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Who pays to fix crunched vehicle when a carport collapses at an apartment complex?


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MIDVALE — Last winter at a Midvale apartment complex, a carport collapsed and damaged several vehicles parked below it — including a motorcycle belonging to Avery and Sam Shrader. The Shraders say the apartment complex told them it was an "act of nature" and they were on their own to pay for fixing their bike. The landlord said heavy snow brought the structure down, but with evidence that support beams were rusted at their bases, should the apartment complex be off the hook?

The Shraders' motorcycle was crushed in December 2021, along with several other cars, when the carport collapsed. Images they captured appear to show that the carport had some maintenance issues.

The Shraders' motorcycle was crushed in December 2021, along with several other cars, when the carport collapsed.
The Shraders' motorcycle was crushed in December 2021, along with several other cars, when the carport collapsed. (Photo: Avery and Sam Shrader)

"You can see each one is just totally rusted out," Avery Shrader said.

She said at first, apartment managers were poised to take responsibility.

"The damages were going to be paid for," she said. "They said that they'd take care of us."

But as winter turned to spring, the message changed.

"They told us that they weren't going to pay for any of the damages and that it was an 'act of God,'" Shrader said.

Even though it had not snowed in a week, there was still snow on the roof, which apartment managers were blaming for the collapse. The Shraders did not buy it.

"This was due to negligence," they reiterated.

Avery and Sam Shrader show KSL-TV’s Matt Gephardt video they captured after a carport at their apartment complex collapsed and damaged their motorcycle.
Avery and Sam Shrader show KSL-TV’s Matt Gephardt video they captured after a carport at their apartment complex collapsed and damaged their motorcycle. (Photo: Sloan Schrage, KSL-TV)

But when their protests got them nowhere, the couple decided it was time to call the KSL Investigators.

We reached out to the nonprofit Utah Legal Services, which told us that, by law in Utah, a landlord might be responsible for damage caused by a carport collapse. But then again, they might not.

When there is negligence, like letting the posts go into disrepair, then the apartment could be held liable.

But when there's a so-called "act of God" — like too much snow on the roof leading to the collapse — then the landlord may not be liable. It is all pretty much handled case-by-case in court.

The KSL Investigators reached out to the managers at the Royal Ridge Apartments on behalf of the Shraders and pointed out that on the images, there sure seemed to be a lot of rust on the fallen carport's poles. They would not talk to us, except to say that they are "working directly with the residents to resolve this matter" and to contact their attorney, Kirk Cullimore, if we had more questions.

A shot taken by the Shraders appears to show the carport’s support columns were rusted and flaky where their bases met the parking lot asphalt.
A shot taken by the Shraders appears to show the carport’s support columns were rusted and flaky where their bases met the parking lot asphalt. (Photo: Avery and Sam Shrader)

We did have more questions — namely, how was the matter resolved?

Cullimore says we do not get to know. And in fact, even Avery and Sam Shrader were gagged from talking to us about it going forward.

"The Shraders have entered into a confidential settlement agreement with Royal Ridge," the lawyer wrote, adding, "At this point, the matter with the Shraders is resolved."

So, it seems it may have worked out for the Shraders after our call. No word on their neighbors about their damaged vehicles.

This story is also a good reminder that the more-expensive comprehensive car insurance policy can sometimes pay off. If all you have is liability insurance, and something like a fallen tree branch or a fallen carport damages your car, you could be on your own.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly identified Cullimore as a state senator.

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KSL InvestigatesUtahSalt Lake County
Matt Gephardt
Matt Gephardt has worked in television news for more than 20 years, and as a reporter since 2010. He is now a consumer investigative reporter for KSL TV. You can find Matt on Twitter at @KSLmatt or email him at matt@ksl.com.
Sloan Schrage

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