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Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 41221
Experience:  Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
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Is it lawful in auto mechanic to demand payment that he

Customer Question

Is it lawful in Virginia for an auto mechanic to demand payment for parts that he ordered, but did not actually install on a vehicle? My father deposited his vehicle with his mechanic in Oct 2008, paid a total of $2750 toward repairs, and died in May 2013. The mechanic claims to have ordered parts, but never installed them on the vehicle, and yet he filed a claim against my father's estate claiming he is owed over $5000 even though the vehicle still has not been repaired. Are there any laws mandating repairs be completed BEFORE a mechanic can claim a legitimate debt? Are there any laws requiring repairs to be completed within a reasonable period of time? Any insights would be much appreciated.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.

If there is evidence of parts being ordered, there is no duty to put them on. However the mechanic could only then charge for the parts, and not the labor. In other words if the mechanic ordered a set of lights for $200, he could bill the estate for $200 provided that he gives the lights over to the executor. He cannot bill if he won't give the parts along with his claim, and he cannot bill $400 for both lights and labor. There is no law that repairs must be completed before it is a legitimate debt, but the mechanic can be held by the estate to finish the work OR give the parts as part of his claim against the estate. As far as it being a 'reasonable' period of time, this is all based on the contract between the deceased and the mechanic. The estate can refuse to pay if the repairs were not completed or can cancel the work if they were not performed in a reasonable time as well.

Sincerely,

Dimitry, Esq.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Can you reference a specific law or case for precedent that would justify the estate denying the claim for either of the reasons you mentioned in your last sentence?
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

There is no specific law other than utilizing basic contract law--a beneficiary of the contract has to receive the benefit to be bound by the terms. If the other party failed to perform, they are in breach and cannot demand compensation (it would be common law breach). As far as canceling the work, that is likewise based on communication--if the mechanic is willing to perform, the executor must allow it but can please reasonable period of time to get it done, such as a few weeks, and if the mechanic is unable, then use that as a basis to terminate.

Sincerely,

Dimitry, Esq.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The mechanic claims it would cost an additional $10,000 or more in labor to complete the repairs, and said it would not worth it.
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Then he must simply give you the vehicle, as is, give you all parts that he did order, if any (and bill you for those), and give you the bill for what he did do. Beyond that you do not have to authorize any work, and you do not have to pay for items he did not order but was going to, or for any parts he is not including with the vehicle.

Sincerely,

Dimitry, Esq.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Can we still claim the common law breach, and deny the claim altogether on the basis that he failed to complete the work while my father was alive? He had years with which to do this, and simply never got around to it.
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

No, you cannot. If he failed to do it, it was up to your father to pursue, not you, since there is no written evidence that the mechanic is in violation. Here what would govern is instruction or written terms, and since none exist, it becomes a 'he said/she said' situation where you cannot argue breach as you were not privy to the original terms.

Sincerely,

Dimitry, Esq.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Do you see any basis on which his claim could be denied considering the fact that he was hired to repair the car, not just order parts and never install them. According to the mechanic's parts order records, he received the parts in 2010, and my father died in May of 2013 still complaining about the fact that this guy never fixed his car, and never even attempted to bill him while he was alive. There must be a "reasonable period of time" argument at the very least.
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Here is the problem. You can argue that he is in breach but in Virginia there is a 6 year statute of limitations on debt. If you argue that you do not have to pay, he can give you a storage bill for that period of time which legally he would be entitled to pursue. I suspect that bill may be even higher than what he is billing you. So while you can argue 'reasonable period of time', it won't work because you then expose the estate to higher liability. And he can also place a lien against the vehicle and potentially try to keep it. That is your call, but I see negotiating down with the mechanic, removing the vehicle and parts, and trying to report or sell it as the cheaper alternatives.

Sincerely,

Dimitry, Esq.

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