Woman fighting bank after valuables vanish from safe deposit box
BATON ROUGE - A woman says her bank failed to properly secure her property in a safe deposit box.
Dot Burkhalter says she's missing thousands of dollars worth of items and she should be compensated for her loss. She called 2 On Your Side after the bank offered to settle for less than what she says her items are worth.
The word "safe" is not something Burkhalter takes lightly. She thought that by keeping her items in a vault under lock and key they would be secure.
"You would think whatever you had in there would be safe, but it's not," she said.
Her idea of safety changed in 2016 when she went to visit her safety deposit box at Whitney Bank on Florida Blvd. and learned some of her possessions were missing.
"A lot of the medals were missing," she said. "The platinum was missing and a lot of the cash was missing."
Burkholder says she suffered the loss from safe deposit box 806. The items include 10 Mexican 1-ounce troy silver dollars, an 1893 silver dollar made into a pendant, a 50-ounce platinum bar, a 10-ounce platinum bar, American Eagle gold coins, gold maple leaf coins and $23,750 in cash. The value of the missing items totaled about $123,000.
Whitney Bank records show Burkhalter was at the bank to access her safe deposit box on Feb. 23, 2016, and returned again on March 1 looking for an envelope. On both dates, Burkhalter says she received assistance from a bank representative. She returned again on March 2, looking for the same envelope but could not locate the item.
On March 15, Burkhalter says she realized she had misplaced an important item on one of her prior visits.
"I was missing a key," she said.
Burkhalter says one of her two safe deposit box keys had been out of her sight for about two weeks. She went to the bank March 15, opened the box and noticed her property was missing.
The Baton Rouge Police Department says this case remains active and under investigation but there's not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges at this time. Whitney Bank says it does not discuss personnel matters.
"It's still pending litigation and it's also an HR, personnel matter so I really can't say anything about it," said Whitney Bank spokesman Paul Maxwell.
Michael Platte of Ogwyn Law Firm represents Burkhalter. He tells 2 On Your Side a settlement offer has been made to Whitney Bank for $150,000. Platte says Whitney Bank countered with a dollar amount less than what Burkhalter says her missing items are worth.
"Offered $100,000 and I said no," said Burkhalter.
Whitney Bank tells WBRZ, a bank associate usually is in the vault when someone accesses their safe deposit box. Though it may be hard for a bank to know what's really inside the box, experts say you should keep an inventory and if the items are valuable, think about getting special insurance.
Burkhalter has since moved her remaining valuable items to another bank.