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King County woman says her storage unit was auctioned by mistake

A Shoreline woman said the items in her storage unit were mistakenly auctioned off.

Donna West had a storage unit at the Public Storage facility on 149th and Aurora Avenue North in Shoreline.   After a recent visit, she was asked to talk to the manager before opening the door.

“He said ‘well, we accidentally auctioned off your stuff’,” West said. “I went ‘you’re joking!’.”

Nothing’s funny about losing the family photos West will never be able to share with her daughter, Emma.  West said management with Public Storage wouldn’t tell her who bought her things, but it did return two boxes and a ziplock bag.

“I opened it up and they decided just to put random stuff {in},” West said.

Frustrated, West decided to file an insurance claim with Orange Door, the company run by Public Storage that insures the content of items in units.  Soon after filing, an employee of Orange Door left West a voicemail with the verdict.

“I just wanted to let you know that I did complete my investigation into your claim,” the voicemail from Orange Door said.  “I did confirm that unfortunately your unit was sold at auction by mistake.   Unfortunately, your unit being sold at auction in error is not a coverage under your certificate of insurance, so I’ll have to respectfully deny your claim.”

West was furious.

“So, you’re telling me a Public Storage employee can go into someone’s unit, sell all their stuff?” West asked.  “Not only are you out of your stuff… and on top of that, you’re not even covered for your insurance.”

Attorney Lish Whitson is trying to help West get her stuff back.

“I find it literally appalling,” Whitson said.  “They’ve never even said ‘we’ll give you the proceeds of that sale.’ They’ve never made that offer.”

West went back to inspect the returned items and discovered some of the items were not hers.

“I did not recognize the people in these pictures,” West said.

It’s a Ziploc bag of pictures and CD’s, holding someone else’s memories.

One photo was labeled ‘Brian and Shannon Halloween 1976.’  There was also a birth announcement inside the Ziploc bag.

Jesse was able to piece together the birth announcement along with the photos, which led him to Shannon Torrey in Shoreline.

Shannon said it feels like her family has been found.

“I don’t have any pictures of my family,” Torrey explained.  “They are all gone. All of them. Thank you so much.”

She discovered one picture nearly 50 years old of her brother and grandfather.

There’s also photos of her mom, and of herself as a child.

“They are memories,” Torrey said.  “They are pieces of my family that I didn’t have anymore.  And now I do.”

Now, All Donna West wants is her stuff back, and to experience that same feeling of recovering lost momentous.

“Can I please have it back?” West asked.  That’s my stuff, my kids’ stuff.  I’d appreciate it if you could please get it back to me.”

West said she had an air conditioning unit, a floor buffer, a purse collection, books and clothes in that unit.  All of it is gone, except those two boxes and the bag of photos.

Public Storage and Orange Door insurance did not provide a response to our questions.  The policies are underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company. It’s an AIG company.
Public storage subsidiaries run about everything else.  According to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, your homeowners or rental insurance may cover losses in a storage unit. Check your policy for details.  Also, check for a separate policy from the facility’s.

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