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. https://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/prose/10290_small_claims.pdf
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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