Man sues moving company for $7,000 in lost items

Home moving nightmare

HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - A Hickory man and his sister-in-law have filed a federal lawsuit against a moving company they claim lost thousands of dollars worth of household items in a cross-country move.

William Morris and his sister-in-law Karen Kuester filed a lawsuit against AAA Moving & Storage of Newton in early June.

Morris hired AAA to move Kuester from Hickory to Houston, TX. He said he checked out several moving companies and did extra leg work to find what he thought would be the best one.

"I was real thorough about this because I've been through moving before," he said. Morris made sure to clarify that all of his sister-in-law's items would be loaded onto one truck and taken directly to Houston instead of being transferred to a different

truck. He also paid an additional $210 for full loss and damage coverage.

Morris said he thought he had done everything in his power to ensure a smooth move. Which is why he was surprised to get a call from Kuester after the movers delivered her truck load of boxes.

"My sister-in-law calls me that night and says 'I can't find the dishes'," Morris said. "And I said 'have you looked at everything?' and she said yes."

Ultimately, Morris and Kuester would report $7,614 worth of household items lost. Among the missing goods are silverware, pots and pans, lamps and assorted tools.

An antique subo pot was also damaged in the move. An appraisal submitted with the federal complaint values the damaged pot at $3,200.

Todd Sain, owner of AAA Moving & Storage, acknowledged that Morris purchased insurance but said he cannot be held responsible for items that he isn't sure were ever in his company's possession.

In an interview with On Your Side Investigates, Sain said Kuester signed the household goods bill of lading that everything had been delivered. He said the items Morris and Kuester claim are missing are not on the bill of lading and may have been in a storage shed that Sain said his movers took some items from.

The lawsuit does not mention a shed but it does say many of the missing items were picked up when AAA movers came back a second day for the rest of Kuester's belongings.

Sain said Kuester's shipment was picked up on two box trucks and combined onto a tractor-trailer to be hauled to Texas. He said the items were taken right off of one truck and loaded into another.

Sain also said this is the first time his company has ever had a complaint like this. He said his company has an A+ rating with the BBB and tries to resolve complaints whenever they arrive.

The small business owner also said his insurance would pay for the damaged antique pot but Morris had not submitted the required appraisal.

Morris' attorney, James Hawes, included a copy of the appraisal in the lawsuit along with proof that he made multiple attempts to send the appraisal to Sain.

On Your Side Investigates showed a copy of the appraisal to Sain during our interview. He said it was the first time he had seen the document.

Tom Bartholomy, President of the Better Business Bureau of the Southern Piedmont, said it's important to pay close attention to your belongings during a move.

"Don't sign just because the truck is empty," Bartholomy said. Sign because you know everything has been unloaded."

For his part, Morris said he thought he had done everything right to ensure a smooth move.

"I don't know that I would do anything differently because, you know, I covered all the bases, I thought," Morris said.

Here are some additional tips from the BBB on what to look for when hiring a moving company:

•    Do your homework. Check the moving company's Business Review with the BBB.

•    Get a written contract. Carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any     disclaimers. Make sure pick-up and delivery dates or delivery ‘windows' are spelled out.

•    Verify licensing. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety     Administration and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify.
    •    Confirm insurance coverage – Ask the company for a copy of its Certificate of Insurance to verify that the mover is insured.
    •    Get at least three in-home estimates. No legitimate mover will offer to give you a firm estimate on-line or over the telephone. Also, keep in     mind that the lowest estimate can be a 'low-ball offer' which can cost you more in the end.
    •    Know your rights. Research your rights as a consumer in the state you currently reside and in the state where you are moving.
    •    Call the police if your moving company holds your belongings hostage in order to make you pay more than the agreed upon contract price.

Copyright 2015 WBTV. All rights reserved.