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Old 12-02-2005, 12:08 PM   #1
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HELP! $1300 complaint for tank destruction

OK... First let me say... my son pleads guilty! But....

A complant for $1300 was filed agains my son...
He stupidly put soap in an aquirium. Having had freshwater tanks I understand the ramifications...

But.....

The tank was partially "abandoned". The owner had left it in an apartment he had moved out of. There were NO FISH in the tank. The tank was already in bad shape. My son is a freind of the person who moved into the apartment. The owner of the tank was about to loose all rights to the tank because it had been left behind in the apartment. They claimed it was "stinking" and so my son stupidly put soap in the aquirium.

Some time later (days) when the owner came (the last day possible) to get it he saw it's condition and called the police. The sheriff came and handed my son a citation for $1300. It's either pay the $1300 or go to court.

Now.. the owner claims it was a saltwater tank. None of the people (including my son) have a clue if it was or not.

Please understand... He is at fault and I am willing to pay for the damage. But I also don't want to be taken advantage of. the owner will not negotiate. He will not provide a list of what was damaged....

So.. I don't know for sure what the tank was... I don't know what was damaged... I don't the value....

But.. If the tank had been left unattended with no fish for weeks... doesn't that show great neglect??? If it was a salt water tank, wouldn't the chemistry be all bad????

Understand... I want to pay FAIR value...

I know users of this forum will be on the side of the tank owner... and I stress, I want to be fair to the tank owner. But I don't want to pay $1300 for a tank and equipment that was already in bad condition due to neglect. Wouldn't a saltwater tank that was abandoned for several weeks be "bad" (chemisty, life rock, etc)
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Old 12-02-2005, 12:45 PM   #2
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Ooooof. Bad situation. I don't know that this forum will be able to help very much. Any comments from most of us regarding legal issues, would be purely speculation. I would imagine, under the law, the tank was still his and should not have been tampered with - as you seem to agree with. As far as money goes, depending on the amount of "soap" and exactly what the "soap" was - I wouldn't think the tank and equipment would be ruined. Depending on how large the tank was - $1300 would easily account for live rock and corals which would most likely be killed off.

You may be better off running this by an attorney. A good start would obviously be finding out what you're paying $1300 for - or at the very least what size tank it was. I would imagine, in court, he would have to show some proof of this amount due to him.

If it were me, I'd call an attorney to see what kind of proof the owner needs to show.
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Old 12-02-2005, 12:46 PM   #3
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A saltwater tank could look really bad and still be "good" for what matters. The rock inside of that tank (AKA Live Rock) was essentially ruined for LIFE the moment that soap touched it. There is no way to ensure that the rock could EVER be used in a system ever again. At 8-12$ per pound that adds up fast. Also in addition to that if there were corals in the tank, regardless of how the tank looked, those corals (needing minimal care without fish in the system) are now dead. It will be interesting to see the list of what he claims was damaged. If there were photographs prior to the incident you may be able to prove that the fish/corals/whatever that he claims to have died as a result of your sons actions were not in fact his fault, but the rock will never be used again. What's that worth? How many gallons was the system (or rough dimensions)? A 120g tank could have 200# of live rock in the system. A woman I know paid 700$ for 50# of rock from the LFS. It adds up really fast.

Hopefully he'll let your son do it on a payment plan so that your son can learn the tough lesson of not tampering with what it not his.
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Old 12-02-2005, 12:48 PM   #4
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I would also demand that you are given all of the equipment that he claims to be replacing so that he isn't charging you and then re-using an item.
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Old 12-02-2005, 01:12 PM   #5
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one thing to find out as well, is to determine what the care level was like to that point...

if they had an auto top off system or someone giving care to the tank.

If it indeed was a few weeks, I would imagine that the water evaporation would have killed the inhabitants due to increased salinity

I am thinking that most was probalby dead fish/invert wise due to the comment about people complaining about the smell.....

pictures would definitely help...
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Fish=1 yellow tang, 1 yellow headed jawfish, 1 pink/blue shrimpgoby, 2 perc clowns.
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Old 12-02-2005, 01:43 PM   #6
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well a few week without caring could be a long time, however u might wanna first have some sorta prove that can say the tank was left behinde for few weeks. Did the tank's filtration still running in those weeks? Cuz I tried it once, left my tank without heat and lights and no water change for about a month, everything are still running other than all the hair algea in the tank gone (of course most of the small inverts died off and also some coral). I would say if he just charge u for the LR, it might just hard to argue unless he try to ask u to pay for eq dmg. Also depend on area, not all LFS sell LR at 8$-12$ mine just went for 5.99$-7.99$ CDN,so I would suggest go to a LFS and actrually get a price.
BTW, nothing against mykpoz,it is impossible to prove if evaporation was at the level that sainity was so high which all organisim got killed. Since the soap is already throw in,without any prove, the judge will favor that guy cuz u can't just assume wat happened.
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Old 12-02-2005, 01:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oyf709
BTW, nothing against mykpoz,it is impossible to prove if evaporation was at the level that sainity was so high which all organisim got killed. Since the soap is already throw in,without any prove, the judge will favor that guy cuz u can't just assume wat happened.
None take, I was just adding that left for a few weeks as the original poster mentioned in the original post, depending on temp, evap, and may other factors, and taking into count that the tank was stinking to the point it made someone complain, would lead me to believe something died... which could have been the catalyst for a tank crash.

The point is, there is only speculation as to what could have happened.... I agree that the equipment should/can be used again, and the LR if any is what needs to be replaced, as well as any substrate (CC or Sand).

Zell, if you have any pictures before or after please post so we can try to actually determine what sort of tank this was... if the tank was Fish only or had Live Rock, and/or Corals.
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75g w/ 30g sump, 160# LR, 60# sand: Inverts =18 turbos, 30 nassirus's, 40 blue leg's, 5 emeralds, 1 CBS, 1 skunk cleaner, 1 brown gulf shrimp? and various other LR hitch hikers yet un discovered or un-ID'ed
Fish=1 yellow tang, 1 yellow headed jawfish, 1 pink/blue shrimpgoby, 2 perc clowns.
Future fish = 1 sixline, 1 lawnmower blenny
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Old 12-02-2005, 02:12 PM   #8
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IMO .... I would check into your laws regarding abandoned property! I once left an apartment and surrendered the keys, the day after I noticed that I had forgot some things that were tucked away in a little crawl space. I went back to the apartment complex only to be told that whatever was left in the apartment was no longer mine and had been equally surrendered when the keys were turned over!

If this is the case ... the guy lost everything he owned regardless of what "condition" it was in when he came back for it!

Again ... check your laws in NC, because I know here in FL that's the way it works!


Good Luck!


On another note, I did something like this when I was younger ... not to a fish tank, but to the waterfall at the entrance of a High Priced neighborhood!!! It took weeks for the soap to clear out! STUPID MISTAKE on my part. While I didn't get fined I had to spend a day at a type of "MISFITS" camp and help clean up the mess!!
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Old 12-02-2005, 02:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jermz79
IMO .... I would check into your laws regarding abandoned property! I once left an apartment and surrendered the keys, the day after I noticed that I had forgot some things that were tucked away in a little crawl space. I went back to the apartment complex only to be told that whatever was left in the apartment was no longer mine and had been equally surrendered when the keys were turned over!
I hope its this, instead of some people who have apartments, where tenants pay for the last month of rent, and move out the first week, leaving the apartment cluttered until they clean up the last week... maybe the reason he came back, planning and timing of moving a tank... If that was the case, and another tenant was already moved in... wow... I am sure thats frowned upon as well...

Either way poor tank
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75g w/ 30g sump, 160# LR, 60# sand: Inverts =18 turbos, 30 nassirus's, 40 blue leg's, 5 emeralds, 1 CBS, 1 skunk cleaner, 1 brown gulf shrimp? and various other LR hitch hikers yet un discovered or un-ID'ed
Fish=1 yellow tang, 1 yellow headed jawfish, 1 pink/blue shrimpgoby, 2 perc clowns.
Future fish = 1 sixline, 1 lawnmower blenny
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Old 12-02-2005, 02:29 PM   #10
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another good point to make here too and this is just speculation, but if the tenant still "Rented" the apartment until the end of the month ... why would the apartment managers allow someone else to move in? Maybe the apartment complex should also be held liable for damages!
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Old 12-02-2005, 02:39 PM   #11
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I'm thinking this wasn't a complex but an apartment behind a house/garage aparement/duplex or something like that...
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75g w/ 30g sump, 160# LR, 60# sand: Inverts =18 turbos, 30 nassirus's, 40 blue leg's, 5 emeralds, 1 CBS, 1 skunk cleaner, 1 brown gulf shrimp? and various other LR hitch hikers yet un discovered or un-ID'ed
Fish=1 yellow tang, 1 yellow headed jawfish, 1 pink/blue shrimpgoby, 2 perc clowns.
Future fish = 1 sixline, 1 lawnmower blenny
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Old 12-02-2005, 02:54 PM   #12
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The best advice (except for what I'll mention later) is to check the applicable law(s). An attorney is not needed for this initially. An internet search can provide relevant state law info.

The wording is a bit confusing though. A claim is not the same as a citation. If it is indeed a citation, then the document will reference the applicable state statute. Research that word for word. If it is a claim, as in a small claims court claim, then the claimant is simply initiating a legal demand and the sheriff was simply the messanger. Paying it is essentially pleading guilty. If it is indeed a small claims court action, then by all means challenge it. Otherwise you lose via summary judgment. You can represent yourself in nearly all states. The burden of proof as to value is with the claimant, and you should be able to demand an explicit accounting. Court procedures should outline how you make this demand of the plaintiff. Arm yourself with all data you feel supports your position.

Also note that the landlord could have some legal responsibility (the original message doesn't provide enough facts). The main issue here is why do new tenants have access to the apartment before it's vacated? Most states require the landlord to store "abandoned" property for some period of time.

By all means go to court if it is small claims. If the plaintiff doesn't show, you win via summary judgment. A "loss" would probably be for less than $1300, given your statements. Arguing a case in small claims court is an excellent life learning experience.

Finally, never, ever, ever, ever make statements such as "he is at fault and I am willing to pay" in a legal environment, even if the sheriff caught your son holding a sledge hammer over a smashed tank. Hope the plaintiff isn't an AA member.

Best of luck to you. It would be interesting to hear the final outcome, if you wouldn't mind.
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Old 12-02-2005, 03:33 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by OneBowl
Also note that the landlord could have some legal responsibility (the original message doesn't provide enough facts). The main issue here is why do new tenants have access to the apartment before it's vacated? Most states require the landlord to store "abandoned" property for some period of time.
Exactly my thoughts! I did a quick google search and came up with exactly that ... after a tenant vacates or is evicted from said dwelling, the landlord is responsible for storing any and all property abandoned!
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Old 12-02-2005, 03:51 PM   #14
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There is no way any court should make you pay a lump sum without some kinda itemization.

I'd say it'd be worth the $250 (totally guessing) to consult an attorney.
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Old 12-02-2005, 04:53 PM   #15
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Update- Ct appearence

Just back from court appearence...(yep it was today)..

The DA rep was somewhat mystifiied as to why cop wrote up as a criminal offense... I explained I was happy to pay for ACTUAL damages, but I wanted a listing/accounting and complaintant wouldn't supply. DA rep said that this should have been handled without being a criminal charge. My son and I are now scheduled in Jan for an appearance when the officer will be in court. (DA wants the crimial charge dismissed and the parties to work it out.) - How value is determined is anyones guess/..

To answer some of the questons in prev threads... The owner was named on the lease with 2 other guys.. he moved out and his name removed from lease.. the other 2 remained. So there was no real "turnover" of the apartment to someone else. My son now tells me the equipment was not turned on and the 2 remaining guys did no maint to the tank. So at this point I understand it to be a saltwater tank that had no fish, but live rock, and apparenently unattended to for several weeks. It did "stink".

The owner removed the tank the evening of the complaint so I have NO way of knowing what exactly it was and what was in it. My son guesses a 50 gal. (He said it was a little bigger than my [old] 30 gal freshwater). It is not possible to get pictures or to even see the thing.

I hate to go the expense of a lawyer if I could just get a reasonable accounting from the owner.... erghhhhhh
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Old 12-02-2005, 05:35 PM   #16
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This is clearly a civil matter. But I can not understand why it was made a criminal matter? The owner of the tank is going to have to take you to court for the cost/repair of his property. He will/should have to prove the damage and that it was caused by your son. And he should have to prove that your sons actions is what destroyed the tank. The tank or equipment should not be ruined by soap so he cna't claim them as ruined. Right now I would talk to the individuals who were moving in and get a signed statement or even better have them show up in court to testify that the tank was neglected and in their opinion every thing in the tank was dead already.
Sounds to me like this guy is looking to make a quick buck... And it really baffles me that the sheriff put a $1300 value on this.
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Old 12-02-2005, 05:39 PM   #17
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"reasonable" is what I/m most concerned about. Tank and rock, maybe sand -all of course foul any way and full of ammonia are the only things I can think of to replace. Unless I'm missing something, that's still a long way from $1300.

Get a written price for a 50 and a 75g tank, 4 bags of sand, and 75 lbs of cheap live rock. His was just base rock anyway. It was all dead. Take all that info to court with you so the judge can see the guy is an opportunist. Also google on live rock and try to get some third party info on the fact that once the tank has no light, filtration, or water movement and smells foul, that its no longer live rock and loses its value.

That's my 2 cents.

Anybody got an estimate on the items I mentioned - and considering the issues I've raised above?
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Old 12-02-2005, 05:43 PM   #18
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hirocks.com 60lbs premium = 92 dollars
4 bags sand = @30-45 each so 120-180 dollars LFS
75g tank (depends on tank) 100-300+ dollars LFS
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75g w/ 30g sump, 160# LR, 60# sand: Inverts =18 turbos, 30 nassirus's, 40 blue leg's, 5 emeralds, 1 CBS, 1 skunk cleaner, 1 brown gulf shrimp? and various other LR hitch hikers yet un discovered or un-ID'ed
Fish=1 yellow tang, 1 yellow headed jawfish, 1 pink/blue shrimpgoby, 2 perc clowns.
Future fish = 1 sixline, 1 lawnmower blenny
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Old 12-02-2005, 09:28 PM   #19
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well here might be a point to argue which is that the guy removed all avidences that the dmg u might make, now he had no way to prove that u did actrually damage to his eq. or watsoever,however, since u already said ur son dump soap in the tank, unless the officier gave u the charge marked down how heavy are the LR,which is not likely, prety much u donno how much they actrually coast. I would doubt that u will be charge for it UNLESS there is any clear avidences. I belive that it is his responsibility to provide avidences to accuse u.
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Old 12-03-2005, 01:00 AM   #20
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eh?
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75g w/ 30g sump, 160# LR, 60# sand: Inverts =18 turbos, 30 nassirus's, 40 blue leg's, 5 emeralds, 1 CBS, 1 skunk cleaner, 1 brown gulf shrimp? and various other LR hitch hikers yet un discovered or un-ID'ed
Fish=1 yellow tang, 1 yellow headed jawfish, 1 pink/blue shrimpgoby, 2 perc clowns.
Future fish = 1 sixline, 1 lawnmower blenny
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