law
So looking at the law, as currently stated, it makes it a violation for a person to remove a shopping cart (including baskets and other devices) from the premises of business establishment (that owns the cart), if they are unauthorized. The premises include the parking lot as well as the sidewalks adjacent to the business establishment’s premises.
The business establishment is the person who has the ability to bring a claim under this law if there is damage to the business or property. The business may sue for damages and win an award equal to the replacement value of the cart (and keep in mind the average cost of a cart ranges from $100 – 250), basket, or device plus the cost of the suit. The establishment can also sue to enjoin the unauthorized act.
So in order for a business to win in small claims court (under this law) the must nail down these elements:
they are the lawful owner of the cart, which has been identified;
they gave notice, which means posting a conspicuous sign where the carts are stored that says the carts are not to be removed;
that the cart was removed from the business location without proper authority; and
the person accused of violating this law is in possession or had control of the cart.
Practicalities of the Law
In terms of policymaking it is understandable why the legislature gave such a legal action for business owners of these carts (as they are expensive). However, in terms of reality is if these carts are being taken by people who are unable to pay the damages or the business cannot track them down its effectiveness as a law should be looked into. In addition, how many shopping cart owners utilize this law for these purposes? All I know at this point though is that the bang of the gavel in your favor is a better sound than a squeaky cart on uneven pavement!
A Final Word
Although this post was focused on shopping carts, business owners for any type of legal action should always consider the cost of pursuing claims in court versus that of implementing practical solutions (where possible), or possibly a combination of legal and practical action, such as drafting contracts, policies, procedures, and other preventative measures. Anyway, that’s it for this post. Mahalo!