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10 Month Auto Repair Nightmare

In 2012, I brought a...

In 2012, I brought a New Brunswick plated vehicle to Saskatchewan, with the intent of having it inspected and re-plated in Saskatchewan. The vehicle had just passed a Province of New Brunswick Vehicle Inspection in May of 2012, and I didn't expect it to have any trouble passing the Saskatchewan inspection in August of that year. I took the car to a garage accredited by the Saskatchewan Government to carry out such inspections, and they threw the book at it, and took it out of service, citing everything from improper prior repairs to the body, to inadequate frame repairs, to major and minor mechanical issues (e.g., brake lines corroded, improperly installed fuel lines, bent suspension components, broken parking brake cable, cracked taillight housing, worn brake pedal rubber, etc.). I was very shocked at the list of deficiencies, but decided I liked the car enough to shop around for a facility that would restore the car to a condition that would meet the standards set out by the governing body responsible for vehicle inspections in Saskatchewan. After a brief round of visits to local body shops in Regina, I found a place that said they could help, accredited by the Saskatchewan Government, and specializing in frame and body repairs. Ten months, and $14,445 later, they returned my car in a condition that a third-party inspection in my home province of New Brunswick says is unsalvageable. Most, if not all of the body and mechanical issues that led me to get the vehicle repaired/restored in the first place were never satisfactorily resolved. At numerous points throughout this ordeal, I asked the proprieter of the garage for a written estimate, a contract, or, at least a ballpark figure on what it was going to take to get the job done. This was never forthcoming, but, at this point, they had chopped and hacked the car to the point that I couldn't easily have it moved to another shop, so, I left it with them, and tried, in good faith, to urge them to finish the job in a timely fashion. When I finally took delivery of the car on 13 June, 2013, the proprieter gave me a piece of paper from Saskatchewan's Vehicle Standards Division saying the rebuilt vehicle met the province's vehicle integrity standards. What I didn't fully realize at the time is that HE was the one with the authority to sign off on the work, because his shop is registered with the provincial body overseeing vehicle standards. With this in hand, and considering the substantial sum I had paid for their services, I assumed the car would not need any further repair. Now, I'm being told that ALL of the work done is deficient, and that the car is so compromised that it will probably be impossible to make it roadable again. I suspect that the car may have been deliberately damaged and tampered with by they shops involved in order to inflate the cost of repair. At the very least, I feel they were grossly incompetent and negligent, or I wouldn't be sitting here with an un-driveable hulk after forking over $14,445. I have lots of photographic evidence of the work they did. Although many people say this should be a slam-dunk case, I worry that this shop and the proprietor are going to find some loophole or poison pill that will allow them to wiggle off this. What do you think?

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Answered in 3 hours by:
6/30/2013
Law.Hut
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Hello:

The lawsuit would've be based on breach of contract. You contracted with the shop to have the vehicle repaired to a certain standard. You have proof of the work that was actually done. You will need to call some expert evidence to give an opinion that the work was not done to a reasonable standard, explaining why the repairs are defective or not done reasonably and to the normal standard of care that would be expected by a mechanic. And you already have some such opinion evidence that indicates that the work done was entirely deficient.

This is a case that can proceed in small claims court.

S I do not see any real bars here to your succeeding, or any clear defence. An oral contract can be just as binding as await ten contract. The difficulty is usually in proving that such an agreement existed and the exact terms. But you can testify as to what you hired the shop to do, and obviously this was a substantial amount of work given the time and the amount of money involved. As the end goal was getting the vehicle to a roadworthy condition, you have proof in the form signed by the shop that they were trying to warrant the vehicle was to such a condition, so I don't think they could try to claim that they were not yet done the work and you insisted on taking the vehicle or so on.

You will certainly need some expert evidence here, and an opinion from a shop in NB will not assist unless you can have the author attend court in Saskatchewan. So you will need someone that is a very experienced mechanic to inspect the car, and be able to describe what is now wrong with it, and how that is the result of the work that was done by the shop you hired. They would also testify as to what should have been done or ho the work should have been done correctly. And why they think that the vehicle is now a write off.

I don't know that you have much to lose at this point beyond your time and the cost of getting an expert opinion and an expert to testify. If you proceed in small claims and lose, the court is not able to order that you pay legal fees of the other side (if they choose to use a lawyer, which is not mandatory). I do it see any obvious clear defence that will prevent you from succeeding. The most likely defence word be their arguing that the work done was to an acceptable standard and that the car is roadworthy as they have warranted, and arguing that your expert saying otherwise is incorrect.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago


Thank you very much for your timely reply. The third-party opinion I presently have comes from a vehicle mechanic certified by the Province of New Brunswick to carry out inspections. At the request of Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), I have made arrangements with him to provide photos and videos documenting his concerns with the body and mechanical defects evident in the car. I am aware that this individual is unlikely to be willing to go to Regina, SK to testify in a small claims case, but, the expense of having the car physically returned to a Saskatchewan garage for inspection would be prohibitive: as much as $3,500 by truck, $2545 by rail. The car was taken under duress on my part. I was due to be back in NB on a specified date (19 June 2013), and I had been urging the proprieter of the shop to have the vehicle rebuild done by late-May or early June, so that it could be used to help transport many of my personal belongings back to my principle residence. They were working on the car right up to the very last moment, but still hadn't completed repairing many of the critical issues. In the end, he pointed us toward an SGI insurance broker he uses for his business, and, with the SGI Certification paper he gave me, I was able to get a 7 Day Temporary In-Transit Permit ($35), to drive the vehicle back to New Brunswick. The trip took nearly four days. I believe that TEN MONTHS was plenty of time for ANY accredited facility to have done the work. I'm hoping that I don't have to file a suit in order for this business to be held accountable for the destruction of my car. I'm hoping the body that accredits these facilities will be able to convince the proprieter of the shop to refund all or part of what I paid him, and more, if I wind up incurring other large costs for launching a suit.

A necessary step prior to suing in any event is to send a demand letter outlining what you seek from the other party. So you can certainly refer to the opinion that you have in that letter, providing it to the other party. While it is not admissible in evidence unless the author of the report testifies, that does not stop you from using the report as leverage in negotiations outside of court. There is nothing illegal with threatening court. So if there is not pressure from SGI to provide you a refund, you can proceed to send a demand letter, opining on the strength of your case and stating that if the matter is not resolve that you will proceed to sue. The other party need not be told that you may be reluctant to have the vehicle assessed again by a Saskatchewan based expert.
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