Ask a JAG

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Q: Last week at the commissary, my bagger lost control of the grocery cart and it scratched the door of my car. The repair estimate is $300. Who pays for that?

A: Unless the bagger agrees to pay for the damage, you will likely end up eating the cost. 

It’s probably not prudent to pursue a judicial remedy. Jurisdictional issues preclude you from filing in a U.S. court, so you would have to pursue the action through the German system (Mahnverfahren). 

Beyond the language barrier and time-consuming process, you will bear the economic risk of paying up-front court fees and other expenses, which may be unrecoverable or even exceed the amount claimed. 

Of course, you have the option to file a comprehensive claim with your private insurance, but the benefit of that depends on your deductible, as well as any impact it may have on your premium. 

Though comprehensive claims generally carry low deductibles, and the owner is not considered “at fault,” each person’s policy is different and requires individual analysis.

What about the Military Claims Office on Kelley?  
While many patrons believe the commissary or the Army would be liable, that is not the case. Baggers are not employees of the Defense Commissary Agency, the Army or the federal government. Their precise status is complex and commonly misperceived. 

Legally speaking, baggers are “self-employed licensees.” That means they’ve been given permission to enter the commissary for the purpose of conducting a personal business for profit, i.e., solicit patrons to accept their bagging and carry-out services in return for the expectation of a customary tip. As licensees, baggers are solely responsible for their negligent acts.

This article is not meant to discourage acceptance of baggers’ services. Indeed, baggers are critical in speeding up the check-out process and can be exceedingly helpful. Just be aware of the relationship that is created.  If you do not wish to “hire” a bagger, then politely decline his or her services. Conversely, if you do hire a bagger, and that bagger damages your property, immediately inform the local commissary manager either in person or by submitting an ICE comment, and then schedule an appointment at the legal assistance office. But if you have the typical experience of hiring a diligent and courteous bagger, be sure to give him or her a commensurate tip — preferably the kind that folds instead of jingles.

This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/civ. 0711-729-4152.