Car Park Operators To Now Be Responsible For Stolen Cars

A landmark court ruling may now place vehicles stolen from car parks under the responsibility of car park managements. 

Distraught car owners who may have had the misfortune to discover that their cars have disappeared from parking lots may now have legal recourse to place blame on the car park operators. That is because the Court of Appeals has recently upheld a landmark court ruling that could set a precedent for car park managements to be on the hook for any vehicles stolen from its premises. 

According to a report by Free Malaysia Today, in a case involving Euro Rent A Car Sdn. Bhd. and Sunway Parking Services Sdn. Bhd, the final appellate court upheld the decision of the lower courts. In a verbal statement ruling in favour the plaintiff, it was decided that the management of a car park was liable for negligence when a car is stolen from its premises.

This case was brought to court because of a rental car belonging to the Euro Rent A Car that was stolen from the car park operated by Sunway Parking Services.

On the 25th of April 2016, a French citizen named Hemici Sofiane rented the vehicle and has parked it The Pinnacle Sunway at Bandar Sunway at around 2.30 pm two days later. About 7pm however, Sofiane returned to find that the car was missing from where it was parked. 

Upon reviewing the CCTV footage, it was discovered that the car was stolen from the car park, and that the thief managed to drive out of the car park without a ticket simply by tailgating another vehicle while going through the exit boom gate. Euro Rent A Car therefore sued Sunway Parking Services, arguing negligence regarding this matter. 

Sunway Parking Services however argued in its defence that it were only responsible for providing the parking space. They also argued that reasonable precautions were already in place in the car park. Moreover, the car park management also relied on the exemption clause to limit its liabilities that “vehicles were parked solely at customer’s own risk”.

Nevertheless, while the court did not find any evidence that Sunway Parking Services were complicit in the theft, the car park management were however found to be negligent by the sessions court when the case was heard back in 2016. The high court subsequently upheld this decision in 2018, and most recently the appeals court a couple of hours prior. 

With this appeals court loss then, Sunway Parking Services is therefore ordered to pay for damages amounting to about RM117,000. The judge also ordered a 5% interest payment until the judgment sum was paid, not to mention miscellaneous costs of RM7,325 to the plaintiff.

Sessions judge Izralizam Sanusi, who ruled on the case in 2017, said that the defendant must be held liable in this case because Sofiane had paid the fees before parking the car. “There was a bailor-bailee relationship as Sunway Parking was in possession of the vehicle. Further, it was the responsibility of the defendant to take care of the security of the car,” the trial judge said.

While many motorists are celebrating the court’s decision as it may prompt act on improving its car park security since they now hold greater responsibility, it does however bring into question as to the nuances of this precedent that was most recently set with this landmark ruling. Chief among which is whether the car park management will be now also held liable to theft of car parts that are stolen off cars parked within their premises.

An increasingly common occurrence these days, since this negligence ruling applies to the whole car being stolen, surely then the management should be responsible too if you come back to your car and notice parts have suddenly disappeared into the night. Additionally, is the car park management going to be on the line now when one’s car is vandalised when parked in the car park?

In the past, the car park management will simply shrug its shoulders and claim that you were parking here at your own risk. Now however, with this legal precedent, could owners who experienced these problems claim compensation for the negligence of the management?

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This ruling has also since opened up a legal grey area in regards to the car wash and valet services that operate within the premises responsible by the car park management. While it is currently not considered theft if your car disappears from a car wash or a valet service because the property was transferred voluntarily, could the car park management, or in fact any one of these parties, still be prosecuted for negligence now, thanks to this ruling?

Much like the statement made by the sessions judge, the car wash and the valet service is responsible for the security of the car, and payment has been made as a tacit agreement to this point. So are these services to be held to the same level of responsibility then as the car park operator?

One more thing to add, since the car park management are now to be saddled with this additional liability and responsibility, would this then mean parking fees will be skyrocketing upwards in the near future?

Thus far, no one is yet to be able to answer any of these follow-up questions with any sort of certainty. One thing is for sure however, there seems to be major changes brewing in the parking business in Malaysia on the horizon. For good or for bad though, that still remains to be seen.

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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