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How I Got my $3500 Camera Kit Stolen on KitSplit (medium.com)
735 points by danielfoster 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 387 comments



Band together with your new friend to take both parties to small claims court.

Argue the representations made on their website were misleading and induced you into using the service. That due to the unequal bargaining power, any ambiguities in their Terms must be resolved in your favor. Research precedent, including anything judges have said about click-wrap vs browse-wrap agreements in your jurisdiction.

Maybe you can find a sympathetic lawyer from a prestigious firm who's willing to write them on your behalf on their firm's letterhead. All this might simply scare them into settling - it's far cheaper for them than paying a lawyer to litigate (and less toxic publicity), and eliminates the risk that if you manage to win (small-claims is a bit more unpredictable than big-boy court) it sets a precedent that could come back and bite their business model.


Hi, Lisbeth Kaufman here (CoFounder and CEO of KitSplit). I feel terribly for Yohahn and the other owner who had their gear stolen. I wanted to personally respond to let you know that we are fixing this and making them whole- and then some.

We are launching a new insurance product for our owners: the KitSplit Theft Protection Owner Guarantee. It’s something we’ve been considering for a while, and with this latest theft it’s clearly time.

The Owner Guarantee means that KitSplit owners will be covered in all scenarios, whether damage, loss, or theft. To make good on this promise, we’re starting by reimbursing the Yohahn and the other owner.

We are the first rental platform to offer coverage of this kind. It fills a major insurance loophole, and it’s the right thing to do for our customers.

You are welcome to read more about the problem and how we’re fixing it here. https://blog.kitsplit.com/announcing-kitsplit-theft-protecti...


This isn't good enough for me. While I'm glad for this action, and for OP...too many times I've been in a similar situation, basically told to sod off. People suggest lighting up Twitter or other social media, which frankly, I do not use and isn't worth my time. So this poor fellow had to deal with CS, be rejected, go through all sorts of mental hell before deciding to write a diatribe, just so your company could finally decide to do what it should have done all along as a form of damage control. Don't you realize how much cheaper it would have been to do the right thing when first presented with the option?


Unfortunately, KitSplit couldn't go back in the past and write policies like this.

Reminds me of a quote from Fight Club - "Sometimes you've got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette" ~ Tyler Durden

Yes, it was a huge oversight, but the past is the past. A bad thing had happen. But, KitSplit has now taken corrective actions to fix this as well as prevent this from happening in the future.

I don't think this is the time to disparage their service because of one incident. It was unfortunate, but .. come'on the author is a big boy as well. He could've read the complete TOS before hand. After all, he's parting ways with a $3,500 piece of equipment. He didn't have a problem writing a blog about this and expected people to read what he wrote. So, why not see exactly what you're getting into.

The internet has been around for quite a while now, and there's always scammers out there (on both ends).

Moving forward, I would hope that KitSplit not only ensures these insurance policies but do some trail-blazing a little bit on this type of thing.

A couple of ideas - 1. Maybe have their policies clearly written on their platform. Or better yet, address this on the homepage and create a "how-to" video on this so people know how the new policy will be enforced.

2. Trackability - Add a required tracking mechanism to be placed on the device, so if it is stolen/manipulated it can be easily reported to the an authority

3. Fraud form - Create an easy to use form for reporting stolen items. This data can then be sent to the local police, etc to try to find and capture the culprit. Basically, it could do the things that are in KitSplit's policy.

4. Expose a monthly report on incidents like that and the amount refunded/recouped.

These are just at the top of my head. I'm sure they could think of more ways to ensure that everyone on all sides are being honest.


> disparage their service because of one incident

It wasn't one incident. A very similar incident has made the rounds last year: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18332918

Again, the victim got fully compensated only after making a big enough stink, and the top comment calls out KitSplit's advertising as misleading.

I have a hard time calling it an "oversight" that KitSplit puts statements like "Always Insured - Your gear is always covered" front and center, while you have to go dig for the reality that there is no coverage against the renter walking away with the gear.


How many of your renters have suffered "voluntary parting" since you began, and will you be seeking out and reimbursing all of them or just the ones with large internet presences?

(Also, was the less than 0.01% number accurate? Especially as you write 1/1000 elsewhere, which is 0.1% - ten times as much! To achieve less than 0.01%, even with just these two incidents, you must have done more than twenty thousand rentals. Is that correct? Can you give a more accurate percentage now you've looked into this?)


Just wondering why this wasn’t part of the product in the first place?

Come on, we know full well incidents like this were considered in the first place when launching your business and you nevertheless decided to go along with your fraudulent “insurance” policy (not covering “voluntary parting” which is the main risk in this case - in fact I’m struggling to think of an incident that wouldn’t fall under voluntary parting when using your platform).

The only reason you’re here and you’re launching this new insurance policy is that the story blew up and you’re doing damage control. There’s clearly zero intention in compensating the affected renters otherwise you would’ve done that from the start instead of sending them canned responses.


I am not an expert, you are strongly advised to take legal advice in your own jurisdiction. You need to have a lawyer review all the text on your website not just the terms and conditions as it all forms part of the ‘invitation to treat’ and you can be held to it in court.[0] In the UK the caselaw suggests that more prominent text takes precedence over hidden terms and conditions. So if you say one thing prominently in your advert and other in your terms you could be held to the terms implied by the ad not your T&C. The UK caselaw precedent is old enough that it likely applies in other English speaking common law jurisdictions like Australia, New Zealand etc. It would not surprise me if there is a similar precedent in the US. [0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlill_v_Carbolic_Smoke_Bal...


There is something that I don't understand. In this case the total price of the rent was $89, that is $70 for the lender and $19 for KitSplit and taxes. Is the "KitSplit Theft Protection Owner Guarante" and additional insurance with an additional fee?

After this is implemented, how would the price be:

(let's assume for the calculations that the additional guarantee is $2)

* $70 for the lender and $19 for KitSplit and taxes and guarantee (no additional fee)

* $70 for the lender and $21 for KitSplit and taxes and guarantee

* $68 for the lender and $21 for KitSplit and taxes and guarantee

What does this sentence of the blog post mean?

> When an owner gets a rental request they will be offered the chance to opt-into the waiver.

The owner can opt-in to get the additional protection, or the owner can opt-it to avoid the additional protection?

Why is it a good idea to opt-in/opt-out? Does the additional protection have a fee?


If not insurance, then what is your 22% cut going towards, exactly?

> I wanted to personally respond to let you know that we are fixing this and making them whole- and then some.

So are you saying you're "making them whole" because that is policy, or making an exception in this case because you feel bad now that it's public?


Are you also making whole all the other victims who didn't make the front page of HN?

Why did you not remove the misleading statements about the gear being always covered from the owner landing page after the first well publicized incident? https://web.archive.org/web/20190430061041/https://kitsplit.... (in fact, it's still there).

Or the claim that "Exclusive to KitSplit members, our insurance options are full-coverage" from https://kitsplit.com/add-listing-landing, which is front-and-center with the reality hidden far below the fold.

As far as I'm concerned, you are (were?) intentionally deceiving your customers, even after it had publicly blown up in your face the last time.


Your first three paragraphs are legit criticism. Your last paragraph crosses into personal attack and breaks the site guidelines. That is not ok on this site. Would you mind (re-)reading https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and following them when posting here in the future?


There doesn't seem to be an edit button on that post (I assume the ability to edit times out after some short time), so I'll clarify here: Yes, that was directed at the company, and I assumed that would be clear from the context.

I was responding to a post of an official speaking behalf of the company, the parts I was responding to were written as 'we' in the original post, and especially given this, I hope you'll agree that I am expecting the company and not the CEO personally to reimburse the user, which should make clear how the "you" in that post is meant.


That paragraph might have been directed at the company, not the founder personally?


Possibly, but given that the comment was a reply to a person using a personal name, I think the default is to interpret "you" personally. So the onus is on the replier to make the distinction if they don't mean it that way.


You don't see any pitfalls of separating people from the business they run and have control over the decisions made there?

I'm curious too if you read the article and if you see any discrepancy or dishonesty of KitSplit in the presented evidence - which is what this commenter is referring/replying to in their 4th paragraph?

Shame isn't inherently a bad thing: if someone does something bad and obvious like deceptive and dishonest practices, and there is proof of it - like the deception pointed out by the author - then that being pointed out has a purpose and value. Bullying for example should be shamed, no? Shaming someone for how they dress, something out of their control, their sexuality, and so on, however of course isn't okay and is harmful. I wonder do you and HN mods group all shame together or are you aware of and understand this nuanced difference?

I feel for you that moderating a community is difficult, however blanket decisions like calling out all shame as illegitimate can be more harmful for more than one reason - even if it makes moderation easier because there's less consideration or feeling it out given, even if erring on the side of caution feels prudent and relieving because you're taking action vs. not taking action - quelling feelings of potential uncertainty by expressing something.

In conclusion, being in a position of authority, as a mod on HN, and threatening to ban someone for expressing themselves, their anger, and legitimate highlighting of deception - which in multiple places in this thread you state and are lumping together as defending as a cause against a "culture of shame" - is highly damaging - though you're not likely to experience or see the damage it causes especially as most people aren't likely to respond under the pressure or fear because of your mod position, and they are now going to feel repressed.


I had the banhammer wielded on me for a similar reason, and now understand HN is an irony free zone moderated by snowflakes. I expected so much better after being here for years.


I'm sorry to disappoint you, but it's not hard to get unbanned if you want to use the site as intended. You just need to email hn@ycombinator.com and say so in a good-faith way.


Thanks for responding here in spite of all the criticism. While I don't know how much of this is PR damage control vs. genuine heartfelt atonement, I do appreciate the frankness at the end of your blog post:

I’m sorry. This really sucks. Both what happened to you and our initial response. As the founder and CEO of KitSplit, please accept my sincere apology....I’m also sorry that it took you complaining loudly on the internet for us to get our heads straight on this one and do the right thing.

I hope the OP comes back to share his thoughts on how this all turned out (or any others who may have slipped through this gap over the years).



It's pretty disgusting that you knew that this was a gap in policy, had been considering it for some time, and ultimately decided to run with it anyway and even took measures to obfuscate the truth.

What's the point in pretending to be honorable by offering a service one can pay for to prevent your misdeeds? Any reasonable person here can see straight through you and your business.

If you want to be ethical going forward, rewrite your user agreement and offer this insurance baked into your product. If it turns out you cannot profit from running your business in an ethical manner, then perhaps you should consider a different line of work. Or, at the very least, don't offer your fake sympathy when a user uses your product and falls victim to your personal shortcomings.


Personal attacks are not ok. Whatever substantive criticism you have, it can be made without denunciatory rhetoric, so please do it that way from now on. This site is no place for the online shaming culture—there are many other homes for that on the internet. Here the rules include "Be kind" and "Assume good faith". Why? Because it determines the kind of community this is.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Did you start feeling terribly for them before or after you were publicly shamed on social media?


I love how it’s clear that KitSplit had no plans of re-imbursing or doing anything for the OP, until it blew up. This is super shady damage control.


Personal attacks and the online shaming culture are not welcome on HN. Maybe you don't owe better to the individual, but you owe better to this community if you want to keep posting here.

If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and use this site as intended, we'd be grateful.


What's so personal about the very legitimate question?


What makes it personal is the pronoun "you" in response to a person.

It's not a legitimate question, but plainly a rhetorical attack.


I have trouble following your line of argument. One is not allowed to ask questions using the pronoun "you" as in "How you are doing?"

And I don't see it as a rhetorical device, but effectively asking the question "Why didn't you offer the right compensation prior to being publicly shamed?" which IMHO is a very valid question for anybody dealing with the said company, as the responses can vary from "We didn't understand the damage it would do us and we want to contain it" to "We're seeing the errors in our approach and we'll do better from now on".

Right now the response in somewhere in between these two, and clarification is important.


He's literally responding to an explanation the company's representative (in this case, the founder) gave. How else is he supposed to respond without using basic english pronouns such as "you".


... and hope that there wasn't a forced arbitration clause in the TOS!


That's not necessarily the worst thing, the cost of arbitration to the company is likely more than 0 (and maybe not even less than small claims) so I'll guess most companies would eagerly settle for at least the cost of the arbitration--they really can't lose. Uber is famously dealing with this right now, and it's costing them around $10K apiece[1] so it seems possible the cost to KitSplit would be more than this camera's worth.

[1] https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-uber-ipo-arbitration-...


It all depends on who the arbitrator is. Many arbitration clauses are there because the business has relationships with arbitration organizations. If the arbitrator is an impartial third party, it will be much less costly than going to court.OTOH, $3500 is a small claims court amount and most small claims courts will honor any 'fine print' in the contract.


Do we even know if they modified the ToS after the complaint?


I like your idea. It could be a platform on its own, like a GoFundMe but exclusively for pro-bono legal cases.


GoFundMe even used to support funding for legal purposes. They got rid of it because of one legal-defense funding campaign that they disagreed with politically.


I'd be absolutely shocked if they don't have a mandatory arbitration clause.


So if KitSplit explicitly absolves itself from liability, what is the benefit of that platform over Craigslist? At least with CL you wouldn't have to pay KitSplit a fee.

Their fees certainly aren't going towards liability insurance or fraud detection, so what are they doing with those fees?

I bet the fraud rate at KitSplit is going to go up after this post. Now you have a list of people that will wake up at 7am to hand over $4k of gear to you, knowing that KitSplit won't do anything and neither will law enforcement. Just remember to cancel your credit card and you'll make a quick $2k!

In all seriousness, if KitSplit wanted to stop this just charge renters a hefty deposit (the approximate cost of resell) and it should nip this in the bud. Obviously, someone in their "Growth" team will point out that this will hurt their KPIs and their VCs might not like it, so they won't do it.


Yeah I was wondering why they don't enforce a deposit up front.


The CC is likely stolen. Any deposit or replacement fee will be disputed by the actual owner and charged back.


This is not an excuse. A company making any effort to be legitimate should use one of the several identity verification services available in combination with any sort of nontrivial fraud detection, which should easily dissuade 99.9% of thieves. At 22% rental fees, the service can easily afford to cover theft that slips the net.

Given that KitSplit doesn't even disable the account of known thieves, it seems pretty clearly a case of malice (or, more accurately, greed, which in this case has the same net effect), not incompetence.


> A company making any effort to be legitimate should use one of the several identity verification services available in combination with any sort of nontrivial fraud detection, which should easily dissuade 99.9% of thieves.

Not so. Thieves aren't stupid. They try a few times to figure out the system, then steal the identity of someone else (who is legit and passes fraud and credit checks) to do the actual theft.

The portability of the gear, combined with it's high resale value, means rentals will never work for an online business.


While this is certainly true for a few thieves, at least for other high-fraud industries, it's a case of running away from a bear - you just have to be harder to defraud then the other guy (in this case, other online marketplaces). Additionally, it's both more difficult to obtain an identity (particularly if locality is required to pass fraud checks) (whereas stolen CCs can easily be purchased in bulk) and not necessarily sufficient - for example, if the fraudster's contact number is verified against their identity, it again increases the threshold.

If the thieves have access to a local, legit person's CC, identity, and phone, then yes, you can't really stop them from stealing.


TransferWise once requested a webcam interview and verified my ID using that.

How can a a theif fake an interview?


>This is not an excuse.

It's not supposed to be an excuse for anything. The GP asked why they didn't take a deposit and my response was to argue why that's pointless.


Which is why they should be sued out of existence.


Charge a new credit card sign-up fee, which is then refunded after a couple weeks. Only allow rentals on cards that have gone through this process with no charge-backs or fraud complaints.

Only allow renters to bypass this process for a new card if they have an established and positive rental record.


I was guessing it was a pre-paid card that just barely had the balance to cover the rental fee.


Most places block pre-paid cards for purposes like this (although I have seen Stripe report a card initially as non-pre-paid and then later revise it to say pre-paid).


As far as I am aware Address verification is the only way to perform a fraud check and block prepaid cards. Maybe stripe can use some collective intelligence for certain card numbers but it would be a lagging indicator of fraud.


Not really, there are different BINs issued for prepaid card.


But do they block temporary cards generated by Monzo?


The difference being that KickSplit's insurance would cover that loss.

It's more likely KickSplit doesn't want to introduce friction for potential renters. $3,500 is a large deposit for someone who just wants to pay $75 rent on a few hours of use.


I really don't think that's an unreasonable amount. Most people are renting this equipment for professional use and should easily be able to put that money down.


The reason I'd rent such equipment would be that I couldn't afford to own it. I would not handle it uninsured, of course, but I'd likely not pay to insure it against it getting stolen from me. That risk I'd eat and compensate with suitable security measures.


But putting those charges on your card within your credit limit and credit period doesn't cost much.


Can't afford would mean needing insurance, or selling/pawning property. Proper vetting enables you to use the threat of criminal prosecution and civil restitution to indirectly use the customer's remaining property as collateral.

You only need to secure a deposit which covers the black-market price of the equipment.

So probably ~30% of face value.


I thought most equipment rental places do this. Also, clearly this is a high-fraud risk business line, why aren't there safeguards in the credit approval process? It's not hard to do these days.


> what is the benefit of that platform over Craigslist

You get to read claims and promises how safe you'll be on their web site.


Still no compensation offer from the CEO/Co-founder Lisbeth Kaufman

https://medium.com/p/4530d0062e60/responses/show

https://medium.com/@lisbethkaufman_82625/im-one-of-the-cofou...

She also claims their assessment of people signing up to KitSplit is effective at blocking 99.99% of bad actors and stopping millions of dollars of theft on the platform, almost surely an exaggeration.


>She also claims their assessment of people signing up to KitSplit is effective at blocking 99.99% of bad actors and stopping millions of dollars of theft on the platform, almost surely an exaggeration.

If this is true, they should easily be able to afford to self insure against theft by charging 10 cents per thousand dollars of gear rented.

Odd that they don't do that huh.


That would be true if .01% of all rentals resulted in fraud, but that's not what that sentence says. It could be the case that such "bad actors" represent a disproportionately large share of all rentals.

Which makes sense--if you're planning on stealing the equipment, you'd probably expect to have your account banned so you'd probably try to steal as much as possible while the account is still considered legitimate. As in this case where the author alleges that the same person also stole someone else's gear on the same day.


> It could be the case that such "bad actors" represent a disproportionately large share of all rentals.

If it's not representative of the actual risk KitSplit will face, then it's also not representative of the actual risk users will face. And if it's not representative of user risk, then it's deceptive for KitSplit to bring it up as a way to defuse the situation or suggest that consumers shouldn't be worried.


Not blocking 0.01% means how many bad actors exactly?


What a tone-deaf response from the cofounder!

The article paints in painful detail how the website claims one thing and the contractual terms do the opposite, resulting in the user being suckered by fine print. Literally, this is a problem of false advertising.

Instead of proper fixes to the problem, they will add more fine print and more reasons to rub it in your face when your gear gets stolen.


Yes, her response seems to assure people the company is legit, not actually trying to help the person in need. Shows a lot about the company.


Not only no compensation, I see no actual apology, and aside from a quick note about how they'll re-vet users after they change their profile info (they weren't doing this already?), there's a whole lot of text explaining how it will still be your fault if the equipment gets stolen.

In the end, there's not even a "contact me to get this sorted" link; it's just another call to engage with first-tier support some more.

Just use Craigslist if you're looking to make money off your high-end gear; at least then, you can know with a higher likelihood that you're being scammed.


Craigslist legally is better. I can look at the person's driver's license myself, and have him sign a legally binding contract agreeing to return the item (like all rental shops do) and I can even collect a deposit that I won't return if he doesn't return.

That is much much much better than this scenario. It's a big mystery also how the company claims to take a deposit for the full value of the equipment, and then apparently just keeps the deposit themselves when the item is stolen? Really?


$70(rental fee) / 30%(Kitsplit cut) = $21 revenue

99.99 means one stolen item out of 10,000. So they'll make $210,000(using articles info) but can't pay $3,500 to cover a stolen item out of that revenue. I bet the CEO is lying about the theft rate.


They don’t even seem to acknowledge this as a theft (voluntary parting?!) so I have NO doubt that 99.99 number is fake as hell.


that's what I got from it, "voluntary parting" doesn't figure into the theft number because they can't/won't acknowledge those thefts as theft.


$70 was the camera owner's revenue after Kitsplit had taken their cut. The rental fee was higher than $70.


> We have 6 different FAQs that warn KitSplit users about the risk of voluntary parting.

Ouch, so this isn't the first person to get bit by this on KitSplit, just the first one to get traction. These companies need to get called out way more.


They have automated emails for dealing with "voluntary parting". This is a stronger indication of trouble than anything else.


How can consumers review/evaluate platforms like this? Is there a Yelp meets Crunchbase for companies that operate worldwide?


You mean something like trustpilot, only without the possibility to remove negative reviews for money?


They claim they've stopped "millions of dollars of theft", but how about "voluntary parting" since its apparently not "theft"? How much "voluntary parting" have they stopped?


So from what I gather, the only parties that can potentially become "bad actors" are owners who fail to deliver the product and renters who cause a "voluntary parting" of over $200,000 in equipment - and that's how they end up at their 1/10000 incidence rate.

So perhaps KitSplit's strategy of blocking bad actors is to redefine them as neutral ones, converting millions in theft into millions in "partings" - which might not be an exaggeration.


The 1/10000 is only for theft. It doesn't include voluntary parting. Thanks kennywinker's comment in thread.


> She also claims their assessment of people signing up to KitSplit is effective at blocking 99.99% of bad actors and stopping millions of dollars of theft on the platform

Interesting way to phrase it: "..effective at blocking 99.99% of bad actors". It sounds precise yet it is anything but because it says nothing about how many "bad actors" there are. Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? And over what period of time? A year? A day? 5 minutes? Any one of those factors could make orders of magnitude difference to the chance that one's property will be stolen.

If fraud were really as infrequent as they seem to suggest, then it seems like they should be able to absorb the losses. As it is, it appears they've so far concluded that the negative publicity will cost them less than the actual losses.


> She also claims their assessment of people signing up to KitSplit is effective at blocking 99.99% of bad actors

Elsewhere is the figure 0.1%, off by a factor of 10. It's not clear whether 1 in 1000 or 1 in 10000 rentals results in theft.

However, just because 1 in 1000 rentals results in theft doesn't mean one's assessment is 99.9% effective in blocking bad actors.

Bad actors are currently a tiny minority of their users. Apparently 1 in 1000. If you blocked 99.99% of them, then theft would drop to 1 in 10,000,000 rentals. Her claimed numbers make no sense in the context of their actual theft rates. And yes, legally under criminal law it is theft, it is not voluntary parting. Voluntary parting does not appear to be a principle from criminal law and instead is something invented by insurance industry contract attorneys to deny responsibility for insurance claims.


Most likely that number was pulled out of her ass.



Ooh, another opportunity to push product.

So you gotta purchase optional insurance in additional to the 22% platform fees. Certainly makes the prospect of renting out my kit worth thousands of dollars for literal tens of dollars all the more attractive.


Very similar to AirBnB's realization and about-face after the destruction of someone's home. Good on her for coming around and doing the right thing.


Perhaps good for future customers, but not really for all the ones that have been scammed before and left in the cold by the company.

I can't see this as anything other than "privatizing the profits, socializing the losses" approach that most new gig-economy startups use. First they try to get away with as much as possible, until negative PR or legal requirements forces them to change. And then it's suddenly "a new feature" that they're so proud to announce (even though they created the problem in the first place).


99.99% of time when people say "99.99%" it's just made up.


10 BPs.. Also if they're letting the fraudsters continue to use the service (why wouldn't they if they're generating risk-free fee income to KitSplit), the fraudsters are likely more active the typical users. So if 1/1000 users are fraudsters and fraudsters are 10x more active than regular users, odds are 1 in 100 that your gear gets stolen. Ludicrous.


> This is because the renter is the client who purchases the policy and the insurance company can not file a claim against its client, the renter. That would force the insurance company to file a claim against itself, which is not how insurance works.

just a pile of incoherent absurd BS. Looks like that CEO has no idea what she is talking about. How for example does she think auto accidents are handled when both participants have the same insurance company?


Well it seems like they don't consider this voluntary parting their problem so it's probably not in that statistic. I'm sure it would have a pretty big drop if it were included.


Exaggeration is charitable, it's probably an outright lie.


If it wasn't an exaggeration then I would think they apologize for the inconvenience and pay the guy back. 0.01% would mean 1 in 10000 have an issue.


Second time an article like this has surfaced in less than a year[0].

KitSplit claims that these scenarios are extremely rare. If that was the case, I have no idea why they wouldn't include voluntary parting insurance in their service. Is the bad press worth the occasional payout they'd need to do?

Why would I or anyone else ever use KitSplit after hearing a story like this? Peace-of-mind is literally the most important feature of a service like this. It is the only thing that separates them from your local [insert-location-here] Facebook rental group that just exchanges cash under the table.

[0]: https://petapixel.com/2018/10/29/how-i-lent-my-4500-camera-k... (HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18332918)


Just to be clear, it's a similar case, not the same case.

It would be nice to compare the unpixellated photos of the thieves.


I would trust a 5+ year old active facebook account far far more than anything else.

It turns out, faking an old facebook profile well enough to fool a human who you're going to meet face to face is tricky, and thieves really hate being called out to all their real friends, relatives, etc.


This is pretty bad on KitSplit's part. How can they even advertise that the owner is covered by a full deposit if the owner doesn't get compensated with it upon theft?

That's blatant misleading advertising, hope this blows up on them.


> hope this blows up on them

It didn't last time: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18332918 (7 months ago). It's the exact same story, except the victim there got his story published at a major photography site and roused enough rabble that KitSplit ended up reimbursing him for the low low cost of an endorsement at the end.


Literally the last words in that endorsement: "[KitSplit is] taking this as an opportunity to reflect and improve their system."

That worked out well - I suspect they just covered their asses further, to the extent that they could do so without actually being clear about the risk renters are exposed to.


I thought this sounded familiar.


Even worse, it sounds like this is a standard practice in the insurance industry.

Insurance always carries a steep moral hazard in the form of the temptation to sell deceptive peace of mind, fooling their client into thinking they have purchased insurance covering a scenario which the company has no intent of actually covering. Few people will ever actually discover the deception, so it's reliably profitable. I had not heard of the "voluntary parting is not theft" schtick before today and in the absence of a prominent warning about this distinction I would consider such an insurance sale fraudulent. Further, I'd want a large punitive multiplier on the fines to account for the fact that most of the time the deception will go undiscovered.

I strongly suspect our legal system would disagree, and I'd consider that an even bigger problem.


Completely unrelated but... I had a issue with lightning instead.

We were paying some rather expensive home insurance, one time a thief broke inside, and they did all they could to avoid paying us, ended paying the bare mininum they could, barely covering the stolen goods costs.

Still at the time it didn't looked like bad faith, just fraud checking...

But then this time lightning hit our house, the insurance response was that unless we can prove it was a direct strike against the house, it would count as "electrical fault" that is not covered, because it would be blamed on the electric company instead...

So we argued that yes, the lightning DID hit our house directly (because well, it did, the path the electricity did was very obvious, with the endpoint being the pointy metal end of the structure that holds our gate upright), they just flat out refused to come check, because the likelihood of this happening was so low that they were sure it was a waste of their time to check, and that we should bother the electricity company...

The electricity company in turn, said they detected zero fluctuations on the grid, and would not send a technician to check, that it wasn't their fault.

So that day I learned that "lightning coverage" only cover a strike on the hourse itself... a strike on the lamp-post right outside for example, doesn't count, even if it blows up everything inside your house, becase the "fault" then is the electric company.


My recent encounter with this comes from healthcare. Healthcare companies love to brag that their "prenatal maternity care is 100% covered, no deductible, no copay."

Turns out "prenatal maternity care" is simply defined as the blood pressure, weight, and fundal measurements. That's all that bullet point means.

* Ultrasound? Well, that's different. It's a lab procedure. Yep, even the 20-week "standard" anatomy scan.

* Get a non-stress test done (literally just 10 minutes worth of heart-rate monitoring)? Then it becomes a "specialist visit." You'll pay for that.

* Get any bloodwork done? Even if it's for the mother's health and not trying to do some sort of pre-natal screening? It's a diagnostic lab procedure.

* Urine samples for pre-eclampsia? Diagnostic testing.

* Mandatory (state-required) STD panel? That's diagnostic testing, too.

Turns out the ACA requires "pre-natal care" to be covered, so bragging about it in the first place is just absurd.


This is absolutely standard for the home insurance industry, which is notorious for trying to use technicalities and legalistic excuses to avoid paying out.

It's essentially trading on fraud, dead centre in that grey area of contract law where your only hope of winning a case is court action with the help of top flight lawyers - whose services you can't afford.

Of course some companies are more reputable, but there is a huge - huge - spread of integrity within the industry. No one should ever believe that just because they pay $x/yr they're covered to the extent they hope they are without checking small print and doing plenty of searches for customer feedback.


Is there not law on the books that cover... gosh what's it called. When something causes something else to happen in a direct way? I know in some places, there's laws that say, "If Person A slams on their brakes for no reason, and Person B has to slam on their brakes causing Person C to go off road and hit a pole, person A could be at fault"?


I'm not a lawyer but I think it's the basis of civil law (I speak for France specifically but it's kind of a general principle): any damage must be repaired by the one who caused it, by action or lack thereof, voluntarily or not.

Then of course, the difficult part is deciding who is at fault.


It really isn't fair to blame insurance at all. In this case they had insurance that covers the rentee against loss due to accidental damage or theft against the rentee. That insurance is entirely reasonable and rational, and does have real value: If a legitimate, good actor person rents hardware and then it get stolen out of their car or they accidentally drop it in a lake, that's valuable insurance and does probably cover most incidents.

But in this case the person theoretically covered by the insurance (their coverage obviously benefitting the one renting out the hardware, as their hardware is then made whole) is the one who caused the loss. Just as your homeowner insurance doesn't want to cover you if you burn down your own house on purpose -- the real moral hazard -- they don't want to cover this situation.

It's shitty, but the insurance served a valuable but finite purpose. The insurance was never intended for what happened here.


Finite scope of insurance: not a problem.

Deceptive marketing suggesting that the scope of an insurance policy is larger than it actually is: big problem.


It does not seem that the insurance company has deceived anyone about what is and is not covered. The deception is in how KitSplit insinuates that renters are covered when they are not.


Whoever sold the insurance to the end customer did the fraud. In this case, that probably mean KitSplit, but this sort of thing is rampant across the insurance industry proper.

Branding this as a sharing economy issue undersells the problem by an order of magnitude or two.


Our legal system does disagree, it is theft.

The voluntary parting is a concept invented by insurance companies to deny liability. It has nothing to do with criminal law which sees this as prosecutable criminal theft.


It depends on the state you live in, but by and large, it is not the same.

For example, in my home state, reneging on a rental agreement on a piece of property worth more than $100 is "Misapplication of Property," a misdemeanor.

Actually stealing the exact same camera, as opposed to deceiving the owner, is "Larceny," a felony.

Holding up the owner at gunpoint to steal the same camera is "Robbery," a much more serious felony.

The law slices and dices these things finely. Sweet talking someone into handing over his property is often a crime, but it is usually not the same crime as simply taking it.


This is incorrect. If you give over a piece of property to someone with a contract, and they fail to fulfill the contract, you've got a civil claim against them but it's not generally a crime.

Example: someone leases a car and doesn't make payments. Leasor can't call the police and claim "Janet stole my 2018 Cadillac, she stopped making payments two months ago!". Or, they can, but will be told: It's not theft.


https://criminal-law.freeadvice.com/criminal-law/white_colla...

> A key element of any larceny or theft crime is what an offender intends to do with the property after taking it. Typically, an offender is guilty of a theft crime when he takes the property of another with the intention of permanently depriving him of it. Deciding later to keep the property an offender originally intended to use temporarily and then return becomes a larceny or theft crime at the moment the offender's intent changes. The perfect example of this is a rental car you decide not to return. A lawful rental becomes a larceny or theft crime the moment you fail to return it on time with the intention of keeping it.

Other sources agree:

https://www.chamberslawfirmca.com/can-charged-grand-theft-no...

https://www.mdtriallawyer.com/failure-to-return-rental-vehic...

https://law.freeadvice.com/general_practice/contract_law/TV_...

Many state laws agree:

https://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9A.56.096 (Note here both that the law here explicitly states that not returning a leased or rented item is theft, and that it is specifically presumed so when one uses a false id or address.)

https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/auto-theft-l...

https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/auto-theft-l...

Including the state where the above guy lives:

https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-484.html

The claim that it's simply a civil contract issue with no criminal implications is not correct.

Given that the thief in the above case also used a false identity, he is guilty of identity theft as well.


The concept also exists as "theft by conversion". For example if you rent a car and refuse to return it.


No that's just disruption.


I guess with a high profile link from HN to Medium indexed by Google, and future owner will see the red flags from a mile away... KitSplit is as good as dead right now.


Unfortunately unlikely. This exact scenario has happened before, except on a prominent photography publication instead of Medium: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18332918


> We also provided Peter reimbursement for the camera, and are seeking additional reimbursement via collections.

So it died at that point because they reimbursed the owner.

This is their only way out at this point. But they took the high ground this time, and it's likely that the bad press will grow until they will compensate the unlucky chap to make this disappear as well.


It's going to keep happening until someone takes them to court.

I hate to say it but unless you're bound by an arbitration agreement in the terms of service you should just file in small claims. Even still...file in small claims and make them fight to have the case sent to arbitration. Lawyers are expensive and you won't need one in small claims.

Sometimes the process is the punishment.


Arbitration clauses are pretty good for consumers for small injustices. KitSplit can't litigate an arbitration for even $35,000 dollars, let alone $3,500.


I would not be so sure. This is not the first KitSplit story posted to HN. The last one was less than a year ago and was for an even more expensive camera.

Also, the co-founder of KitSplit has an account here as well.


The third google link is to an article on PetaPixel [0] with just as much detail as this and a very similar headline "How I Lent My $4,500 Camera Kit for $95 and Had It Stolen", from October 2018. The author here clearly didn't google anything about KitSplit, or if they did weren't convinced by the existing documentation of bad behaviour. I'm not sure why this new article would be any different.


They reimbursed the first owner - that's the difference.


According to the article they reimbursed the owner $2000, two months after $4500 worth of equipment was stolen. Still not confidence inspiring.


HN is not nearly as high-profile as we'd like to think.


The platform charged a 22% fee to allow this renting of equipment? Why charge a fee if you're not actually going to cover the buyer or seller when your marketplace messes up?

Also, just because you sign an illegal contract doesn't make that contract valid. Many companies will try to tell you "well you accepted our terms when signing up." Well those terms are not on legal grounds.


>>Why charge a fee if you're not actually going to cover the buyer or seller when your marketplace messes up?

I think we all know the answer here.

So many sites are just "hapless middle men who facilitate contact between individuals who want to engage in <activity>" when someone commits fraud/theft/terroristic threats/<crime> on their platform.


I know what KitSplit will tell you. We provide value by connecting people and allowing payments. Gee, I can give someone my number and accept cash on Craigslist too. If I'm paying 22% of the transaction to you, there'd better be some assurances.


Oh no, not at all. Now that this story is on the front page of HN, KitSplit will tell you it was all a big misunderstanding. They will pay for all of your stolen gear, send you a T-shirt, and donate to a kitten orphanage.

The next person who gets their kit stolen is still fucked though, unless they too manage to make it to the front page.


So basically, if I get a Fake ID (or just do some simple photoshop) I can become a verified buyer on KitSplit. Add in a prepaid Visa card and I can "buy" any camera/drone I want for $100?

Tech companies need to start to accept some liability for the problems they are causing.

Edit: I have a verified fake name. Now I'm waiting to see if they accept my photoshopped ID images.

Edit 2: I now also have a verified Government ID. Here is a screenshot of my totally legit verified profile. https://i.imgur.com/dr61qN5.png


But how did you get past their current "40-point risk assessment that includes both machine learning and human review" /s

https://medium.com/@lisbethkaufman_82625/im-one-of-the-cofou...


With a really poorly done photoshop of my ID to change my name and DOB to my fake information, duh. How else would you defeat such stringent review processes?


Twisted road offers person-to-person motorcycle rental.

Their stolen bike FAQ says:

==========

What happens if the bike is stolen?

If a motorcycle that you rented through Twisted Road is stolen, please immediately file a police report and cooperate fully with law enforcement, Twisted Road, the motorcycle owner, and any other authorities related to the investigation. If you are the owner, please immediately contact a Twisted Road representative and follow his or her instructions. Owners should be prepared to file a police report if instructed to do so. You will be able to provide law enforcement with the driver’s license of the rider, the plates, and other important information needed to locate and return your bike.

If you are concerned about having your bike stolen while it is being rented, we encourage you to place a GPS tracker on your motorcycle before each rental.

==========

Basically, you are responsible if your motorcycle is stolen.


Which is really dumb. If you're whole company is based around being a middle man between renters and owners your answer to the inevitable issue of theft by renters had better be better than a giant shrug and "we'll keep trying to charge this fraudster (who's definitely either using a stolen card or whole identity)."


How do they protect themselves from thieves intending to steal from their insurance? I.e. thief "lends" bike to themselves (fake account) and falsely claims it was stolen? Clearly some risk (needs real identity, insurance fraud), but clearly some gain too.

The only solution is to put up a bond of approximately the street value of a similar stolen motorbike.


Account vetting, deposits, or actual identity verification would be a good start. It'll be hard but if your company is planning on making money off other people lending their expensive equipment out you should really make sure you're protecting those people because they're the heart of your business. Reimburse the lender then go recover that from the thief, if you're doing validation and security well enough it should be easy to find them and rare enough the extra costs aren't back breaking.


Is that different than somebody insuring their own car at an insurance company and then pretending it was stolen?


Insurance companies do a really good job if checking legitimate identities and for fraud when it comes time to pay out.

Would I be right in assuming that such theft while renting out your motorcycle would be outside the scope of coverage if you have an ordinary consumer insurance policy on the bike?


Probably. My auto insurance means nothing if I rent my car to someone, or so it was explained to me. Loan to a friend, covered. Loan to friend for cash, no.


Am I the only one who is irritated with the typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors in the KitSplit screenshots he shared? Things like "When renters rent your gear, they're also required to use a credit card which and we use to secure payment processor that includes fraud protection services." -- note the "which and we"*. There are several of these. It just strikes me as a hobbled together startup; that would be a red flag to me. That said, I know it's unreasonable to expect users to comb through all of the documentation looking for such things.... Although un-hopeful, I do hope this guy gets his gear/money back.


No, I'm annoyed by it as well. To me it makes it harder not to think of KitSplit as acting in bad faith. When the company that's supposed to deal with bad actors is itself a bad actor, how likely are they to deal with bad actors effectively?


The odd thing to me is how this is considered voluntary parting. Presumably you could show that, through KitSplit, the renter and owner entered into a legal contract. Maybe this is the true problem with the gig economy.

If I rented a car/phone/computer/camera directly from any legitimate company, you can bet that the police and lawyers wouldn't consider that <legitimate company> voluntarily parted with their property.


In the article it says that “(...) [Kitsplit] worked with the NYPD and law enforcement authorities to recover stolen and missing gear in cases where the equipment value is $200,000 or more”. Maybe it varies between different police departments, but I’m quite sure many departments won’t spend time investigating someone with a faked identity that steals a single computer and similar.


Who has been arrested for failing to return a rental?



a classic of the genre



When I moved to the US years ago, one of the big differences I noticed (coming from Eastern Europe) was the implicit "trust" people and businesses have of "strangers", people and businesses they have never met before. Where I came from there's an implicit distrust and you have to earn your trust. Now, I thought, this implicit trust is actually great, it definitely makes so many things much easier (don't have to carry or show my ID for so many things where back in Eastern Europe you'd be required to, don't have to show up in person for almost anything, even driving license is sent over mail, etc), people take you at face value, it makes many things friction free. I generally much prefer it over the default distrust culture.

As to the security of such an approach, I always wondered what happens with bad players. Without much investigation I simply assumed that:

1. most people are likely good players

2. those few bad players would get caught by an actually functioning police force and the punishment would be so severe nobody wants to risk it

Naive I know :) I don't know about #1 but #2 is starting to become clear to me it's simply not true. Just look at KitSplit, plenty of bad actors and when that happens nobody seems to be caught. I'm starting to think that people trust strangers implicitly as a matter of comfort (it's more stressful to distrust everyone for sure) and culture (they grew up in it) rather than because they have rational reasons to do so (ex. the law is enforced and violations of said trust are severely punished).


This is the "high/low trust society" distinction; just as there are societies where nobody is on time for meetings and nobody expects them to be, there are some societies where people expect strangers to be very likely dishonest and others where people expect a high baseline honesty.

High trust is a substrate which enables lots of great things to happen. But it's also a resource which can be mined by people for profit, and I worry that a lot of the West is in the process of transitioning into a low-trust society, with a lot of people profiting along the way.


I see that happening, also. I think the internet is to blame--it's not that it makes people less trustworthy, but it provides a much wider net for the untrustworthy to prey upon others.


>implicit "trust" people and businesses have of "strangers", people and businesses they have never met before.

The US is a pretty big and diverse place. Where I'm from it's expected that everyone screws everyone as hard as possible in any business transaction and if you don't do your due diligence then you consent to whatever screwing you receive.

For example you call ten plumbers and all ten of them will give you a "screw you" price then you call up your cousin who calls his in-law who's a GC who gives you a plumber's contact info and a name to drop and then you get a reasonable price that the plumber would offer when they're not trying to screw the other party. Then you use this info to negotiate the other guys down to reasonable prices. And that's just one example.

The state can generally be trusted to not take advantage of you but you still have to be careful. They'll play plenty of tricks that push the limits of plausible deniability in order to get their money.

Even retail transactions are suspect. About the only places I can trust to not rip me off 50% of the time are the big national chains.

It's not quite as bad as some other parts of the world but you can't enter into any business transaction without doing your due diligence. If you do you'll get burned pretty often.

Even in random day to day interactions with other people you don't trust people unless you know them or there's some alignment of interests that keeps them from screwing you.

And no, I don't come from some "backwards" rural area. I'm speaking about a relatively well off part of the northeast.


I grew up in Connecticut, and as I was reading this I had a feeling you were describing the Northeast!

I've lived and done business in New England, N. California, the Midwest and Southeast, and the attitude you described is widespread. (Though by no means practiced by everyone.)

The Southeast in fact has been the worst IME, because underhanded practices come along with a big helping of Southern "niceness", and often a lower level of competence.


The haggling/list-price distinction is also a headache, because it varies both regionally and by both business-vertical and individual.


In that case you probably want to just go with the plumber your inlaw recommended. Would kind of be awkward to explain that you wasted their recommended plumbers time only to save a few bucks with some rando from the white pages.


Hi, Lisbeth Kaufman here (CoFounder and CEO of KitSplit). This is a shitty situation, I feel terribly for Yohahn and the other owner who had their gear stolen. I wanted to personally respond to let you all know that we are fixing this and making them whole- and then some.

Since we launched in 2015, tens of thousands of filmmakers and creators have safely rented gear to and from each other on KitSplit with incredibly positive experiences.

Recently, however, someone stole $3,500 cameras from two of our owners. To put it mildly, this was an awful experience for the owners. One of them wrote about it on the internet, as you know. At first, we reacted by basically telling him “sorry, you knew the risks (or should have). It’s all in our terms of service!” And technically speaking, it’s true. Traditional gear rental insurance that we (and all rental platforms) offer doesn’t cover theft by the renter.

But traditional gear rental insurance is inadequate. And so is our policy.

We’ve been pondering this problem for a while. With this recent theft, it is clearly time to solve this problem.

So we’ve decided to create a new insurance product for our owners: the KitSplit Theft Protection Owner Guarantee.

The Owner Guarantee means that KitSplit owners will be covered in all scenarios, whether damage, loss, or theft. To make good on this promise, we’re starting by reimbursing the two owners who’s gear was recently stolen.

We are the first rental platform to offer coverage of this kind. It fills a major insurance loophole, and it’s the right thing to do for our customers.

You are welcome to read more about the problem and how we are fixing it here. https://blog.kitsplit.com/announcing-kitsplit-theft-protecti...


Post-mortems are a great way to repair some of your standing at HN.

It'd be really interesting to see a post-mortem that explained how your kick-ass vetting system was able to get "Kobe B" and "Hokey Pokey Artichoke" verified as legitimate users?


I don't get it, if your 40 point system is so great (it isn't someone above just created a verified account with photoshopped documents) and theft is that rare (when you say theft is rare, do you mean "voluntary parting"? like, the case where the renter steals?) you shouldn't have any problems to self insure this anyways. So it doesn't add up.


Since we launched in 2015, tens of thousands of filmmakers and creators have safely rented gear to and from each other on KitSplit with incredibly positive experiences.

Recently, however, someone stole $3,500 cameras from two of our owners.

Approximately how many of your owners experienced thefts prior to these two recent events?


>> "It’s all in our terms of service!”

This smells to high heaven. As pointed out by OP, your TOS are written to gloss over who holds liability if a renter splits with your kit.


Launched in 2015 and only now (2019) getting around to attempting to solve this problem (ie. instead of trying to come up with air-tight legalese to absolve yourselves). It shocks me that you're not embarrassed to admit that.

dx7tnt 20 days ago [flagged]

Thanks for the information. Next time I want someone to split with my kit, I'll definitely check out your service. One thing - how do you keep a straight face when using bone-headed marketese like "voluntary parting" when writing your T&C's and communicating with the customers who fall for it?


Personal attacks are not ok on HN. New users with expertise or knowledge about a topic are welcome here. If existing users harass them and hound them away, does that benefit this community? No it does not.

This comment was so far beyond the pale (plus you posted so many unsubstantive comments elsewhere today) that I've banned this account. If you don't want to be banned, we'll happily reinstate you; just email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Why did the community upvote it then? Haven't you heard of irony?


Alas, the community regularly upvotes snark, rage, and indignation. HN can't live by upvotes alone. The guidelines are there to correct what the voting system can't.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


> bone-headed marketese like "voluntary parting" I suspect this is a legal term that is the key to absolving them of any liability in situations like this. In the article it was echoed by the equipment owner's insurance company when they denied the claim.


I'm immensely just surprised someone would give away their $3500 to a stranger to make a rent of $70. Even if the theft was covered, I would worry about the potential abuse of such sensitive gear. I would worry about the person leaving things in sun or dropping on floor or get water on it and so on. It is insane to me that people want to do this.

But then again folks are renting out their apartment with fully loaded furniture and appliances to complete strangers. It is infinitely surprising to me that scammers haven't made business out of this. AirBnB doesn't require real background check and with just fake FB profile, pre-loaded visa card any scammer can be in business to steal thousands of dollars of valuables. People are effectively giving away keys to their home for just few 10s of dollars and scammers are just passing this opportunity up. This wouldn't have made sense to any economist and it still doesn't. How is this possible?


> I'm immensely just surprised someone would give away their $3500 to a stranger to make a rent of $70.

turo.com facilitates giving cars worth tens of thousands to strangers for less (per day). They do claim to be insured, though - but I'm not going to be putting them to the test.


I almost used Turo once, but the whole thing seemed very ambiguous wrt liability, exact condition of the vehicle, etc. I don't drive normally, so am I even insured? The car owner's insurance likely covers lending the car out, but probably not renting it out, and they likely aren't even aware of that.

The information asymmetry and friction with these niche p2p sharing services just isn't worth it. You're basically learning the rules of an entirely new industry with each one - a significant amount of mental bandwidth to discover whether or not it will even work for what you need.

Sharegrid reached out to me once (because I was selling a camera on Craigslist). I looked over the site for about an hour and still would have had no idea about this "voluntary parting" issue.


> Sharegrid reached out to me once (because I was selling a camera on Craigslist).

Are you saying Sharegrid was suggesting you should instead keep the camera and rent it using Sharegrid?

Quite some sales technique if so...


Yes, I think so. Or they just assumed someone selling a pro video camera might be in production and have more equipment.


I'll say that GetAround at least was great when the guy renting our car totaled it. Got the full value back, he was on the hook for the deductible and everything.


A quick googling tells me both owners and renters get screwed on Turo, with little recourse


The comparably serious consequences of committing grand theft auto probably act as a backstop in that case.


It's not grand theft auto. It's called "theft by conversion".


This is the new gig economy. I wish I was being sarcastic.


I can't really even explain how upset this makes me. I live in Brooklyn (where Kristina lives, and from where KitSplit operates). What can I do to help this situation? I'll do anything I can to help shine light on this company and fraud that their platform is facilitating.

I'm not a fan of the call out culture, but I really want to see KitSplit take some action and fix this problem.


What I found most shocking is that if KitSplit claims that less than 0.1% of rentals result in voluntary parting, why not cover this person's losses?

Maybe covering voluntary parting would result in too many fraudulent claims. If that's the case, they should clearly explain that theft is not covered and perhaps offer an insurance supplement.


https://medium.com/p/4530d0062e60/responses/show

Read the CEO's comment above. She states their assessment has been effective at blocking 99.99% of bad actors and stopping millions of dollars of theft on the platform

She's almost surely exaggerating and pulling those numbers out of thin air.


From the reply:

> I want to be clear that there are no insurance providers or rental platforms that we know of that do offer coverage for voluntary parting.

It takes some guts to put this in the reply when the article specifically mentions the insurance solution of their competitor. It's like they didn't even read the piece they're replying to.


That's astounding on another level, too — they encourage owners to get their own insurance policy! And yet they aren't aware of any such providers. Insane.

> A) On our insurance page kitsplit.com/insurance We explain in underlined terms that “we recommend that owners need to get their own annual policy with voluntary parting coverage in addition to the insurance provided by the renter.”

> The sad reality is that insurance companies simply do not cover voluntary parting. As a result we are, as of now, unable to offer voluntary parting because there are no insurance partners who provide it.

Now I'm sure there's a difference between ensuring a business as a whole like that and insuring yourself, but seriously?


I do hate playing devil's advocate because I totally disagree with the position of the devil in this case. Keep in mind that it's possible to be technically correct and also completely misleading.

In this case, she's arguing that their insurance partners do not provide voluntary parting insurance. This may be technically correct. However, the way insurance works is you can always go to an insurer of last resort and ask for exceptions. Lloyd's of London will cover race cars while racing or space vessels for accidents, for example, even though those are hardly standard policies. Nearly anything can be covered if you set the premium and deductibles high enough. They have billing codes for some pretty bizarre insured cases.

An entire sharing economy of companies could easily devise an insurance product that meets these needs if they worked to make it to happen. It would be trivial to scare consumers away from competitors that do not provide this.


You're missing my point. She's simultaneously saying:

* Get your own coverage

* Insurance companies don't cover it. Full stop. It's not that it's unavailable "at a reasonable price." It's "woe is us, we would if we could, but those damn insurance partners won't let us."

I know her last point isn't accurate, but that's what she's saying and she's phrasing it that way intentionally to shift responsibility. It's abhorrent.


It's not theft, it's 'voluntary parting'. Lawyer speak probably.


Their argument is that theft is when someone comes and takes your stuff.

Voluntary parting is when you voluntarily hand it to someone, lending or renting, and they fail to return it. Theft on the other hand is called involuntary parting.

Not sure how much of a gray area this is. If I don't return a car from the dealer for a test drive and am caught, I'll be charged by police with theft, not voluntary parting. Likewise with car and equipment rentals.

It seems like the distinction is something that only comes up in the text of insurance policies, and is not an actual legal principle from criminal law.

Police see it as theft and it's a criminal act.

But the contract you agree to defines it as voluntary parting, doesn't cover it, and does cover theft, which never happens and isn't possible on their platform, so they never have to do anything except collect a big share of the rental fee.


Will you actually be charged with theft?

If I don't pay my mortgage, I don't get charged with anything. What's the difference between lending money vs a car/camera etc? I guess it all comes down to intent, but intent is hard to prove.


The thief in this case used a false id, engaged in identity theft, and also robbed another person on the same day.

It's hard to imagine circumstances where any court or jury would fail to find criminal intent in this particular case given those details.

If someone borrows something and then gets lost in the woods and dies, it's not theft because there wasn't intent.

You are correct that these cases hinge on intent.


The distinction almost surely exists because of the ease at which a thief could perform a "voluntary parting" versus a theft. Why would insurance choose to cover something that was actually likely to happen?


Is there any issue with her response and what it conveys to shareholders? If the issue is greater than 0.01%, does that leave her with a problem greater than ‘just’ the theft that has occurred?


There could be tons of spam attempting to register on the site that she is including in that number.


They’re lying


I’m further frustrated that fraud resulting in theft is called “voluntary parting” at best it’s involuntary parting or fraudulent parting. It actually sounds like a euphemism for a crime.


It's voluntary on part of the owner. They understood the risk of handing off the goods.

A lot of the law is based on intent - did you want to kill Jack or you didn't see him when you reversed with your forklift?

So the intent there matters. What this guy can argue in a court is that the risk was misrepresented by the company, and then it becomes theft if he can prove that he was duped into this contract.


Not only the risk it would happen, but this intermediary should take responsibility and should have insurance for these situations.

The way it should be structured is, you let the item out to intermediary (who takes legal possession if not physical) and they in turn are on the hook for any loss, when re-let to a third party, at which point they would do a better job of betting at insuring themselves.

The NY state attorney general should be looking at these unfair and asymmetrical arrangements (especially when they are basically EULAs)


Kitsplit grossed $19 on this $3500 piece of equipment. Presumably their profit margins are relatively high given the nature of their service, so say they netted.. $9? Or less? If 0.1% of rentals result in voluntary parting, that works out to $3.50, a significant chunk of their profit margin. (If they're even being honest about the 0.1%.)


What if the owner and rentee were in kahootz? Or the owner just decides to report the the rentee has stolen the item?

Maybe the latter is covered by business logic, maybe not.


Yeah that's what I figured. Once the people behind kitsplit, or even just a staff member realises how easy this is to casually walk away with thousands upon thousands of dollars of camera equipment, per day...

(Ps it's 'cahoots')


The core problem seems to be false advertising. It would be great for the author to take the company to small claims court and try to address that.

However, a class-action lawsuit to address all the wronged people would probably just bankrupt the company. The hurt people would not receive restitution. The founders would not receive any punishment. They would just lose the easy stream of future income they currently enjoy. Stopping a bad company from doing further harm is worthwhile though.

Calling out is exactly what's needed here. Our society and technology are at a point where it is easy for bad actors to cause damage, relocate, and repeat. Exposing them and shutting down their future opportunities is exactly what's necessary. Back in the days of small villages, everyone knew everyone's reputation and that provided a barrier against fraud. Unfortunately, our current legal framework prevents any company from offering a reputation platform because they would get sued out of existence with libel claims.

Investors aren't very interested in the morality (or even legal technicalities) of the products in which they invest, as long as they make some money on their investments. Calling the founder out will slow her down in any future grey-zone endeavors but won't stop her completely.


> Back in the days of small villages, everyone knew everyone's reputation and that provided a barrier against fraud.

Surely there were also small villages where most commit fraud too?

"Cheat and Grudger are an ESS" in The Selfish Gene.


> I'm not a fan of the call out culture, but I really want to see KitSplit take some action and fix this problem.

Since this has happened before, it would be more beneficial to society at this point to convict the owners of KitSplit of fraud and put them in prison.


Spread the word.


In this case, I feel like KitSplit's "minimum viable product" is too minimum. Of course renters are going to steal stuff. The only value you can really provide as a middleman in this transaction is "well if they do take your camera, we'll buy you a new one".

If the fraud rate is too high for that to be a viable business, so be it. You should close your business or do better vetting. Otherwise this is just Craigslist with a 22% commission, a deal nobody would take. (Do you ever see posts on Craigslist that say "use my $3500 camera for a day for $70"? No? That's because it's crazy and nobody would ever do that. A company has the power to have contracts and vetting; and yet KitSplit cheaped out and does nothing. It makes me mad and I just heard about them five minutes ago.)


"If a renter does not return equipment, and it has not been stolen or lost, it's called voluntary parting."

I just don't understand this line of thinking at all. You rent something out for a specific and agreed upon period of time. The person decides to keep the thing you rented out. And it's not theft? Also how is it not lost?


Well, let’s consider a not-ridiculously-fraudulent situation:

I rent a camera from you for $70 a day, ostensibly for one day. My shoot doesn’t work out, so I keep it for three days. Did I commit theft?

Obviously, when I return it three days later, it is not theft. We can argue whether I owe you $70, $210, or much more, but to the police, that is very much a civil argument.

Now consider the situation between when I agreed to return it and when I actually returned it, like the day after it was due back.

Have I stolen the camera? No, we just disagree on the terms of a transaction where you voluntarily rented me a camera.

This “Mark” individual seemed to use fraud (photoshopping id?) to rent the camera, and that ought to be a crime in itself. But if he rented it in his own name, and the police showed up at his door, and he returned the camera, he could argue that he was renting it for a year, and how much he owes is a civil matter.

I don’t like this line of reasoning myself, but I can see why the police and insurance companies take the line that if you voluntarily give something to someone, it is not theft if they don’t return it, it is a dispute over the terms and conditions of your giving them the chattel.


Agreed, it's a good thing that police generally don't get involved in contract disputes. There's still avenues for bringing criminal charges I assume.


Well they do when you are renting from a large company, such as a car rental company.[0]

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20277134


I think property with a title is handled differently, which makes sense. Also, in this case, the car was simply reported as stolen and got pulled over in a public space - it's not like they hunted down an allegedly delinquent renter. Fortunately the rental company had to pay damages for their incompetence.

I'm actually curious as to what happens in the cases of delinquent renters - but I assume it involves things like court orders, or perhaps they just try to find the car and tow it away under existing repo laws, then send the account to collections.


Although in this situation he found his gear being sold on eBay - definitely theft.


I think it's an insurance term that separates out two different risk profiles. Random theft (breaking into a car, pick pocketing, etc.) is a fairly low and known risk. It's therefore easy to ensure.

But if you rent your camera out every day, eventually some fraudster will steal it by not returning it. And the risk of that happening likely depends on how well the renter is screening prospective renters. That makes it tough to insure. KikSplit says its a 1/1000 occurrence, but you can't just charge a .1% premium because if KikSplit does a shitty job of keeping out fraudsters, then it might be 2/100. Things that are tough to insure are expensive to insure.


Right or wrong, that sends out a pretty strong message from the authorities that if you rent things out you better be prepared to lose them. If one can’t get that stuff insured at a reasonable price I would be wary of renting out expensive stuff since there is apparently no good recourse when ”voluntary parting” occurs.


I think the idea was that the author of the post voluntarily handed it to the scumbag. They use the term parting because it doesn't carry the connotations that lended or gave do. However, nothing appeared to be amiss until he didn't return it, so until he didn't return it, it was voluntary. Since that was long past the in-person interaction, the parting during the in-person interaction could be considered voluntary.

It would be interesting if someone stole for the first time like this. They could decide first to take the chance to steal it, and once they have the potentially stolen goods, decide whether or not to return it. Then the moment where they became a thief would be a fuzzy period of time between the time it was agreed to return it to the time he sold the equipment to a third party.


But I don't see how it was "voluntary." There must have been some agreed upon contract through KitSplit right that makes this not a voluntary but a business-type transaction where the rules are clearly stated: You paid $X, and you get Y for an agreed amount of time. If you don't pay, you don't get it, if you don't return within the timeframe agreed you're in breach of said contract.


The parting is part of a sub-transaction within the overall transaction. In the in-person meeting where the parting happened, the parting it was voluntary. Within the context of the whole transaction, it wasn't voluntary. That context is eliminated when deciding whether it's robbery or voluntary parting, because that's just about the one in-person interaction.


This seems to be a general problem across the peer-to-peer rental industry. My friend had her car stolen while renting it out on Getaround and ended up in a similar situation.

These things seem to come and go in cycles. Airbnb and Uber faced several similar trust & safety issues of their own before they started building in much stronger safety and insurance protections and, crucially, convincing their customer base to continue trusting them. Now that their hard work has once again given people confidence in the P2P rental model, these upstarts are swooping in with none of the protections and reaping the benefits.


I rent out a camper van, and this article has sparked me to contact my company to ensure I at least have this coverage, and to look into GPS monitoring.


If we understand things properly, her car apparently wasn't stolen, she "voluntarily parted" with it.


Thinking about it a bit, it actually does make sense. The language gymnastics are there to clearly distinguish this sort of thing from an act of theft.

Change the scene to that of a CEO who defrauds investors. The money was "voluntarily parted" by the investor; she didn't break into their house and steal the money. The money was obtained through fraud.

So "fraud", "theft through fraud", and yes, "voluntary parting".


The same kind of issues can't possibly apply to Airbnb, because no one can steal your house and run away with it. "Voluntary Parting" is the unfortunate case that is difficult to cover with insurance, unless Kitsplit decides to put aside money in the bank to cover these costs themselves. And Uber doesn't rent, so I don't think it's a 1:1 comparison here.


To add to what others have said re: AirBNB, there have also been at least a few cases where renters refuse to leave the property and turn a mid-term rental into a sort of "squatting" situation, creating tremendous legal hassle for the owner. (Though I'm not aware of any cases where the squatter has actually managed to wrest ownership from the actual owner!)


Though not related to Airbnb, in Sweden there was a guy who couldn’t use his own apartment for one or two years since it was occupied by fraudsters. What a hellish situation that must be.


Well, there have been stories where folks clear out the apartment completely or significantly damage the apartments. A quick search for "airbnb stolen property" on Google will yield a few results.


The comparison would be with Turo, and stealing a car is grand theft auto so the cops would at least pretentd to care.


It's not theft, though. It really is voluntary parting, legally, so it's fraud. Police probably won't do anything. People have been in exactly this same situation with Turo.


Then they also need departments for checking the authenticity of the claims as well. Insurance isn’t easy.


People don't rent out empty apartments on Airbnb... There's plenty of stuff that could be stolen out of an Airbnb


It's easy to an incredible amount of damage to a property.

For example, close a drain and turn on a faucet.


The text on the trust page linked in the article https://kitsplit.com/trust, does not specifically protect the equipment lender:

> KitSplit Short Term Insurance and Damage Coverage Options:

> Accidents happen, but on KitSplit you are always covered. Owners: rest assured that we require renters to purchase insurance, a damage waiver, or leave a full deposit. Renters: you have the choice of three kinds of coverage: you can purchase short-term coverage through our site, you can upload a certificate of insurance, or you can leave a deposit for the value of the equipment. Read more about coverage here.


> Owners: rest assured that we require renters to purchase insurance, a damage waiver, or leave a full deposit.

I'm sure they have their loopholes in order, but damn this is deceptive.


So they have one of the following:

1. Certification of renters insurance with the renters information, which if fake is fraud.

2. A waiver of some kind covering damage to the item, probably out of pocket I-accept-all-risk type signed by the renter, which if fake is fraud.

3. Full deposit of the rented gear to payout to the owner if lost/stolen/damaged, which if declined may be fraud or at least grounds to stop the transaction and protect the owner.

Meaning there is either enough info to find the renter at least for a civil suite or there is fraud. Who is liable for fraud here? Legally I'm not sure but based on the reply and posturing from KitSplit I'd say they are. Based on this info I'm not going to use or advocate their platform.

It looks like the renter went for the deposit option but the transaction was declined. Kitsplit should have stopped the transaction there, minimum. One can't claim to be 99.99% perfect then do nothing in response to the .01% where clients lose thousands from theft on a a technicality.


Wow this is so misleading.


This is horrible. Hopefully KitSplit goes out of business soon. What’s the use of the company? Might as well lend out gear through Craigslist. Too many companies relying on the honour system.


These kinds of sites are exactly that: niche Craigslists. Since they are marketplaces, they see their job as connecting two groups that want to engage with each other (in this case, camera owners and people who want to rent a camera), and anything beyond connecting people has nothing to do with them.

It's best to think of these kind of sites as digital telephone poles with flyers and act accordingly, but it's hard when, in an attempt to grow their user base, they exaggerate the value they offer and make people think they're safer or getting more out of them than they really offer. Those kind of tactics deserve to be called out


no, so many companies are there to collect the omission without the burden of dealing with consequences. No skin in the game. if they rent out their own gears they go out of business soon, but it is okay to lose someone else's property without any downside.

It works I win, it doesn't you lose!


I'd never give out expensive gear on a rental site like this. If they can't really deal with people not returning / stealing cameras, what happens if they return the camera damaged? Or scratch the lens up? Sure you get money for someone to use your unused camera for a day, but how do you know that they'll treat your equipment as you would? What if they switch your camera out for one in worse condition?

The risk to reward ratio for this doesn't work for me.


It seems pretty clear that they do have insurance for accidental damage, and that's exactly where they're trying to hide the fact that they don't have insurance against fraudulent renters.

The risk profile for fraud is very different from accidents, which is why it's harder to insure against fraud, but also why you really need that insurance (or a deposit, or whatever).


I wouldn't be surprised if KitSplit knew all along about all the loopholes and are as a matter of fact acting on it themselves. Find gullible victims, send someone to pick equipment, and you know the rest. When the image becomes really bad they close shop. If the insurance was paying they would be investigated eventually but they do know legally nobody can get them.

And I expect to see all kinds of modern ways of theft popping up everywhere.


Of course they are. You think they raised 2.1 million in their seed round and didn't pay for any lawyers?

A lawyer 100% told some exec how to craft their legalese to appear to cover theft, but would not actually make KitSplit liable in the event of said theft.

Hanlon's razor doesn't apply here. Never assume these companies, which have all the facts and all the cards stacked in their favor, are acting out of incompetence or obliviousness. They know. They also know they won't be held accountable. The last time (7 months ago) KitSplit pulled this, they paid out to the guy who got his stuff stolen and everyone quieted down.

That's just the cost of doing business.


You wouldn't be surprised if KitSplit was a criminal enterprise from the bottom up???


I wouldnt be. Im not surprised by anything anymore. But here I’m just speculating. Today I heard of KitSplit for the first time and will not touch them with a ten foot pole.


Sure. After Theranos, we now know that "startups which are fraudulent ab initio" certainly aren't outside the realm of possibility.


Sue first and sue often. Really.

You've already done most of the legwork on this. Now all you need to do is get this into small claims court.

Trust me: once KitSplit gets that notification from the court that they're being hauled into court and are going to need to hire a lawyer to defend themselves, you're gonna be working with a whole different level of people at Kitsplit. That's your best chance to get compensated.

SUE THE BASTARDS.


Also having a small claims court case will quickly rack up the costs for the company if they hire a lawyer. For something like $3500 they may choose to settle.


Lawyers are not typically present in small claims court - but they’re a corporation so I guess they have in-house council?


Or even better, reach out and band together with other users of the service who were misled and make a common complaint to the small claims court.


EDIT: In some small claims courts, including CA, you can't have a lawyer represent you.


Unless it's a corporation or other "legal person" and then they MUST have a lawyer (or principal in some states) from the company to answer the court.

When they have to hire a lawyer and you don't but you know the balance of facts are on your side, it's an advantage.

The goal is to get them to the table and choose a less painful resolution. Don't let them off the hook. SUE!


Nolo claims the opposite.

In a handful of states, including California, Michigan, and Nebraska, you must appear in small claims court on your own. In many states, however, you can be represented by a lawyer if you like. But even where it's allowed, hiring a lawyer is rarely cost efficient. Most lawyers charge too much compared to the relatively modest amounts of money involved in small claims disputes. Happily, several studies show that people who represent themselves in small claims cases usually do just as well as those who have a lawyer.

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/small-claims-court-f...


What does Nolo say about corporations or LLCs? That's what we are talking about here.

Individual people have the option of hiring a lawyer in some states but most don't. Corporations on the other hand, because they are "legal" and not "natural" persons don't get that right. They must be represented by counsel. A corporation can't represent itself in court because it's not a "natural person". They MUST use a lawyer.


Not true. In CA, a business can hire outside counsel to advise them on the suit but outside counsel cannot represent them in court. There are circumstances in which the business can send an in-house lawyer as its agent, but never an outside one.

I'm not a lawyer but was once my former employer's agent in court in a small claims suit we filed against HP. I assure you there's no requirement that corporate parties be represented by lawyers.


[flagged]


In CA, the choice of court is mainly about two things: 1) The amount of money at stake, and 2) Whether you're asking the court to do anything other than award money.

Small Claims: $10K or less ($5K if plaintiff is a business), only asking for money.

Limited Civil: $25K or less, only asking for money.

Unlimited Civil: More than $25K AND/OR asking for something other than money.

As an individual suing a company you absolutely would NOT want to file in Limited Civil if you had the option of filing in Small Claims, among other reasons because in Limited Civil the company you're suing can be represented by a lawyer and the filing fees are considerably more expensive.


California is weird.

On the east coast (NYC in particular), things are a bit more sane in some ways and a bit crazier in others.

Of course, this is all inside baseball. As a practical matter, it's HIGHLY LIKELY that this will never get before a judge. No corporation is going to send their CEO to court to argue a case and if they can't send a lawyer to small claims, they will just submit a motion to move the case to regular civil court because reasons.

Of course, if that happens, then they've already lost. It will be FAR more expensive to litigate in plain old civil court.

For the record, IANAL but I've hired and fired a bunch of them and done this dance a few times already on both sides of the coin. Bunch of lawyer friends too. One of them was just on TV doing a press conference for his client, a Navy SEAL.

YMMV.


You seem to be commenting well beyond the bounds of your knowledge or expertise.

1. None of this is weird. NY has even more kinds of courts than CA does, including "limited" courts just like CA. I consult on lawsuits around the country, including in various courts in CA and NY, and NY is at least as screwy as CA in every meaningful way I can think of.

2. To the contrary, small claims suits are highly likely to make it in front of a judge. In fact, that's just about the only place they're likely to go because small claims courts strongly discourage the use of pretrial motions. A business that is sued is not required to send the CEO just because they're not allowed to send a lawyer. They can either send a regular employee or they can send no one, in which case they're more or less guaranteed to lose by default.

3. A defendant can't remove a properly filed small claims suit to a higher court just because they feel like it. The small claims venue either has to be improper or there have to be some very unusual extenuating circumstances for the courts to even consider removal. There's an abundance of case law on this, and for good reason, including in NY.


Please edit the personal swipes out of your comments here, even if someone else's comments are wrong and/or provocative.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Nrsolis 21 days ago [flagged]

Are you a lawyer? My parents were married.

Now...if we can get back to your points.

Cite sources for your assertions. You say there is plenty of NY case law then cite a couple of examples. You say that small claims cases are more likely to end up in front of a judge. How do you know this? Are you taking into account the number of cases that are dismissed because the two parties reached an agreement before trial that resolved the issue?

If you're an expert on the law and you think I'm not then PUHLEEZE demonstrate something besides an ability to google counterexamples.

When you've been sued and had to sue people you quickly develop an appreciation for how the legal system REALLY works and how lawsuits are a tool for negotiation. I will tell you that I've sued a handful of people and none of those times did we actually go to trial. We settled because the cost of a trial would have far exceeded the disputed amount.

The one time I was sued in small claims, I settled. I actually settled IN THE COURTROOM and informed the judge that he could dismiss the case.

Get some time on the pond, kid. Otherwise, go kick rocks.


Personal attacks will get you banned here. Would you please review the site guidelines and stick to the rules on HN?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Delete my account.


You're acting like a jerk and you don't know what you're talking about but I'm going to humor you anyway.

1) Here are three from NY (there's isn't much more case law than this because small claims cases-- to my point-- are rarely removed to higher courts):

1a) Shaw v Point Lookout Toys, LLC., 58 Misc. 3d 789: "While the court appreciates the defendants' concerns, they must be weighed against the "salutary purposes of Small Claims Courts which is to provide a simple, informal and inexpensive procedure for the prompt determination of claims within its jurisdiction" (Kilinski v Melendez, 182 Misc 2d 55, 57, 696 NYS2d 780 [Sup Ct, Nassau County 1999], citing UDCA 1802 [the UCCA 1802 counterpart applicable to District Court]). Indeed, these underpinnings of small claims court have been deemed a substantial right to which parties are entitled."

1b) Fordham Rent A Car Corp. v. Hyman, 109 Misc. 2d 176 : "For this court to direct the removal of the small claims action would ignore the intended purpose of the 1979 amendment of subdivision (b) of section 1805 of the New York City Civil Court Act (CCA) which seeks to prevent divestiture of small claims jurisdiction"

1c) Moise v Brown (26 Misc 3d 1224[A], 907 NYS2d 438, 2010 NY Slip Op 50243[U] [Sup Ct, Kings County 2010]) : "Transfer and consolidation here, therefore, would prejudice a substantial right of defendant Keon K. Brown, that is, the right to have his claim resolved according to the standard and rules applicable in the Small Claims Part of Civil Court, whereas allowing the Small Claims action to proceed would not prejudice Plaintiff in this action."

2. I'm not saying the cases don't settle. I'm saying that small claims cases which don't settle almost always go before a judge. They are rarely disposed of by pretrial motions because small claims courts strongly discourage and in some instances prohibit pretrial motions. In CA, for example, a defendant could file a motion to dismiss but that's about it. Other means of disposing cases (e.g. summary judgment) are unavailable.


How would this work for businesses? The owner or CEO gets dragged in? Seems unlikely, otherwise you could just DoS a business by keeping their leadership embroiled in small claims issues.

I imagine you can't have outside counsel represent you, but the business can probably send their own lawyer and delegate authority to them.


When suing a corporation in small claims court in the state of California, an attorney may only be present if they are an officer or director of the corporation and all other officers and directors are attorneys.

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySectio...

The corporation doesn't need to be represented by an officer or director, however, they can also be represented by a non-attorney employee: "a corporation may appear and participate in a small claims action only through a regular employee, or a duly appointed or elected officer or director, who is employed, appointed, or elected for purposes other than solely representing the corporation in small claims court."

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySectio....


Looks like this is a per state thing. If my googling is accurate, this is only true in California, Michigan, and Nebraska. New York, where KitSplit is based, definitely allows a lawyer to represent you in small claims court.


I can’t find an authoritative source right now, but some random legal advise websites mention that some states allow you to sue an out-of-state business in small claims court as long as you are a resident.


I think they send an employee of the company. I don't remember the story but I read someone that was suing one of the big fast food chains and they just kept sending a store manager


As a company they would need someone to represent them though, right? Would that not be a lawyer working for the company?


Yup. A "legal person" like a corporation in the USA must have legal counsel to represent them in court, even small claims.

Court sucks. Any lawyer will tell you that you don't want the judge making the decision for you. They'll buy you a new camera if they are smart and fix their process.

Otherwise they will spend a lot more on lawyers than they ever would making you whole.

And yes, some companies get sued ALL THE TIME.


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