“Squeegee kids” have existed for decades. While some defend their conduct by noting that these kids are working to provide for their families and that washing windows is better than selling drugs, there has been a recent increase in heated interactions between drivers and squeegee kids. With this increase, it is important to examine the realm of related civil liability.
During a recent incident between squeegee kids and a Baltimore City driver, a firearm inside the driver’s vehicle discharged. Another citizen alleges he was punched by a squeegee kid while stopped at an intersection near downtown. More often, the complaints are tamer, concerning property damage to vehicles by squeegee kids. City officials claim to be working for a resolution though most are simply sitting by, hoping that the cold weather will put a freeze on the squeegee problem.
The Baltimore City Code expressly prohibits the use of squeegees for panhandling on city streets. Specifically, Article 19, Section 47-4(4) prohibits soliciting “from any operator or occupant of a motor vehicle that is in traffic on a public street, whether in exchange for cleaning the vehicle’s windows or otherwise.” The Baltimore City Code further prohibits “aggressive soliciting,” which includes “(4) intentionally blocking or interfering with the safe passage of a person or a vehicle by any means, including unreasonably causing a person to take evasive action to avoid physical contact; (5) using obscene or abusive language either during the course of soliciting or following a refusal; or (6) acting with the intent of intimidating another person into giving money or another thing of value.” Balt. City Code Art. 19 § 47-1. Despite the city ordinance, a squeegee problem is on the rise.
It is unclear who citizens can turn to for a remedy to any property damage. Citizens often ask whether they can sue the city for failing to enforce provisions of the code, but the answer is no; the city has discretion in enforcing its code. However, while there is no cause of action against the city for failing to enforce the soliciting or windowing cleaning prohibitions, there may be a cause of action available to an individual if injured due to the city’s negligence. The injured party must establish that the city owed them a duty of care, breached that duty of care, and that breach caused the individual injury. But it is unlikely that a judge is going to find that the city owes any duty to an individual whose vehicle is damaged by an aggressive solicitor on the street.
Citizens could sue the damaging squeegee kid for bodily injury. Intentional torts such as assault and battery are available causes of civil actions for occurrences that escalate into violence, but if an individual is washing car windows for money, he/she probably does not have the ability to pay a judgment.
An individual’s own automobile collision insurance can assist that person if his/her vehicle is damaged by a squeegee kid. However, this leaves the innocent driver paying a deductible and the insurance company paying for vehicle repairs that, in theory, could have been prevented. Importantly, Maryland law requires that the insurer offer collision coverage but there is no requirement for drivers to buy collision coverage. As such, those who opted out of collision coverage will likely have to pay for their own property damage caused by squeegee kids.
Given the City’s lack of liability or action with respect to the squeegee kids, the best option to avoid unnecessary expenses is to find alternative routes.
For more information about this article, please contact Ellen Stewart at 410.230.2670 or email@example.com.