Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

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Latest post Mon, Oct 26 2015 11:50 AM by ca19lawyer2. 19 replies.
  • Wed, Oct 21 2015 1:15 PM

    • karotto
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    Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    If an airline has not paid the proper airport fees can they be refused landing and the plane crashes?

     

    Can a car leasing company remotely disable the ignition in a car while it is driving on the highway because the owner has not paid their bill, risking their lives?

     

    I assume the answer to these questions is no, they cannot. But I am trying to find out why. What is the exact constitutional provision that does not allow this type of behavior? Businesses may argue that if someone did not pay for a service that they have the right to not provide them with that service even though it may threaten their life, if it is turned off, but I am sure they cannot. Again, I would appreciate if anyone could tell me what the legal, constitutional vehicle is why they cannot do that. In other words, what is the constitutional right one has to not be exposed to such harm for financial reasons. 

     

     

    Thank you very much

  • Wed, Oct 21 2015 1:36 PM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    I am no lawyer, and others here likely have better answers than me, I just have questions.

    Why would the airport let a plane leave the gate if they were not paid up?  It seems to me, if the airline isn't paying the bills, they won't be taking off at the gate.

    As for you car situation.  It would seem to me, the leasing company would repo the car.  They aren't likely to be remotely cutting off the engine while you are driving it or something.  Maybe there is a GPS on the car so they or someone can locate their property and take it back.

    I doubt they are going to somehow remotely cut off an engine on the car, nor is an airport going to refuse landing.  Heck, planes in an emergency have landed in Fields, highways, whereever.  It all gets sorted out later on.

    I have no idea if there is a specific law against these things or not.  It's just calleed common sense.

     

  • Wed, Oct 21 2015 2:23 PM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    karotto:
    If an airline has not paid the proper airport fees can they be refused landing and the plane crashes?

    Airports and take off fees and landing fees and terminal fees and parking fees and baggage use fees, etc.  You name it, you get billed for it but you don't owe a landing fee until you land....Airports are regulated by the federal government. 

    Rental cars could have kill switches in them but the rental agency would have an outside operator handling it like OnStar and it could only be implemented upon request of police who would have the vehicle in sight.  They couldn't just kill it because it was overdue for return.

     

  • Wed, Oct 21 2015 4:41 PM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    This has nothing at all to do with civil rights.

     

    karotto:
    If an airline has not paid the proper airport fees can they be refused landing and the plane crashes?

    Who are "they"?  If the antecedent is "an airline," the appropriate pronoun is "it," not "they."  As phrased, the answer to your question is necessarily yes, but no sane person would think it actually would happen.  Among other things, a pilot of an aircraft running low on fuel would land to prevent the plane from crashing regardless of whether some airport "refused landing."

     

    karotto:
    Can a car leasing company remotely disable the ignition in a car while it is driving on the highway because the owner has not paid their bill, risking their lives?

    Not sure to whom "their" refers, but I'm not aware of any technology that would allow for this to happen, but maybe it does, and I'm sure it conceivably could exist, in which case the answer would necessarily be yes.  If the technology did exist, I assume that "disabl[ing] the ignition" of a car would only prevent the car from being started, so I'm not sure why that would risk anyone's life unless the driver were in danger and needed to start the car in order to escape.  In the unlikely event something like that happened, I don't see how that would result in any civil or criminal liability for the lessor.

     

    karotto:
    I assume the answer to these questions is no, they cannot. But I am trying to find out why. What is the exact constitutional provision that does not allow this type of behavior?

    Even if your assumption were correct (which it isn't, as explained above), or even if your intent was to ask about legality, rather than ability, this doesn't have anything to do with any provision in the U.S. Constitution or any state constitution of which I'm aware.

     

    karotto:
    Businesses may argue that if someone did not pay for a service that they have the right to not provide them with that service even though it may threaten their life, if it is turned off, but I am sure they cannot.

    I don't know why you'd think that; any person or business can make any argument he/she/it thinks is appropriate.

    You might want to google the legal doctrine of necessity.

  • Wed, Oct 21 2015 5:06 PM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    karotto:

    In other words, what is the constitutional right one has to not be exposed to such harm for financial reasons. 

    There is no such Constitutional right. The federal constitution does two things: (1) sets out the organization and powers of the federal government and (2) secure for the public certain rights against the government; (e.g. rights to free speech, free press, religious freedom, right to due process, etc). The Constitution does not regulate activity between private persons or entities.

    karotto:
    If an airline has not paid the proper airport fees can they be refused landing and the plane crashes?

    No. The air traffic control system is run by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA determines where airplanes may land, not the local airport authority. The FAA’s primary mission is ensuring the safety of the persons in the air (pilots and passengers). The FAA will not deny landing to any aircraft that is in danger of crashing for whatever reason, including low fuel. It certainly would not honor a local airport authority request to deny landing over unpaid fees. It would allow the plane to land. Once the plane lands, the airport authority might be able to impound the aircraft to secure the payment of the fees that are owed.

    karotto:
    Can a car leasing company remotely disable the ignition in a car while it is driving on the highway because the owner has not paid their bill, risking their lives?

    It could, but it would be extremely foolish to do so. It would be negligence to disable the vehicle in circumstances where the leasing company could not ensure it could be done safely. If injury were to occur because the rental agency did not take the necessary steps to ensure it could be done safely, the car rental company may be sued for the damages caused by that negligence. That could result in damages in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in some cases. Moreover, the rental company’s car may be damaged or destroyed in the wreck. Risking that kind of liability to collect maybe a few hundred dollars in unpaid rental fees is obviously a very foolhardy business decision to make. There are much better ways to collect the unpaid fees than taking that risk. 

  • Thu, Oct 22 2015 8:36 AM In reply to

    • karotto
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    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    Thanks for all your replies but I may not have been clear about my questions. The examples were ficticious of course and since everyone got stuck on them I should not have give any examples at all. My question was what the constitutional legal provisions are why a company cannot endanger somone's life due to a financial matter. This was useful:

    "It would be negligence to disable the vehicle in circumstances where the leasing company could not ensure it could be done safely"

    So we have negligence. So I conclude, a company may not do anything which potentially endangers the safety of individuals even if what they do is legal because it constitutes the legal definition of negligence. Is that correct? And would harm have to occurr first for them to be convicted of negligence or would doing an act which could lead to an unsafe condition also be considered negligent? thank you

     

  • Thu, Oct 22 2015 9:18 AM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    karotto:
    My question was what the constitutional legal provisions are why a company cannot endanger somone's life due to a financial matter.

    No such provision exists in the U.S. Constitution or any state constitution of which I'm aware.

     

    karotto:

    This was useful:

    "It would be negligence to disable the vehicle in circumstances where the leasing company could not ensure it could be done safely"

    So we have negligence. So I conclude, a company may not do anything which potentially endangers the safety of individuals even if what they do is legal because it constitutes the legal definition of negligence. Is that correct?

    No.  Not at all correct (and I'm not sure who "they" are).  If a business entity does something that is negligent, and if someone is damaged as a result of the negligence, the business entity may be held liable for those damages even if the negligent conduct does not violate any particular law.  Note that negligence is a common law doctrine and has nothing to do with any constitution.

     

    karotto:
    And would harm have to occurr first for them to be convicted of negligence or would doing an act which could lead to an unsafe condition also be considered negligent?

    I don't know who "them" refers to (it seems that you might want to do some reading about how to use singluar and plural pronouns correctly), but one of the elements of a negligence claim is that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the defendant's negligence.  Note also that negligence is a civil cause of action, not a crime.

  • Thu, Oct 22 2015 9:59 AM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    karotto:
    My question was what the constitutional legal provisions are why a company cannot endanger somone's life due to a financial matter.

    I already answered that question. I told you that the federal constitution does not regulate private persons or entities. It does two things. First, it defines the powers and organization of the federal government. Second, it provides citizens certain rights against the government. Simply put, this is not a constitutional issue.

    Instead, in any given circumstance where the actions of a private party may affect another person, you must look at what federal or state law applies. There is no general answer as to how actions that might endanger others will be treated. The specific details of the matter and what jurisdiction’s law applies are very important.

    karotto:
    So we have negligence. So I conclude, a company may not do anything which potentially endangers the safety of individuals even if what they do is legal because it constitutes the legal definition of negligence.

    That would be a wrong conclusion. Not all acts that might end up endangering another would be negligence. Where an act would constitute negligence all that means is that the negligent person is liable to the injured person for the harm done. Negligence is not a criminal act. It is a civil wrong for which the injured person may sue for compensation. 

    In some cases an act that endangers others may be a crime. But as I said, the details of the act matter and it matters what jurisdiction’s law applies. 

    In short it appears you are looking for some law that applies to all situations in which an act of one person might pose some risk of harm to another and there simply isn't such a law that applies to all situations.

  • Thu, Oct 22 2015 10:55 PM In reply to

    • karotto
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    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    Wow! That is disappointing. So if I see that a company endangers children you I to wait until a child dies or gets harmed before there is any legal recourse. And then it is apparently only a private lawsuit according to what people replied to my post.

     

    In my particular situation, the water company of the town I live in in Washington state turns off people's water due to nonpayment of their bills! Many of us are appalled and there is a community outrage going on here and I collected quite a number of people who want to seek legal action to stop the water company from engaging in such draconian and medieval measures. You turn off someone's water and unsanitary conditions may emerge and people and children can get sick or cannot be cleaned. Or, a fire cannot be extinguished and therefore people could potentially die due to not having water to extinguish the fire, just because of nonpament of a bill. And of course once again it is the poorest community members that are targeted with these measures but that is besides the point. (Incidentally the water company never loses because they are legally allowed to put a lien hence the property if monies owed). Water of course it not a commodity. It is a right and necessity, like air (that's why I brought in the constitution thinking there must be some provisions guaranteeing the necessities of life but the responses have already explained I was barking up the wrong tree:).

    I do not mean to  doubt the expertise of the posters here but I simply cannot wrap my mind around the fact that there is no constitutional or legal (pre)protection for individuals against something as horrible as this. Do we really have to wait until something horrible happens, no precipatory resourse at all?

    Again, thank you kindly for your time 

  • Fri, Oct 23 2015 12:06 AM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    karotto:
    Wow! That is disappointing. So if I see that a company endangers children you I to wait until a child dies or gets harmed before there is any legal recourse. And then it is apparently only a private lawsuit according to what people replied to my post.

    Again, the details matter. Some situations that pose an obvious risk of harm can be dealt with before any actual harm occurs. But it is true that in many instances the only recourse is a civil lawsuit after the harm has occurred. Some acts that harm others may be a crime, but again, crimes only punish the criminal after the crime has been committed.

    karotto:
    In my particular situation, the water company of the town I live in in Washington state turns off people's water due to nonpayment of their bills! Many of us are appalled and there is a community outrage going on here and I collected quite a number of people who want to seek legal action to stop the water company from engaging in such draconian and medieval measures.

    Ah, now we are getting to your real issue. This is an excellent example of why the details matter. Any service provider needs to have the power to cut off providing continual service when the customer has stopped paying for that service. Otherwise, everyone would simply continue to use the service indefinitely without payment to the utility. Why pay for it if you don’t have to, after all? The service provider would lose money in that situation, with the end result that no utility would be willing to provide that service. Obviously, we don’t want that to happen or no one gets water service.

    The state recognizes, however, that in the case of electric and water utility service, disconnection can result in hardship and in some cases create an emergency threat to the health of the occupants, particularly when the customer is a residential customer. As a result, the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commmission provide has adopted regulations for disconnection of water and electric service that utilites must follow. For water service, those rules are found at Washington Administrative Code (WAC) § 480-110-355

    Under these rules, the utility must provide at least two notices to the customer warning of the disconnection prior to the date service is to be cut off. The first notice must be at leat 8 days prior to disconnection. The second must be at least 3 days prior to disconnection. The notices must be either mailed or delivered personally to the address where service is provided. The notices must clearly state why service will be disconnected and explain the customer's options, including setting up payment plans, that will prevent the disconnection. Furthermore, there are specific rules that allow a customer who would have a medical emergency without water service to keep the service continued during the period of the medical emergency situation. Note that the notices of disconnection only get sent after one or more other billing notices have been sent to collect on the delinquency.

    In short, the customer is going to have plenty of notice that there is a delinquency and have the opportunity to try to resolve the problem prior to having water cut off. Thus, I do not see this as the “draconian and medieval measures” you make them out to be. The utilities have a right to get paid. The customers should have advance warning of that so they can prepare for it and take action to try to prevent it. These rules accomplish that. What more do you think the utilities should have to do prior to cutting off service? How do you think it ought to work? If you think the present rules are not good enough, then contact the Commission and try to get it to change the disconnection rules to something you think is better. You could send the commission a petition signed by the people you've contacted seeking a change in the rules, for example.

  • Fri, Oct 23 2015 6:21 AM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    karotto:
    In my particular situation, the water company of the town I live in in Washington state turns off people's water due to nonpayment of their bills! Many of us are appalled and there is a community outrage going on here and I collected quite a number of people who want to seek legal action to stop the water company from engaging in such draconian and medieval measures.

    In addition to what TaxAgent said here is the other issue with your theory:  all the utilities have a procedure in place where a customer can notify them when the account is created or the medical situation arises that someone resides in the home with a critical medical condition that would be directly endangered if services were cut off.  Not only that EVERY bill I have ever received from a utility contains information on public agencies that will assist with payment when there is financial hardship.  Even more so if someone in the home is medically needy of those services.  

    karotto:
    I do not mean to  doubt the expertise of the posters here but I simply cannot wrap my mind around the fact that there is no constitutional or legal (pre)protection for individuals against something as horrible as this. Do we really have to wait until something horrible happens, no precipatory resourse at all?

    The other problem you have is you do not have a constitutional right to water services.  While it is VERY convenient to turn the tap on and have water, it is not the only method of having water.  You can purchase it from other sources.  I had a neighbor who went without water for 2 months when she got behind on the bill.  She purchased bottled for bathing, cooking, and flushing until she could get re-connected.  

    "That's just my opinion, then again I might be wrong."  Dennis Miller

     

  • Fri, Oct 23 2015 10:01 AM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    karotto:
    So if I see that a company endangers children you I to wait until a child dies or gets harmed before there is any legal recourse.

    Huh?  Endangers children how?

     

    karotto:
    And then it is apparently only a private lawsuit according to what people replied to my post.

    No one wrote that.  You gave us specific examples and now seem to be assuming that the answers relevant to those examples are applicable to any situation falling into some general category.  That's faulty logic and very poor reasoning on your part.

     

    karotto:
    In my particular situation, the water company of the town I live in in Washington state turns off people's water due to nonpayment of their bills!

    In your town and pretty much every town.  Why should a company continue providing a service to customers who aren't paying?

     

    karotto:
    Many of us are appalled and there is a community outrage going on here and I collected quite a number of people who want to seek legal action to stop the water company from engaging in such draconian and medieval measures.

    Every state, including Washington, has public utility regulations that govern this issue and which require more notice than would normally be required before service may be stopped.  Review some of these search results:  https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&biw=&bih=&q=washington+laws+about+turning+off+water+service&gbv=2&oq=washington+laws+about+turning+off+water+service&gs_l=heirloom-hp.3...997.7143.0.7295.47.19.0.25.4.2.273.2267.0j8j5.13.0....0...1ac.1.34.heirloom-hp..33.14.1677.CezbAE3Lgyc.

     

    karotto:
    Water of course . . . is a right

    No, it isn't.

     

    karotto:
    that's why I brought in the constitution thinking there must be some provisions guaranteeing the necessities of life

    It might not be a horrible idea to read (or at least skim) the U.S. Constitution.  It's readily accessible online with a simple google search.

  • Fri, Oct 23 2015 10:23 AM In reply to

    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    By the way, this exercise would have been a heckuva lot simpler had you simply explained all this from the get go.  :-)

  • Sun, Oct 25 2015 2:13 PM In reply to

    • Cicijo
      Consumer
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    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    ca19lawyer2:

    karotto:

    This was useful:

    "It would be negligence to disable the vehicle in circumstances where the leasing company could not ensure it could be done safely"

    So we have negligence. So I conclude, a company may not do anything which potentially endangers the safety of individuals even if what they do is legal because it constitutes the legal definition of negligence. Is that correct?

     

    No.  Not at all correct (and I'm not sure who "they" are). 

    It's quite clear. "They" clearly refers to the hypothetical "company". But, based on your response, you seem to already know that. Whether the grammar is correct or not is irrelevant. You know very well what the poster is intending to say.

  • Sun, Oct 25 2015 5:55 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
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    Re: Can someone be harmed due to lack of payment?

    Again details matter a lot...in one large city near me it became a bit of a joke to pay your water bill...seems a lot did not, rarely a shut off , and the rest of honest rate payers suffered a lot....and more local....a water utility did ruffle a few feathers with a few turn offs for certified deadbeat delinquents....and an activist lawyer representing a few tenants who otherwise never paid, handed the folks at water utility a major setback 

     

    sorry but ever since we closed the debtors prisons a couple of centuries ago and allowed for pretty liberal bankruptcy proceedings....I don't know of any special protections that one needs to give those unwilling or unable to pay for  services consumed..but for any relevant due process/ notice as to shut off. 

    Hey, there may not be a law against a rental,firm disabling your parked car for non payment any more than there is a law against booting or towing for nonpayment of fines or parking next to a fire hydrant ...

    Some public facilities bylaw get redundant feeds of critical services ..and it may be darn difficult to turn them off due to nonpayment ....But if some large apartment operator is not paying a bill there just might be steps in the relevant  public utility regs for the tenants to pay  direct or get cutoff ....details matter ...and I for  one dislike being surcharged in my bills because others are unwilling to pay. ..and that includes not being happy to provide a host of services to those whose presence here is illegal. 



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