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William B. Esq.
William B. Esq., Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 3054
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing individuals and businesses.
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I tried to buy a car from a mechanic who I was referred to.

Customer Question

I tried to buy a car from a mechanic who I was referred to. The car was meant to be a 2006 corolla with 70,000 miles. The car needed repair work and he told me it would be ready in 2 weeks and he would give me a 2 year guarantee on all work. I paid 1/2 as a down payment. The car took much longer to fix than expected and I asked for the money back but he loaned me cars to drive in the meantime (he usually rents these cars out). Many of these cars had problems. The axle fell off one while I drove downhill. The hood on one smashed the windscreen and the glass hurt me (because the latch was broken and he admitted he knew it was). The fluids in some drained out. A couple were not registered so I got tickets. He said that these issues existed because he gave me the cars as soon as customer brought them in and he was taking so long to fix my car to ensure it had zero problems. He finally have me the car in July- 7 mths after we made the deal. It turns out the car was a 2003 corolla with 140+ thousand miles. The car broke down on the free way right after I took it from the mechanic. I asked him for my money bk and he agreed but then said I would have to sue to recover it. Since then I tried to get the car fixed by him but each time I took it bk it broke down within hours. He has had the car for a mth and he does not give me the money. I know that I am entitled to damages for breach of contract: The car is 3 years older, twice the milage, it DOES NOT WORK, the 2 week contract took 8 mths to perform, he wrote that he would guarantee the work, he endangered my life a few times, I went out there every week for months because he kept telling me the car would be done (and his shop is 40+ miles away so I should get money for gas+time in traffic and the hours he would make me wait at his shop only to tell me that actually it would be another week), I was hurt by the broken glass, I had to pay for rental cars because the car he promised was not ready, etc etc. I would like an approximation of how many damages I would be entitled to. Also am I covered by the lemon law?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  William B. Esq. replied 1 year ago.

William B. Esq. :

Dear Customer, thank you for choosing Just Answer. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I would like to assist you today.

William B. Esq. :

While I cannot give you a specific dollar amount for the approximate damages you are entitled to, I can tell you that you are most likely entitled to not only the breach of contract damages, but also "compensatory damages" for negligence, and punitive damages for fraud.

William B. Esq. :

The breach of contract damages can be calculated as "benefit of the bargain" meaning that you are entitled to the value of the car as it was represented to be. A 2006 vehicle that was ready 2 weeks after the contract was entered into. Instead you got a vehicle 3 years older much later, causing you loss of time and increased costs traveling to and from the shop. You are entitled to the difference. (These damages may be difficult to calculate, but the difference in value between the two vehicles should be straightforward as it seems the one you received is relatively worthless - it broke down as soon as you got it on the freeway), the cost to you for loss of time, travel costs, and costs of tickets, etc. would be something you would need to calculate (it may be difficult to get a recovery for your time, but you can certainly get a recovery for the amount spent on travel and defintitely for the tickets).

William B. Esq. :

The negligence claims would relate to putting you on the road with unsafe vehicles - in fact, this can even be a reckless claim (which also carries punitive damages) - specifically with the hood latch issue causing you injury. You are entitled to damages for the mechanic's negligence in putting you on the road with unsafe and unregistered vehicles. Your recovery for the negligence aspects would be limited to actual damages (medical costs, tickets (additional claim to get recovery to the contract claim), pain and suffering for personal injury, and any property damage caused to your property by his negligence). The reckless aspect will open him up to punitive damages (he knew the hood latch was broken but allowed you to drive anyway - this is a known safety mechanism and a mechanic let you drive with it anyway).

William B. Esq. :

The fraud claim is straightforward. He sold you one car and gave you another one after you paid for it. He made a material misrepresentation about the vehicle you were buying, you reasonably relied upon it, and you suffered economic damages due to the misrepresentation (a vehicle with double the miles and three years older, that was mechanically unsound). He will be liable for the actual damages (the difference in value (again a duplicative claim to recovery to the contract claim) plus punitive damages.

William B. Esq. :

While you cannot request a specific value in punitive damages - they are set by the Court or Jury after trial and are calculated based on the defendant's bad conduct, many litigators use a "rule of thumb" that punitive damages usually equal 3x the actual damages (or compensatory damages) in a civil case. This of course is not a legal certainty, just something that is used by some lawyers in appraising the value of their case (I can make no representation that it is accurate in your situation, it may be much more or much less, but I hope it is helpful in getting an idea of what punitive damages are and how they are dealt with in the discretion of the courts).

William B. Esq. :

Your car is not covered by the California State Lemon Laws, lemon laws cover new vehicles. http://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/lemon However, as your mechanic did give you an express 2 year warranty, he is required to perform repairs for that period of time, or until the vehicle has "zero problems" as promised. If the mechanic is unable to do this task, you can sue to have him pay for another mechanic to perform these repairs.

William B. Esq. :

I hope the above is helpful in assessing your position, I do wish there was a simpler way to go about enforcing your rights than to have to file a lawsuit against this mechanic, but perhaps the full range of recovery may make such a suit worthwhile. If you have any questions regarding the above, please do not hesitate to ask and I will follow up directly.

William B. Esq. :

Thank you for using our service, please do not forget to rate my response when you are satisfied. i do wish you the best of luck in this matter. Best regards, Bill.

William B. Esq. :

(I am going to switch our conversation over to the "Q&A" format to ensure that you can review my response and that I can answer any follow up questions you may have - some browsers have compatability issues with our "chat" function).

Expert:  William B. Esq. replied 1 year ago.
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Can you give me approximates for the amount of damages I can expect?

Expert:  William B. Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Dear Customer,

Based on your post (and under the restrictions of this forum) I do not have the facts sufficient to provide you with numbers. Here are the factors that you can use to calculate the approximate numbers based on the facts that you have in your possession:

(1) The value of the car that you were supposed to get - the value of the car you received = breach of contract damages 1 / compensatory damages for fraud

(2) The cost of unnecessary travel to and from the shop + the cost of the citations = the remainder of the breach of contract damages ("benefit of the bargain")

(3) cost of citations + medical costs + pain and suffering + property damage to your property caused by his vehicles = compensatory damages for negligence / recklessness

(4) punitive damages (again, I cannot give you a precise figure, but use 3x the actual damages (1+2+3)).

When you add up factors 1, 2, 3, and 4 you will get the total potential damages.
Expert:  William B. Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Dear Customer,

I received a message stating that you had given me a poor rating for my answer. While I understand you are looking for a specific dollar figure, I simply do not have that information available to me. I do hope that the information I provided will assist you in valuing your case, and I would be happy to answer any follow up questions that you may have. Your rating is important to me and I want to ensure that your experience with Just Answer is satisfactory. Please let me know if there is any further information I can provide you with today.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

If the breach of contract damages + fraud damages are measured the same way, does that mean you only get that figure once or do you get it for both things. For example: If the value of the car he was supposed to give me (2006 car w 70k miles) is $11,000, would I get 11,000 for both the breach of contract and fraud damages, or 22,000?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Also is there a formula for pain and suffering damages?

Expert:  William B. Esq. replied 1 year ago.
You only get the damages once: so in your example, you only get $11,000.00.

There are a couple of reasons why it is important to have it listed the way it is though. First, it gives you more than one way to get the maximum recovery for the reduced value on the sale. And two, the "rule of thumb" I provided for punitive damages for the fraud claim are based on 100% of the compensatory claim, so this means that the 3x calculation would give you $33,000.00 in punitive damages for the fraud claim alone (this is in addition to the $11,000.00).

For pain and suffering, it depends on the scope of the injury and whether or not the condition has completely resolved. Most minor injuries you can calculate at 1 - 1.5 times the medical costs, while more severe and permanent conditions are valued higher. But again, these are very rough calculations and there is no way to guarantee such a number.
William B. Esq., Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 3054
Experience: I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing individuals and businesses.
William B. Esq. and 2 other Consumer Protection Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Are you able to recommend any attorneys within the Los Angeles region

Expert:  William B. Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Unfortunately, I am not permitted to give specific referrals on this forum. I can however give you a couple of sites that will be helpful in locating a local attorney. You can find attorneys on your State Bar Association’s website: (http://www.calbar.ca.gov/); Martindale Hubble: (http://www.martindale.com/); or, on AVVO: (http://www.avvo.com/find-a-lawyer).

The LA County Bar Association also has its own referral program: http://www.lacba.org/showpage.cfm?pageid=167

You will want to search for a "Plaintiffs Attorney" a "Personal Injury Attorney", or a "Trial Attorney" (These are different titles for the same type of lawyer, but they should help you narrow down your search).

To keep costs down, I recommend finding an attorney that is working in a small firm or as a solo practitioner. A newer attorney usually charges slightly less than a more experienced attorney, while the more experienced attorneys are usually a little more efficient. In the end, you need to find an attorney that you feel comfortable with, and it is okay to speak with more than one before retaining one.

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