Garagekeeper Liability: To Bee or Not to Bee

Beehives loaded on palette

A few years ago a client of mine who was a beekeeper took his 2 ton flatbed truck to a local mechanic to prepare it for his beehive distributing annual trek to California, Oregon, and Washington. He would go to California where he would place his beehives in the citrus groves, move them to the almonds and pecans when they would start to blossom, and then on to Oregon for peaches and apricots. The timing for the pollination of these crops allowed him, if he could stay on schedule, to get back to Yakima and Wenatchee, Washington, to tend to the pollination of the apple crop. Timing and weather conditions were critical to his success in this endeavor. Having his truck break down or any other equipment failure could spell financial disaster for him. He always went back to the same mechanic because he knew he could trust the mechanic to faithfully prepare his truck for the journey.

So the schedule was to get the truck serviced, take it home, and park it where about a week before he would leave on this journey, Blaine would load the bee soupers onto the flatbed so the bees would be settled into their new environment before he would tarp them down in preparation for the trip.

The morning came for Blaine to leave. He said his farewells to his family and headed down the road. Approximately three hours later as he came around a bend in the road, a terrible rumbling sound came up through the cab of the truck just as the front side of the truck fell to the highway with the terrible grinding of metal against pavement. Blaine fought to keep the truck on the road but to no avail. He skidded sideways, hitting the guardrail which threw him back across the lanes of traffic where he went off the road into the median, dumping the truck on its side. The tarp tore loose, bee soupers were thrown all over the road, and the bees were scattered everywhere. They were gone.

Fortunately, the wreck was not so horrific that Blaine sustained any injury, but his financial well being literally flew away in the wind.

His insurance company stepped in immediately to get the truck repaired and to compensate him for the damage done to his cargo since he had purchased cargo coverage for such an event. Nothing was available to reimburse him for lost income, which turned out to be the major financial burden of the event.

Upon review of witness reports, reconstructing the accident scene and physical inspection of the truck, it was determined the cause of the accident was the front right wheel coming loose from the axle. Upon further careful inspection, it was apparent the bolts holding the wheel on the axle had worn considerably due to their being loose on the axle. The torque on the wheel was such that when Blaine came around the bend the bolts broke loose, allowing the wheel to come free of the axle and causing the truck to fall to the pavement.

This is where the to be or not to be kind of question weighs in.

The mechanic who did the work and Blaine were good friends, had been and always would be, but how to make it financially right for Blaine would require negligence to be shown on the part of the mechanic.

Fortunately the mechanic carried a garage keeper liability policy for such an event. It is important to note this was not just a garage liability policy but a garagekeepers liability policy. .

The garage keeper insurance company did settle and even had a small compensation for lost income. Blaine was able to purchase some other bees and was back in business the next year using the same mechanic to service his truck.

Emergence of garage keeper liability insurance

Like so many insurance policies, garage keeper liability policies grew out of the need to cover risks associated with automobile repairs and service.

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