Moving Company Theft a Growing Problem in South Florida
Packing up your belongings for a move cross-state or cross country can be a stressful life event. When valuable items go missing during the move and you suspect moving company theft, the situation becomes considerably more unsettling.
Florida is the top state for moving company complaints.
Approximately 15 million American households move each year. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency that handles moving company complaints, receives 3,000 to 4,000 complaints annually. Florida leads the nation in mover complaints.
Moving company theft is a recurring issue in West Palm Beach and South Florida, where wealthy residents and a booming real estate market has proven to be fertile ground for opportunistic thieves. The Business Trial Group has successfully represented clients in mover theft cases, helping them to recover the full value of their stolen items.
If you have been the victim of moving company theft, contact the Business Trial Group and discuss your situation with our attorneys.
Moving Theft in Florida
South Florida is a fraud hotbed due to the concentration of wealth in the area, the region’s large elderly population, and a transient lifestyle that sees residents coming and going throughout the year.
With one of the country’s hottest real estate markets, South Florida is experiencing a surge in households on the move—along with some high-profile stories about moving company theft.
The FMCSA shut down three South Florida moving companies in 2013 for fraud. According to FMCSA, the average mover fraud claim is $8,000. But moving company theft often runs into the tens of thousands—and even millions—of dollars.
In May, the Palm Beach Post reported an alleged case of theft by a mover exceeding $1 million. The victims, a Palm Beach County couple, hired All My Sons Moving & Storage to deliver their belongings from a storage locker to their new home. Upon delivery, the victims found numerous items missing, including paintings, furniture, and ceramic statues.
Last year, employees from Two Men and a Truck were accused of stealing $75,000 worth of jewelry from a customer in Odessa. One of the alleged thieves had been in and out of jail numerous times, reports ABC News, although not for theft. The Two Men and a Truck franchise VP said that all employees must pass a background check.
As a recent Business Trial Group case shows, however, not all employers perform a reasonable and appropriate investigation of its employees.
Business Trial Group Recovers Over $87,000 for Mover Theft Victims
Last year, BTG attorney Roger C. Brown reached a mover theft settlement worth $87,870 on behalf of a Palm Beach couple.
Our clients hired a local moving company to assist with their relocation to Palm Beach Gardens. Unbeknownst to them, one of the moving company’s employees had multiple convictions for crimes that included theft and fraud.
Soon after the move, our clients noticed several luxury personal items were missing and contacted the police. While a number of the items were eventually returned, many were not, nor was reimbursement provided.
Moving companies can be held liable for employee theft.
Our clients filed a lawsuit against the moving company seeking reimbursement for their losses, leading to a settlement that exceeded the value of the stolen goods.
A moving company can be held liable for theft committed by one of its employees where there is “some fault” on the part of the employer—such as by failing to conduct a proper background check before entrusting the employee with another’s valuables. Under Florida’s Civil Theft Statute, this can expose the employer to treble damages, or three times the actual theft damages.
In this case we were able to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company because, although most intentional acts are not covered by insurance, from the viewpoint of the employer, the act of theft was unexpected and unintended. As a result, the insurance company paid the full value of the claim to avoid exposure to treble damages at trial.
How to Protect Against Mover Theft
The best way to avoid mover theft is to research prospective moving companies and look for red flags, such as consumer complaints and a lack of licensing or insurance.
Here are a few steps to follow before booking a company:
- Check with the Better Business Bureau for more information about a company’s past customer experiences.
- Interstate movers are licensed by the FMCSA. Visit their website for tips on how to protect your move and to check complaints.
- Florida moving companies must register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Vet companies through the DACS website. County Commissions—including Palm Beach, Dade, and Broward Counties—also have ordinances governing local moves.
- When doing research, make sure that the company is licensed and has insurance to cover loss or damage to household goods. Insurers typically bear the cost of stolen items in moving loss, damage, and theft cases.
- Understand your rights as a mover: download the consumer manual, “Making the Right Move,” published by the Florida Movers and Warehousemen’s Association.
What to Do If You Are the Victim of Mover Theft
Unscrupulous companies and individuals may take advantage of your vulnerable position during a move. If you suspect moving company theft, in addition to immediately notifying the police, you should contact a law firm with experience recovering damages for victims of fraud and theft.
The Business Trial Group represents clients on a contingency-fee basis, so we charge no up-front fees, and you pay nothing if we do not win your case.