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Several years ago I purchased a mouse with my own money to use for work because I can't stand using a cheap mouse all day.

Yesterday, a colleague accidentally spilled my own glass of water over the mouse and it stopped working during a meeting at my desk.

Who should pay for an adequate replacement?

  • The company, as it was essentially work equipment that got damaged in an accident.
  • The colleague who caused the accident.
  • I myself.

I'm currently thinking about option 1, asking my boss for a replacement. The replacement isn't that expensive (about €60). And they should have paid for the original mouse anyway.

My concern is, that they say that I already have a mouse (the one that originally came with the PC) and everybody else is using that without a complaint.

There are no medical reasons or anything why I would need a special mouse, just personal preference and comfort.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Jul 17 at 5:33
  • @Roland: That is a great find. It was interesting to read it. (Not that I have considered legal steps in any way. Hence the question here instead of law.se 😊) – raznagul Jul 17 at 8:54

10 Answers 10

33

And they should have paid for the original mouse anyway

Sure, I'd agree. But the fact they didn't, also strongly suggests they'd be very unwilling to pay for a new one now.

There's certainly no harm in asking your boss, but I wouldn't expect a positive response. You'll likely get something along the lines of "If you choose to bring your own stuff into work, it's your responsibility, not ours." Bear in mind there may well be a particular policy against using your own stuff at work as well, so if that's the case this could backfire.

Whatever you do though, don't try to make your colleague pay - that's not fair. Knocking over a glass of water happens, it's not malicious - and they weren't to know that it was a "special mouse" that they had to take particular care around.

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    Even if there is no existing rule against personal equipment at work, if the OP tries to make this the employer's problem there soon will be one. That could leave the OP having to use the mouse the employer provided. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 16 at 9:19
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    @PatriciaShanahan not only that, it could make OP pretty unpopular with colleagues who also used to take their own equipment in and will then be prevented from doing so for potential liability reasons. – delinear Jul 16 at 11:52
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    OP - I had this problem many years ago with a laptop. I got really lucky and it wasn't damaged. Ever since then I keep my water in a sports bottle with the lid on. Never mind banning employees from bringing equipment, the company might also ban desktop drinks (yes, I've seen that too). You'll probably end up replacing the mouse yourself; learn and move on. – Justin Jul 16 at 12:55
  • Also, the employer almost certainly budgets for some equipment issues carries insurance to deal with the rest, and this mouse probably isn't covered by either. Expecting the employer to effectively insure any private property any employee cares to bring onto the premises in the event of random damage seems absurdly unlikely. Even the OP, with something purchased out-of-pocket, apparently didn't see fit to insure it at all. – Upper_Case Jul 16 at 22:16
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    I have spoken with my boss, and he agreed to pay for a replacement. – raznagul Jul 17 at 8:51
16

I take stuff to work because I can't be bothered discussing the supply of that equipment with admin or boss, if it gets broken, lost, or stolen, that's my problem.

Now, with some experience of the nice mouse you could approach your manager with your story, I had X mouse and found that it improved my productivity by reducing stress, unfortunately it was accidentally broken by a colleague, can I have a replacement?

Boss, may think "I can improve morale for only €60 which is a bargain compared to a pay raise".

On the other hand if you stick it in a bag dry uncooked of rice for a week it may dry out and start working again

  • 5
    Uncooked rice. 8-)} – Keith Thompson Jul 16 at 21:49
  • yes dry uncooked rice – Jasen Jul 16 at 23:41
6

I would just buy a mouse - no alternatives.

  1. Boss will say - just use the one provided. Your property is at owners risk. They would not want to set a precedent.
  2. The person who accidentally knocked over will probably say no. If they were to say yes - it might damage your relationship. Personally, I would not pay for it if I had the accident - as it was at work and the equipment you should be using is provided by the work and would be covered.

Just bring stuff to work that you can afford to get broken or lost.

4

Certainly your employer isn't liable to pay for it, as you bought it as per your own preference.

If your colleague is courteous, they would have offered to pay for it. Are they aware that the spillage has caused the mouse to stop working? If not, bring it to their attention. If they are considerate enough, they'll feel obliged to pay for it. If they don't, don't bother asking them to pay, as it may not make you look good, (despite your own personal equipment getting damaged) and they may not be willing to, citing it as a mere accident.

If the above doesn't work out, you'll have to pay for it from your own pocket.

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    The employer may be liable because it was damaged by an employee over the course of the employees duties. – Gregory Currie Jul 16 at 9:03
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    I disagree with the colleague to pay. They are not supposed to know that someone is using a personal tool instead of company tool. – Bebs Jul 16 at 9:04
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    @Bebs are you suggesting that you can damage things and not be responsible? – Solar Mike Jul 16 at 9:14
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    @SolarMike, by using company tools, if they are damaged in case of an accident, you are covered by the company. – Bebs Jul 16 at 9:22
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    @Bebs OP is in Austria... in another of your comments you seem to suggest you can damage things and not be at fault. I contend that it is common sense and manners that you should pay for what you damage. I’m glad I don’t have to work with you. – Solar Mike Jul 16 at 9:36
2

I was brought up that if you damage someone else's property you pay for it...

The person who spilt the water should stand up and deal with the damage they caused. If they are lucky, the employer may deal with it under the work insurance, but the owner of the mouse should not be left out of pocket by another's actions.

If the OP had spilt the water themselves then it would be their own problem.

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    Colleagues are not supposed to know every personal tool that someone brings to the office and behave accordingly. – Bebs Jul 16 at 9:09
  • @Bebs If you damage an item, then you will find out ownership... I did not suggest there should be a noticeboard with ownership of all items in the room listed with date of purchase, owner and serial number so you can check before you damage something... – Solar Mike Jul 16 at 9:11
  • @Bilkokuya "if you damage someone else's property you pay for it" seems clear enough... And then there is "The person who spilt the water should stand up and deal with the damage they caused" again clear enough. – Solar Mike Jul 16 at 9:51
  • I think this was a team effort. Having an open glass of water near electronic equipment is risky already and that is on OP not the colleague – cdkMoose Jul 16 at 18:18
  • Within limits (and this is probably within them) I agree. Let’s say it was a broken coffee vessel and the OP had chosen a non-standard, Ming Dynasty tea cup for said vessel. It’s absurdly hyperbolic, but poses where do we draw the line of OP exposing others to unnecessary liability? – John Spiegel Jul 16 at 21:21
1

Rely on generosity as opposed to obligation.

You work at a small company, you were the one who brought water to your desk which was then in the perfect vessel and position to be spilled on accident and cause damage. You are in fact lucky there wasn't real damage in place (terminal PSUs shorting or power strips tripping switches which then cause work to be lost around the office); I do not see fault on anyone but you under these circumstances, so any stance of power will likely not do you much good.

What you can do is politely ask for a replacement to your boss, do not bring up anything besides "my preferred work mouse no longer works". Don't point fingers, because as I've shown it will simply point back to you. If he says no and explain why, say you absolutely understand but you'd really like it if you could have a replacement and if he could do that for you.

Push comes to shove, buy yourself a new mouse since you say it isn't that much of an investment. Also get yourself a proper drinking compartment so this doesn't happen again.

  • Unless I've missed something, there is nothing in the question to say who brought the water to the desk, not that it matters. – Old Nick Jul 16 at 10:10
  • @OldNick It is in the question comments, and yes it does matter as it shows where the neglect lies specially since OP wants to escalate. If you are responsible for an environment and you have people come in then you cannot fault them for damage caused by accidents you basically set up to happen, luckily the result was just a broken mouse. If a client comes into an office by invitation and bumps into a brimming cup of coffee over at the engineer's desk damaging his equipment will you blame the client? – lucasgcb Jul 16 at 10:16
1

In every office I've worked in, people used water bottles or some form of spill-proof/resistant cups. Probably for that reason. Does your work not have some form of policy like that?

Having said that, I'd look at it the same as if he came to your house and spilled a glass of water on your desk at home, ruining your mouse. A nice person might offer to reimburse, but I wouldn't suggest he's obligated, as it was your uncovered glass of water, and it was an accident.

Or would he be required to replace the company purchased keyboard if it had landed on it? My guess is no. So why should your mouse be any different?

Having said that....should the company replace it? Why? It was you bringing it into their building. Maybe they don't buy anything but cheap equipment for that very reason. They should not be obligated for you deciding to bring in an expensive mouse, and then set your open container of water next to it. If they want to, let them. But I wouldn't expect them to be obligated.

I think if you want a replacement mouse, you should buy it.

  • If someone spills a glass of water on your desk at home, ruining your mouse, you have every single right to sue them for private property damage, it being an accident does not have anything to do here. To make it easier - let's talk about a bigger and a more valuable object- a car. If you crash into someone (by an accident), you are liable for the damage and it's paid by the insurance company. If you or your car (depending on how the insurance system works in a country) is not insured - the person you crashed into can sue you to cover the repair costs, medical bills etc. – Rachey Jul 16 at 13:57
  • Did you just compare a $30 mouse to a car and medical bills? Really? – Keith Jul 16 at 13:59
  • Then tell me what does it change and where do we draw the line? 5$? 30$? 50$? 100$? 1500$? 100000$? Both cases are private property damage. And what if that car you crashed into was worth pretty much 30$? – Rachey Jul 16 at 14:04
  • Difference being there is that it's on a public street. This was brought upon by him taking his mouse into work instead of using a company provided mouse, and setting an open cup of water next to it. Again...if the coworker wants to pay for it, they can. But I would not suggest they're under obligation to cover the expenses because they didn't put the water there, nor did they put the mouse there. – Keith Jul 16 at 14:19
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    In the UK cars are insured for such eventuality. How about if the person took a piece of art to work (perhaps tp get reframed) and it got damaged? Would the person be liable for the $5K amount for the art - or should that picture not be there in the first place. Surely, when a mouse is provided and the employee brings in another mouse - s(he) does this at their own risk. – Ed Heal Jul 16 at 19:45
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Just at face value of what happened, your company should replace your mouse with a standard mouse or reimburse you the value of a standard mouse. The damage that befell your mouse was reasonably the type of damage / scenario that a company signs up for by providing equipment. The cost of that damage was not.

You have made the decision to increase the financial risk on a piece of equipment by something like 500% over the company’s standard. Your company didn’t. Your coworker didn’t.

It’s easy to overlook the principle given the relatively small value. But apply the principle on a broader scale. Let’s say all 100 employees chose to replace the $1000 of company-standard equipment with $6000 of their own then one weekend, the fire suppression system faltered and flooded the office. Based on their own preferences, the employees just moved the company’s cost from $100K to $600K.

  • Also probably not covered by the companies insurance as the company did not own it. – Ed Heal Jul 16 at 20:48
0

Who should pay for an adequate replacement?

The company, as it was essentially work equipment that got damaged in an accident.

While the company might I highly doubt it:

My concern is, that they say that I already have a mouse (the one that originaly came with the PC) and everybody else is using that without a complaint.

So they provided you with a mouse (and one that sounds as though it is "fit for purpose") that you chose not to use. Yeah cheap mice that get bundled OEM with office machines are generally pretty terrible but I think you're going to struggle to make any claim that using it made doing your job unreasonably difficult. I really can't see the company having any liability here. If you needed the mouse for a "reasonable accommodation" for a disability or medical issue then I'd be leaning on the company - but that isn't the case here:

There are no medical reasons or anything why I would need a special mouse, just personal perference and comfort.

On the other hand:

The collegue who caused the accident.

Sounds fair - "you broke it - you bought it" seems to apply here.

I myself.

If your colleague doesn't then it will probably fall to you - it might not be "fair" but life generally isn't and sometimes sucky things happen. I sympathize I really do - I've used my own kit for work before, and most likely will do again but there's a risk I'm taking when I do that because accidents do happen.

-1

Think about what would happen if it was a shirt.

Imagine that your colleague split (non-scalding) coffee on your shirt and ruined it. How would the matter be resolved? The mouse should be dealt with in the same way.

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    -1 Yes, my question is, in which way should it be dealt with? You do not answer that at all. – raznagul Jul 16 at 10:41
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    That settles it... Take the mouse to the dry cleaners! 😂 – filbranden Jul 16 at 13:15
  • @raznagul - different cultures will give different answers. Personally I'd say if it was an accident then you should pay for your own shirt but who knows how these things work in Austria (clue: you do, not us). The point of this answer is to take you out of your current emotionally charged situation and think about how you would handle an analogous situation. – P. Hopkinson Jul 16 at 20:32
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    Also, your comment/downvote seems rude and entitled. Were you expecting to agree with every answer? Perhaps this answer is useless to you personally but it is a perfectly sensible answer that would have been useful for someone else. – P. Hopkinson Jul 16 at 20:35
  • @P.Hopkinson: I do not expect to agree with every answer. The problem I have with your answer is, that, in my opinion, it makes no effort to answer my question at all. This is why I downvoted the answer. If you don't know the answer, because of the specific region or anything, why answer at all? PS: There is nothing emotinally charged about the situation. – raznagul Jul 17 at 8:47

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