WSVN — He went to perform at a hotel. They told him where to set up his electronic pianos. He did, and then their sprinklers came on, destroying his equipment. Who has to pay to replace them? It’s why one South Florida performer called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Most people discover their career as an adult. Richard Cooper knew what he wanted to do as a child.

Richard Cooper: “I started when I was three years old. According to my mother, it’s been a lifelong thing for me. It’s my vocation, as well as pretty much my obsession.”

Today Richard is a professional piano player, teaming with a partner to entertain at everything from corporate events, to weddings and birthday parties.

Richard Cooper: “What we do is, we take two piano players in there, slam out very popular tunes that people like a lot and leave places for them to sing and get them to sing along.”

Earlier this year, Richard was hired by a charity group to perform at their event at the Marriott in Pompano Beach. When he arrived, a hotel employee told him where to put the pianos.

Richard Cooper: “They asked me to set up on the lawn, which is rather an unusual request, anyway, but I went ahead and complied as they said, ‘Well, there’s no problem. It is not going to rain.'”

The skies didn’t open up. The show was great, but around 11 o’clock, when Richard was packing up to leave, the grounds opened up.

Richard Cooper: “And they’re screaming. They’re going, ‘Somebody turned the sprinklers on.’ My gear is getting totally soaked.”

One person took a picture of the sprinkler running. Richard couldn’t move his pianos quickly enough and ran into the hotel lobby looking for help.

Richard Cooper: “I’m hoping to get somebody to shut that off now. Nobody even responded to me. I’m hollering at the top of my lungs.”

Richard’s two electronic pianos and a mixing board were ruined.

Richard Cooper: “I felt sick to my stomach. I felt kind of angry, but more than anything, I felt really desperate.”

Richard was told he needed to talk to the hotel’s general manager. He tried, and got nowhere.

Richard Cooper: “It has become clear to me, anyway, that they have no intention of responding to me or even acknowledging my existence.”

When the hotel refused to pay for the damage, Richard had to spend $5,800 to buy new equipment, leaving him irritated at the cost, amazed at how it happened.

Richard Cooper: “Why in heaven’s name would somebody turn a sprinkler system on to an electrical setup?”

Well, Howard, the hotel employee told Richard where to set up. He did; the sprinklers came on. Who is responsible?

Howard Finkelstein: “The hotel. Legally, this is easy. Their employee had the authority to tell him where to set up. That employee also had the responsibility to make sure the sprinklers were turned off. They weren’t. His property was damaged, and the hotel has to pay.”

We first contacted the Marriott in Pompano Beach. We didn’t get anywhere. We then contacted their corporate headquarters in Maryland. They offered to step in.

Richard says, a few days after that, his agent got a call from the Pompano Beach Marriott offering them $2,500. The general manager then sent us a statement, in part saying, “We are certainly sympathetic to Mr. Cooper’s situation. And though we feel strongly that the hotel is not responsible for Mr. Cooper’s claim, we do want to assist Mr. Cooper with replacing his damaged instruments.”

But Richard won’t accept the hotel’s offer. He wants the full $5,800 and will sue them in county court to get it.

Richard Cooper: “I am so glad I called Help Me Howard. These guys would have ignored me.”

Patrick Fraser: “And they may not make it to court. The Marriott told us they are willing to try work something out with Richard. If they do, it’s over. If they don’t, we’ll go to court and see who a judge thinks is responsible for the soaking pianos.”

A problem left you drenched? Ready to get in concert with someone to solve it? Contact us. After we talk, we can guarantee we’ll be Bach. Get it? Johann Bach, the great composer? I am off key today.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
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