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LegalGems, Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 7076
Experience:  Research Attorney; Private Practice; Attorney Mentor; Mediator
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I dropped my car off to be repaired at a local shop in my

Customer Question

I dropped my car off to be repaired at a local shop in my town. It was taken to a different repair shop without my consent. I was told that the head gasket needed to be replaced. Mechanic stated that I may need a whole new motor once they get the head off, but wouldn't know until they got the head off, so I consented to taking the head off to see how bad the repair costs would be. He then called and said I needed a whole new motor which would run 5k-6k, so I told him to stop because I didn't want to put 5k-6k into it. When I paid the $891 bill (which i was previously told would be $650 to take the head off) I asked where my car was. He would not give me the address. I found the address on Facebook and went to the shop where I found my car in pieces. I was planning on having it towed to a friends and to sell it on eBay. I also thought I was getting it back in the same condition that I dropped it. Instead the pieces are in boxes in the back of my car. The drivers side window is down and I cannot hook up the battery to roll it up because there are wires all over and I don't know what is what. I had it listed on eBay and the bid was up to $3000 with a bad head gasket but I had to cancel the auction because the condition is now in pieces rather than just a bad head gasket. I would like to file in small claims against the repair shop for the money paid back and loss of value for my car. What are my options? Should I hire a lawyer?
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

To be clear, the only authorization was to remove the head, which did not involve dismantling the entire car, correct?

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

Thanks; a few minutes please as I look into this.

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
ok thank you. I also did not consent to it being taken to a different place of business
Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

Thank you.

Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

OK; so there are 2 issues;

1. the unauthorized transferrance of the vehicle. This action can result in imposing liability on the original repair shop, because a company that acts without authorization can be sued for economic damages suffered as a result of the unauthorized transfer. Such a company assumes liability for the third party's negligence, as they essentially "vouch" for their competence (it's similar to a negligence referral cause of action; however, since it was not an actual referral but rather a matter of negligence and breach of contract, those would be the causes of action involved). The repair shop would be in breach for not completing the contract as specified. They are generally liable only if the second shop is insolvent.

2. since there was no contract with the second shop, a breach of contract would not be proper, as there would be no contract (which requires an offer and an acceptance). However, a negligence theory would be applicable because any party undertaking repair is expected to act with competence. If the car was dismantled without authorization, then the shop would be responsible for reassembling the automobile, at their cost (as their action is what resulted in the issue). It sounds, from the original question, that there was communication between the consumer and the second shop - so it is possible that there was a verbal contract, which would give rise to breach of contract, also ( in addition to the negligence charge) as verbal contracts are binding. Also, overcharging would be a violation of the contract so the difference should be refunded.

For small claims court, the amount at issue must be less than $3000; for cases under $15,000 the proper forum is Special Civil Department; for amounts greater than that, the Law Division of Superior Court.

Additionally, in NJ, the state regulates these shops, which must be licensed. A consumer complaint form can be located here (right side):

They will investigate, and have the power to suspend/revoke a license.

Statutory authority supports the consumer: New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act (the "CFA") provides for treble damages plus attorney's fees in cases where the defendant is found liable for an unlawful practice.

Subsection "2" of the Auto Repairs Deceptive Practices Regulations (codified at 13:4sa-26c2) requires that no work for compensation be commenced without securing either:

i. Specific written authorization from the customer, signed by the customer, which states the nature of the repair requested or problem presented and the odometer reading of the vehicle; or

ii. If the customer's vehicle is presented to the automotive repair dealer during other than normal working hours or by one other than the customer, oral authorization from the customer to proceed with the requested repair or problem presented, evidenced by a notation on the repair order and/or invoice of the repairs requested or problem presented, date, time, name of person granting such authorization, and the telephone number, if any, at which said person was contacted.

When the Act is cited (generally in a demand letter by an attorney) the repair shop, if legitimate and in violation of the Act, will often attempt to settle out of court in order to prevent possible investigation by the state.

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Customer: replied 7 months ago.
do you suggest that I hire a lawyer?
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Because my head is spinning due to this could you please break it down in simple terms?
Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

Yes, I would urge you to hire an attorney because it shows to the opposing party that the customer is serious about pursuing their legal options.
Basically, the repair shops would be in violation of the consumer protection act for transferring a car without authorization and failing to get customer (written) consent.

But they will generally dance around the issue and try to bully the customer, so an attorney can help represent your interests- they will often first write a demand letter citing the statute, and detailing the violations, and requesting monetary compensation before filing a lawsuit.

Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

Did you have any further questions or did you want me to summarize the above? I know how confusing this can be.

If not,

here is a link to find an attorney:

Kindly rate positively if you have no further questions!

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
will it not be sufficient if the violated laws were clearly cited in small claims court with pictures of the condition of my vehicle, as well as a documented towing record from the shop where it was moved to, rather than hiring an attorney? In your professional opinion is this a clear cut case that I should win?
Expert:  LegalGems replied 7 months ago.

I would presume the damages would exceed small claims ($3000) and because the process for general civil court is much more complicated (discovery etc) it is best to hire an attorney; one can attempt to resolve the issue by sending a demand letter without legal representation; however, often it results in a more favorable resolution if an attorney is hired because the defendant knows the plaintiff is serious (serious enough to hire an attorney). Unfortunately there is no such thing as a clear cut case because each judge has great discretion and sometimes they favor one side over another (ie some judges are known to be friendlier to businesses versus consumers and vice versa) but based on the facts presented it would appear that there are violations of the Act, and violations of the Act generally result in a judgment favorable to the plaintiff- the idea being to restore plaintiff to the position s/he would be in but for defendant's negligence.


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