Legal dispute over Golf Cart #8

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 39            October 4, 2007

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Pictured is the golf cart in question. The Warrens were permitted to leave Belize, but will have to return for the court case at a later date.

Golf Cart #8 remains as the golf cart in question and that is the number that Sandra and Norman Warren will never forget. The couple who hail from Phoenix, Arizona rented a golf cart from Island Tour Rentals located inside of the Island Supermarket on September 23rd for a weeklong period. Upon renting said vehicle, the Warrens or rather Sandra, signed a contract, which among many things, stated that the couple will incur any expenses should the cart receive any damages.

    Heading to the resort where they were vacationing at, The Victoria House, a dog intercepted the couple’s path with the intention of biting Norman’s feet. This caused Norman, who was driving, to veer to the side where he was met with an embankment, causing Cart #8 to tip over. Witnesses of the accident helped the duo flip the cart to its upright position and immediately drove to Island Tour Rentals to report the incident.

    Upon arriving at the company, Karol Maldonado, manager, met the couple and went outside to inspect the damages received. Island Tour’s in-house mechanic was brought in to assess the dents and scratches on the cart. The inspection revealed, according to the company, a broken chassis (the framework of the cart), with damages on the lift kit and three fenders to name a few amounting to a price tag of $12,000. The couple was in shock to think that they would have to pay this amount for according to them, “a golf cart that still runs.” Maldonado claims to have explained to the couple that although it might run, the damages done to it prevent the company from renting it to other people. “We have to think about the safety of our clients,” commented Maldonado, “we can not rent out a cart that is welded and might get broken while another client has it. What if something worse were to happen?”

    According to Sandra, Maldonado immediately charged $6,000 to the American Express card that she had provided when she signed the contract. An additional $6,000 was attempted to be tried but AMEX rebutted the charge until they spoke with the Warrens. Unaware that the charge had been made, Sandra waited for police officers to arrive, since the company had called to file a report. Sandra claims that she was warned by reliable sources to get a second opinion before paying any money to Island Tour Rentals. Traffic Department mechanic, Bernard ‘Sambo’ Spain assessed the damages and put them at “no more than two thousand dollars.” Second and third opinions were also received from two other mechanics on the island. With three mechanics having looked at the cart, the Warrens chose to pay Island Tour the highest of the three bids, $2,000. Maldonado refused and stated the fact that she was pursuing legal action against the couple. When the Warrens returned to their hotel, they were shocked to see a charge of $6,000 on their card. The Warrens state that police officers told Maldonado to withdraw the charges which she did. Maldonado alleges that she never made a charge on the couple’s card but rather put the $6,000 on hold for use of payment on a later date.

    The couple, after having been served with an injunction barring them from leaving the country, sought legal advice from Anthony Sylvestre since any matter above $5,000 needs to be settled in Supreme Court and can not be contested in San Pedro Magistrates’ Court. Island Tour Rentals stated in an interview with The San Pedro Sun that this matter did not have to go to court. “It could have been easily settled if they would have taken one of the many offers I have extended to them, including to take the golf cart and simply return it the way we rented it out to them. That’s all and even then they refused,” stated Director Mahmoud Harmouch.

    The matter was taken to the courts and the San Pedro Business Association, which includes businesses such as Victoria House, Pedro’s Pizza, Banana Beach, Portofino and SEAduced, assisted the couple in any which way they could. “The San Pedro Business Association has been great. If we had been elsewhere and gone through an incident such as this it would have been completely terrifying but having these people help is just amazing,” stated Sandra.

    Speaking with the Business Association, The Sun discovered that these individuals were doing their best to help our tourists who patronize our beaches and fall in love with our country. “We can not let this happen to our guests. They are willing to pay, they are aware that they caused those damages. But, they have a son and they have jobs and their lives to get on with. They can not be held hostage in our country for this. Like we said they are willing to pay but they want to pay what is fair,” commented Brent Kirkman, manager, Victoria House.

    Not only did the Association help but they took responsibility of the case. “Island Tour Rentals is not suing the Warrens anymore. We have taken up that responsibility so they are in reality suing us. We will pay what needs to be paid and we will be here to contest the matter in court,” commented Kirkman.

    After the motion passed through in court, the Warrens were finally free to board their Continental flight en route to Phoenix and their lives. Maldonado ended, “There has been much said about us, not in the best of light, but there are always two sides to what happened. We are in a legal process and we are just letting the court take its course.” Island Tour is being represented by Aldo Reyes.
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