MONEY

Your friend’s babysitter is a thief – who pays?

by JEANNE FLEMING, PH.D. and LEONARD SCHWARZ

Question: While visiting my friend Jenna, I took off my very expensive watch to help her in the kitchen. When I went to put it back on, the watch was gone. Later I learned that Jenna’s babysitter had stolen it, along with some of Jenna’s jewelry, and sold everything at a flea market. I think I should ask Jenna to reimburse me, since the theft occurred in her house and was committed by her employee. My husband disagrees. What should I do?

Our answer: Assuming the thief or her parents aren’t going to make restitution, the first thing you should do is call your insurance agent. Virtually all homeowners policies cover theft, though generally only after the first $1,000. And who, you probably want to know, should cover that hefty deductible?

Individuals have an ethical, and often legal, obligation to provide for the safety and well-being of the friends they invite into their homes. Step through a rotting board and your hosts are responsible for whatever injuries you incur, regardless of whether they knew the board was unsound.

In a similar vein, Jenna is responsible for the behavior of her employee, even if she had no reason to think the babysitter was dishonest. Ignorance and a pure heart don’t wash away responsibility.

But Jenna is your friend – and fellow victim – and those are two good reasons to cut her some slack. So instead of asking her to make you whole, we suggest that you ask her to split your loss with you.

We’re not sure she’ll appreciate how fair you’re being, but she should.

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