A precious violin is crushed on a NY garage floor

A precious violin is crushed on a NY garage floor


norman lebrecht

March 11, 2018

An $85,000 lawsuit has been filed at Manhattan Supreme Court against a West 51st Street garage where an attendant ran over a Degani violin.

The plaintiff Beth Bergman says she and her daughter were unloading items when a garage employee drove over the violin, which had been placed close by in its case on the ground.

The garage boss says: ‘We didn’t do anything wrong.’

Read on here.



  • Sherban Lupu says:

    What a pity! On the other hand who can be so stupid to put a violin on the pavement obviously not too close to her own car since the attendant did not run into her!

  • Sherban Lupu says:

    And BTW doesn’t she have insurance to cover it instead of suing a poor employee who could not have possibly imagine that there are violin cases lying on the garage floor?

    • Stephen Owades says:

      The lawsuit is against the garage owner, not the employee who drove over the violin. Lawyers always go after the party with the deep pockets. I agree that it will be difficult to prove that the garage was negligent, since leaving the violin on the floor means there was considerable fault on its owners’ part.

  • Mary Ann Kaza says:

    You NEVER leave a valuable Instrument on the ground. (any price instrument for that matter) and WHY sue, you were negligent by placing it on the ground where it could have been stolen or as in this alleged situation driven over. Your insurance will cover it, if you have insurance, which you should on an $85,000 violin. I am a professional violinist and educator. Sorry for your self inflicted emotional trauma but this comes down to basic common sense.

  • Donald Hansen says:

    Another example of someone suing for their own stupidity. Long gone are the days when people did not look for someone else to blame for their own negligence.

  • Charles Clark Maxwell says:

    ==“within arm’s reach”

    Well if it was that close, they should have been able to pick it up when they saw the car coming. Could they not see or hear the car ? Were they not in danger of being run over themselves ?

    I’ve sympathy with people when airlines trash their instruments – but this case is sheer negligence

  • Sherban Lupu says:

    Methinks that the good lady is out to gain without much effort a bundle of moneys. Maybe she put the fiddle on purpose hoping someone will run over it so she can sue!

  • Michael says:

    People are jumping to quick conclusions on this case without knowing all the facts. Was she negligent to leave the violin on the floor or did she place the violin down in a place a reasonable person would expect no one would drive through? The garage could also have been negligent if the employee saw the violin case and thought he could drive around it (or even if he didn’t see the case but SHOULD have seen it). There is also the legal concept of contributory negligence if both sides were partly negligent and the court will then attribute a percentage of blame to each side. We don’t yet have sufficient facts to make a determination.

    • Jane Parsons says:

      String instrument cases for violin are normally dark blue, dark brown or black. To place it on a dark grey asphalt floor in a parking house is insanity! I’m a cellist and I guard my instrument with my life. If anyone would try to steal my cello they’ll have to first deal with my body between them and the cello. Apparently she did not have this instinct
      to protect her violin. Or, her child distracted so much that she couldn’t think clearly.

      • Michael says:

        I agree Jane. It was a stupid thing to do. My point was there are additional facts to consider before making legal conclusions.

      • Bill says:

        They come in (nearly) all the colors of the rainbow, in my experience. I see plenty of white cello cases, in particular.

        I must say that I am of the opinion that it is a driver’s duty of care to avoid running over things in their path, whether or not they should be there. That being said, I do my best not to rely on anyone else doing the right thing. Sometimes that means putting an instrument case down on the ground very close to the car while I open the door. Some might suggest that a better plan is to put it on top of the car; to those people, I suggest they read the tale of the “Duke of Alcantara” Stradivari, or any number of news stories about people forgetting laptops, etc. on top of the car and driving away, only to lose them on the first sharp bump. Nor is a cello case easily placed on top of a vehicle!

  • Sherban Lupu says:

    With all due respect I think the mother is double dipping: 85K from the insurance plus 85K from the garage. That makes 170K for a much better fiddle for her talented(???) daughter! Anyone with a Gagliano for sale?

    • Dennis says:

      Nothing in that very short article indicates that she has also already received $85k from insurance. Rules of subrogation, however, should preclude her from double-dipping. If indeed she has been paid $85k by an insurance company, the insurance company should have subrogation rights to any recovery she may receive from the lawsuit (indeed they may be the real party in interest behind the suit in the first place). If she recovers in the lawsuit, the first $85k would go to payback the insurance company for anything they may have already paid to her.

      • Bill says:

        Yes, that was my first reaction as well, that the insurance company probably had a hand in the decision to file suit against the garage. I vaguely recall clauses agreeing to help the insurance company recover any losses in some of my instrument insurance contracts over the years.

        I saw a Sanctus Serafin violin about 20 years back which had been the recipient of a heroic repair job after someone backed over the case. The top looked like a chessboard! Someone had painstakingly thinned down all of the pieces of the top and laminated them onto a very thin new top for structural support – sort of the mother of all belly patches 🙂 Seemed to play fine, but of course a substantial loss in value as a collectible.

  • duane says:

    As a violin maker I will say:

    1-You should have insurance on your instruments and bow if you can not afford to replace it out-of-pocket.
    2-A violin case should NEVER be laid on the ground next to your car. Put it on your back, hold it in your hand, make it the last thing you remove from the vehicle.

    Once or twice a year instruments that have suffered this fate show up in my shop, but the owners usually berate themselves for doing something “stupid”, not sue someone else for their error in judgement.