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A scooter from a vehicle sharing service (Bird) was left in my yard. What laws do I break if I dismantle it? Does the owner have any civil claim against me? Assume the scooter can be reassembled.

Also assume that I have no contract with Bird. I’ve never even been on their website.

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    You should contact Bird and tell them that they have X days to remove the scooter from your yard or you will dispose of it. Send it registered mail. – Ron Beyer Jul 20 '18 at 1:51
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    This is a global site, so it's best if you clearly explain local terms. I assume "Bird scooter" refers to a rental scooter provided by Bird, bird.co ? I edited to clarify. – sleske Jul 20 '18 at 8:38
  • @RonBeyer thanks for the advice. But I intentionally did not ask for advice. Mostly because this isn’t a stack for providing advice. – jqning Jul 20 '18 at 17:52
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What laws do I break if I dismantle it?

That is an interesting question. As far as I can see, legally the scooter would be considered lost property. The owner (the company Bird Rides, Inc) presumably did not put it there (some user did), and they still want it back (so it is not abandoned property).

Exact rules vary, but usually you must make a reasonable effort to return the item to the owner.


What exactly that means will depend on local laws. Sometimes there is an official Lost and found office where you can deposit or report lost property, which absolves you of further responsibility. Sometimes you may even have to make a reasonable effort to find the owner yourself.

In Minnesota specifically, probably you would have to notify the owner. Not doing so may constitute theft under article 609.515 of the Minnesota Statutes:

609.52 THEFT

[...]

Subd. 2.Acts constituting theft.

(a) Whoever does any of the following commits theft and may be sentenced as provided in subdivision 3:

[...]

(6) finds lost property and, knowing or having reasonable means of ascertaining the true owner, appropriates it to the finder's own use or to that of another not entitled thereto without first having made reasonable effort to find the owner and offer and surrender the property to the owner; or

[...]

So you are not allowed to "appropriate" the scooter, without trying to contact the onwer. Just disassembling it and storing it is probably ok (but I'm not a laywer etc.).

It's not clear whether you are required to contact the owner if you don't "appropriate" the scooter. However, the official recommendation of the Minneapolis Police Department is to do so:

Lost, Stolen and Found Property Check

[...]

For other found items, please take the item to the nearest Minneapolis Police Precinct and turn it in to the desk officer.

So to be on the safe side, you should probably report the scooter either to Bird Rides, Inc directly, or to your local police station.

Does the owner have any civil claim against me? Assume the scooter can be reassembled

If you do not damage the scooter in any way, then probably not. The only damage they could claim would be the cost of reassembly - however, a) this might be too trivial to be worth it for them, and b) you could claim you needed to disassemble it because otherwise you would not have had space to store it.

Again, to be on the safe side you should probably notify Bird Rides, Inc and ask them to collect the scooter within a certain timeframe. If you also notify them that you will disassemble the scooter if it is not collected until a certain time, I don't think they will have a claim against you later.

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    "Just disassembling it and storing it is probably ok"? If the finder disassembles it before contacting the owner this sounds like a roundabout way of "appropriating it to the finder's own use". On the other hand, if you first make reasonable effort to contact the owner (as mentioned in the part you quoted) without success, then disassembling may be reasonable, but not before. – Brandin Jul 20 '18 at 9:20
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    @Brandin: Well, this will probably depend on circumstances. If the yard is too small for the scooter to remain there even for a few hours, disassembling right away is probably ok. If you do it just because you can, probably not. – sleske Jul 20 '18 at 10:24
  • That’s an interesting distinction between lost and abandoned. The entire business model is based on the premise that users can put the scooter wherever they want when the are done. The scooters broadcast their location, so freelance “chargers” can collect the scooters for a charging overnight, but then they just put them wherever they want when they are done. I think thE company has last contact when they drop them off on city streets. After that it’s free for all. By design. – jqning Jul 20 '18 at 17:55
  • That is an interesting business model. I would think that leaving scooters, or any other tangible objects, on private property without permission would constitute littering or some similar minor offense, and the owner of the property could call the authorities to have the litter removed. . – David Siegel Dec 9 '18 at 19:52

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