Problems with Property

Well, I’m pretty pissed right now. Apparently, I’ve gotten a summons from the college saying I’ve violated their Student Code of Conduct. Specifically, they’re saying I destroyed another student’s personal property.

Let me tell ya what happened.
I was in class one day, and these two guys had their laptops set up in the seats behind me. And they had their power cords hooked up and plugged into the stairs at the side of the room. Thus, the cables ran on the floor where I was at.
So we have a break, and I go to get out and I trip on one of the power cables going across the floor, which yanks the cord from the laptop. Apparently, this didn’t go over well with the guy. When the cord was yanked out, it apparently broke some plastic that keeps the cord hooked into the laptop. Without it, it hangs loose (which I’ve almost never seen on any laptop). So I offer to help out and try to fix it whatever way I can. But, I didn’t get far, since I didn’t have anything with me to do anything significant. So, he confronts me later saying I broke the pin that the cord hooks up to. (Said I “forced” the cord in, breaking it.) So he goes off on me, telling me I can’t go around breaking people’s fucking computers, and to take responsibility and pay for repairs. I kinda ignored it, since I thought this was stupid, and he really didn’t have grounds to tell me that.

But…come almost 2 weeks later, I get this damn summons in the mail. So now I’m in a bind and gotta go visit some law people on campus for advice. I am not amused by this…:scream:

Any suggestions or comments?

Obviously, talk to the law people on campus. But while you’re there, mention “comparative responsibility” and “contributory negligence.” Also mention the “necessity” defense.

  1. It’s possible that, by running his cord over an area that people would walk over, the laptop user was more negligent than you. He was negligent in the sense that he created the hazard that ruined his computer, and in creating danger of tripping those who passed by. This argument will work best if the cord was kind of bent so it stuck up (i.e. not flush to the ground); if the area was full of traffic; and if it visibility was poor. Under “comparative responsibility,” the damages to his computer are apportioned according to how negligent each person was versus the other. Under “contributory negligence,” if he was negligent, you pay nothing at all.

  2. A similar argument is that his cord created a tripping hazard for you. You tripped on the cord. To avoid falling on your face, you had to continue bringing your foot forward. It wouldn’t make sense for you to pay damages to someone, when that person created a hazard from which you were protecting yourself. This probably falls under the “necessity” defense.

Not that you’re going to court or anything. But these are the points you’ll want to stress to the legal people.

As much as the damn cords are annoying (and had the guy been using a mac, it wouldn’t have damaged anything because the cords are held magnetically), its still your fault for breaking the guy’s computer and you’re going to have to man up and pay the fees. Repairing the casing will probably cost around 100 bucks.

If he tripped over the cord because of the manner the other guy had the cord on his ground, it may not actually be his fault. Xwing actually mentioned the theories that lawyers would look at. If the cord was tripped over because of the other guy’s own negligence, Ultratech may not be at fault.

Go to the meeting drunk and tell him in a heavy slur that he will “know what real damage is” when you “rip out a different chord.”

The plugs are there for people to plug in their laptops. If its the guy’s fault for plugging his computer, you can argue that its the university’s fault for not putting plugs under seats (ie better places). The university will never agree to that.

Are you sure that those outlets are there expressly for laptop cables? Stuff used electricity and was portable before laptops, y’know.

Not exclusively, but its certainly intended considering the distribution.

Watch where you walk?

You could argue that they put the plugs in stupid places, but if it had been plugged into the wall (instead of the middle of the stair), it wouldn’t had changed anything. And I try to watch where I walk, just hard when there’s a lot of crap on the ground. Given the plug distribution in the room and how old the building is, there’s no particular reason why they’re there.

Xwing actually has a point with Negligence, since I was thinking the same thing. I like the necessity defense though (I was thinking about using something like that). Given I hadn’t caught myself, I could’ve been hurt.

And I get the feeling that given the summons, I may end up having to pay him for another laptop. My theory on that is, if the pin was actually broke and wasn’t fixed properly, he might be asking for a new laptop…but I’ll actually find out when I go to this meeting. (Though Arac’s idea had me laughing for a good 2-3 minutes.)

UGA and Wake Forest both have plugs under all their communal seats. One’s public, one’s private. They have similar setups to accommodate laptops. It’s not a huge cost to change where the wires run. And if the university didn’t install plugs that would lessen the likelihood of people tripping over exposed laptop wires, the university may be negligent. Had Ultratech fallen and busted his teeth, he may very well have had a case against both the student and the university for creating a situation where an obvious and easily preventable walking hazard existed.

The Judicial System for colleges isn’t a court of law. The guy probably filed a complaint or had someone write up an incident report. The “summons” is just to give a set time so that they can hear your side of the story. It sounds like you won’t have to do anything as long as you stay calm about it while you explain what happened.

Note: This information comes from an RA.

As I said , “The university will never agree to that.”

I’ve seen different set ups at different universities, different classes and auditoriums. Sometimes it works, sometimes its stupid. As I already said, Ultratech won’t have to buy the guy a new laptop, just a new casing probably, which is relatively cheap. While its true that its not a court of law, they still have the authority to fuck with you in bad ways.


Here’s what’s going to happen at the summons:

Authoritative person: “Ultratech, you have been summoned for breaching blah blah blah when you broke X’s computer when you ripped the laptop chord out of the wall socket and refusing to pay for the damages”.

Ultratech: “Its not my fault I tripped over the wire, the guy shouldn’t have left it there, its a hazard, and your plugs are at stupid places”.

Authoritative person: “You should’ve watched where you were going, laptop wires aren’t a new thing”.

Ultratech: “…”

Actually, you have a much better shot at not having to pay for it than you think. Typically, colleges hold “judcidial reviews”, which are mini-trials, to decide things. The juries usually consist of a mix of professors and students - typically you’ll have one professor, and one student, and one administrator(a secretary or something) - or at least that’s how it works at my school. Anyway, the point is that a jury consisting of students and professors is much more likely to side with you, than say a collegle Dean who just wants the problem to go away.

I think that if this goes to court you should sue the school. If you had fallen and gotten hurt you could have certainly sued the school for damages. Tell them you rolled your ankle and missed class or couldn’t work or something, anything to scare the school into forcing the student to desist.

But it certainly won’t go to court, the contributory negligence idea sounds pretty good.

Honestly, your best approach would probably be to not attack the university. If you calmly and rationally explain that you tripped over the wires because of the other person’s negligence, I would think you should get off. Also, don’t listen to Sorc; lying about rolling your ankle or whatever would not be a good idea.

As Xwing mentioned, were the wires flush against the ground? Had other people tripped over the wires before? How high traffic of an area was the walkway where the wires were located? If it was high traffic, I would submit he runs the risk of someone tripping over the cords and causing damage to his laptop; he acted in a manner which created a walking hazard and acted in a more negligent manner than you had.

Honestly, given the little facts you’ve told us, the only thing I think were wrong in doing was attempting to fix it. That may be what the summons is about.

The plugs in the middle of the stairs are for the cleaning crew.

I would go for the tripping hazard defense. In the map library of my old university they had strips of masking tape for people to use just because of situations like these.

Good news! I talked with the Judicial Officer today, and they threw it out. He said the guy was being an idiot and didn’t have much grounds to make me pay for any damages or whatnot. So I’m happy about that. Thanks for your advice everybody!:hahaha;

Very nice. Did he give reasons why the guy had no claim to damages?

Well, he said a lot of it was the guy’s fault for leaving his cord out in a public walkway. Also, he understood it was an accident (and apparently, the guy tried to make it sound like I was a dick for messing with his laptop). The officer said it was just blown way out of proportion, and the guy’s complaint was slightly off from what I had said. (Trying to make me look like the bad guy.)

Further more, I asked what would happen if he tried to go the police (he already brought a summons on me, so I had to ask). He said that they’d throw it out just based on how absurd it sounded and it’d be a waste of time and money on his part.

To be honest, it was kinda funny, since the officer said the guy was an idiot for really trying to bring a summons on me based on what happened and what he had put in his complaint. His complaint made it sound like he kinda had the problem fixed himself, or something to the extent that he didn’t go and get it repaired. Interestingly enough, they won’t be informing him of what occurred (nor will they tell him if he asks).