Who will represent Firestone in small claims?
A: Since you're (presumably) suing the Firestone dealer that inspected the vehicle, and not Firestone, Inc., probably the manager for that location will appear and defend. You may want to find out if the dealer is a "company owned" store, or a franchise -- because that will inform you as to whom you must sue.
Do I have Cause of Action based on Negligence since there were visually blatant and potentially dangerous misses of repairs?
A: Yes, because the inspector has a duty of care to perform the inspection in a workmanlike manner. Clearly, that did not occur. However, if there was a contract that you signed with the Firestone dealer, you may have released the dealer from liability.
Do I need witness statements? Must they be notarized?
A: Depends. If you want to try to obtain a "summary disposition without trial," then you need sworn and notarized affidavits from each witness to submit with your initial claim, and for the pretrial conference. Fla. Sm. Cl. R. 7.135. Otherwise, your witnesses must appear in court and testify either in person or by telephone. Fla. Sm. Cl. R. 7.140(f). A witness statement is not competent evidence at a small claims trial.
Do I need statements from service advisors that I spoke to at firestone about the inspections? Notarized?
A: See above.
I need to fix some of the dangerous repairs now, will that affect any outcome?
A: No. In fact proof that you made the repairs proves your damages, and the breach of the duty of care, because it shows that there was something wrong with the vehicle at the date of inspection.
Other than the inspection results and vehicle purchase receipt, what other documents would I need to collect?
A: Receipts, certificate of title, contract with Firestone dealer, witness statements -- that's pretty much everything.
How else do I prepare for small claims court.
A: Be yourself. In my experience, laypersons who try to play lawyer get crushed, because the judge wants to believe that he or she knows more than you do.
Note: If what you are asking here is for a treatise on representing yourself in court, then that's more than I can possibly offer in this forum. I would have to write 10,000 words to begin to cover all of the various topics.
What can I expect from the defendant who may have access to unlimited / expensive lawyer input?
A: The judge will ignore most of that input. The court has an obligation to help you make your case. Fla. Sm. Cl. R. 7.140(e).
Do I request the full purchase price of the vehicle since I would not have purchased based on the severity of the repairs? Or do I request the repair amount, plus court fees, plus lost wages? Anything else I can add?
A: Damages are the difference between the the value of the vehicle you believed you were purchasing, and the value of the vehicle that you actually purchased. Generally, the repair cost is a reasonable approximation of that difference in value.
If you're claiming lost wages (consequential damages), then you will need to show that you actually were unable to work your regular job during the time that the vehicle was disabled. You cannot receive lost wages for the time you take to prepare and present your case -- because that is the equivalent of attorney's fees -- which, of course, can only be awarded if you have hired an attorney.
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