Driving away with the gas pump nozzle

The caller asked if she was responsible for paying the $900 bill and Tom & Ray were right to say she wasn’t.

As a former gas jockey (aka “gas monkey”, (I pumped the gas for customers, so every now and then a customer would either: Self-serve, which they were supposed to do but was nice because it made them liable for repairs to our equipment and their car; or think that the sound of the nozzle automatically clicking off (sometimes wasn’t even the nozzle in their car) was their cue to drive away, sometimes without paying. The hose trailing from the gas door helped the cops find them pretty easy when they “stole” our gas. Most didn’t do it deliberately, they just had 100 things on their mind and #101 pushed out #87, which was that the gas nozzle was still in the filler.

For at least the last three decades gas pump hoses are outfitted with fixtures that are designed to break away cleanly when someone drives off. This was because of the rise of self-serve stations where people would drive off with the nozzle still in the filler tube. The pump also senses the problem and shuts flow of gas off. They also did this because the hose and nozzle are relatively cheap to replace, a couple hundred bucks or so tops. The nozzle can quite often be reused as they’re pretty durable, though the section of hose and its half of the fixture have to be replaced. What used to happen, before the break-away days, was the nozzle would become stuck through leverage and the torque would twist the pump itself out of shape, the nozzle would be bent, and the hose would snap and gas would gush. So now you had an entire, expensive pump that has to be repaired and isn’t making any money for the station and gas flowing, loosing more money and causing a fire and ecological hazard.

I doubt that the damage was anywhere near $900. It sounds like the station owner needs a new cabin canvas for the SS Tranny Rebuild.

If you drive away with the gas nozzle still in your vehicle then you are responsible for the damage. I have seen minor damage from this and major damage as well. Each accident has to be taken on a “case by case” basis. I think your $200 repair cost is way too low. It might cover the labor but I highly doubt it will cover the parts as well.

A rebuilt vapor-recovery gas nozzle will cost the station operator $350-$450 depending on the model. A new nozzle is significantly more. A vapor recovery hose is another hundred, and a new break-away assembly if needed is another $100-$150. Assuming the station operator will repair this himself it’s not hard to get to $800-$900.

Ahh but you both forget the environmental cleanup response cost. Those dribs and drabs of gasoline spill have to be certified as cleaned up. Thus 25$ of spill cleaner, 75$ to dispose of same, and 300$ to do the paperwork that the hazmat was correctly cleaned.

I agree that if one drives away with a nozzle still in the tank that whoever put the nozzle there is responsible. That one is not to leave the vicinity in case of trouble such as the nozzle failing to shut off. Or to yank it out of the tank if the driver drives off. Possession of a receipt is proof the attendant signaled the procedure was complete and one is cleared for takeoff. That the nozzle should have been replaced as the attendant collected the receipt from the machine and before payment was collected.

The actual answer here is to get an attorney, and the caller actually already has a highly paid attorney… the attorney who represents the insurance company. The caller should forward the letter and receipt to her insurance company, inform them of the facts, and inform them that she accepts zero liability and authorizes zero payout. They’ll take it from there.

+1 to the advice above to lawyer up. DON’T send them a buck (as the gents joked), as that might be deemed acknowledgement of responsibility.

Actually this happened to our new Safety Officer some years ago. She was a little sheepish telling about it.

I agree to just turn this over to the insurance company and let them deal with it. It is up to the insurance company to determine liability and payment though, not the insured. I can see some shared liability though because of the actions of the attendant but an alert and cautious driver would also check the mirrors first to make sure the gas cover was shut and the guy’s foot was not under the tire.