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LegalGems
LegalGems, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
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Experience:  Private Practice; Elder Law Attorney; Estate Planning; Attorney Mentor
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I live in Louisiana and brought my truck to have it repaired

Customer Question

I live in Louisiana and brought my truck to have it repaired due to an accident that wasn't my fault. On 11/9/16 I left it with the shop. I'd already received a check for the first estimate in October 2016. The shop claimed there was more damage and they didn't touch my vehicle until 1/31/17, all the while I' driving a rental at my expense. They ordered the parts on 2/7/17 and their completion date varies upon which document you look at. I asked for a final invoice with the completion date on it and was given a blue post-it note with 3/10/17 on it. I wasn't contacted by the shop until 3/17/17, all the message said was to call them they needed to speak to me, nothing about it being ready. I called and called them after that and left messages that were not returned. Finally in mid April I showed up at the shop, walked in and was told that they'd been trying to contact me, I've got phone and email records that prove otherwise. By that time the check I'd received in October had expired and I had to take it to the insurance company for them to reissue another one.
JA: What state is this in? And how old is the truck?
Customer: Before I could do that I fell and broke my right foot and was unable to walk or drive. I'm finally mobile and called the repair shop, they want $3300 in storage fees
JA: What documents or supporting evidence do you have?
Customer: Louisiana
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: I'm not sure, I just don't know what to do
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

Hello! I will be reviewing your question and posting a response momentarily; if you have any follow up questions please respond here. Thanks!

Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

I am sorry to hear this;

what was the expressed delay between the date the truck was dropped off and the date work began end of January (were they trying to assess damages? order parts? deal with insurance re: discrepancy?)

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Hi!! The first estimate and check were around the beginning of October. Everyone around here suffered damage to their vehicles because of the flood, so it was "slim pickings".Before I could get the truck to the repair shop, but after the accident in September, I was in another accident, it was no fault and the damages were around $450. The body shop claimed they couldnt begin working on it because the insurance was still determining coverage.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
11/9/16 I dropped it off and I had already gotten the first check but didnt give it to them, I held onto it. Anyway the next entry in this fiasco is 11/16/16, it reads "sent for update". As In said, I'd already been sent for an estimate and received a check for what ended up as 75% of the work.
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

OK thank you. Hopefully these next series of hurricanes/storms get pushed out to the open ocean...

So basically if there is a delay caused by the insurance company (negotiations on coverage, extent of damages, etc) the insurance company will typically pay for any storage fees associated with that since that is beyond the auto owner's control.

RS code 32:1726 does authorize, pursuant to RS 32:1719 et seq, a mechanic to properly notice and then sell a car that is left at their business without the owner paying storage fees or repair fees.

The court will allow the imposition of storage fees when the car owner fails to retrieve the vehicle at the prescribed time. If the mechanic fails to communicate that the vehicle work is completed, the customer would have no way of ascertaining the car is ready. The more proof the customer has of attempts to contact the mechanic, the more likelihood of a favorable judgment (if the mechanic is deemed to have unreasonably delayed in the repair or notification of the vehicle the court may award the customer reasonably foreseeable and proximately caused damages (ie rental car costs).

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Customer: replied 1 month ago.
The net entry in this ridiculous thing is 11/17/17 and it reads that my insurance was taking over. I called my insurance so I'd have a rental. One month later is the next entry 12/16/16 "both insurance companies are determining coverage", then 12/22/16 "still addressing supplement" and "both insurance companies determining coverage".
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I could not get this woman to answer or call back. She checked on it once a month? Iasked if theyhad room before I brought it
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

Also please see

http://web01.dps.louisiana.gov/omv1.nsf/58c968bd569b099986256cdc000806eb/a6f8a4cfa55bdf7f862564b9007507cd?OpenDocument

A moment please as I review your last response.

Generally the insurer is liable for storage fees while their decision is pending since they are the entity that caused the delay.

The court will look to see if there is a bad faith insurance denial in which case a complaint can be filed and a civil action brought to recover damages.

If the insurance company delayed, that would be beyond the responsibility of the mechanic as they have no control over the internal policies. But the customer could argue it was unreasonable becasue it normally does not take several weeks to determine coverage.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
The next entry is 1/31/17 and it reads "ok'd" . They ordered the parts on 2/7/17 thats a ridiculous amount of time. I'd call and she kept telling me "it'll be ready soon"
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I would have gotten all of it done way before now but as I said I broke my foot and couldn't drive or walk. I'm a single mom and don't have the luxury of any help. My daughter is 12, her father passed away when she was four, we lost both of her grandfather's in the last two years and my mom passed three weeks before she was born. I'm not whining i promise, I'm trying to give you an idea of my situation
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

During the time where parts are being ordered, the insurance would typically pick up any charged storage fees. But most localities (the court looks to common industry standards based on the local customs) do not charge storage fees when they are waiting for parts (unless the car is fully operable and they request the owner to retrieve and return it when the parts come in). In such cases, storage fees are typically only allowed if the contract explicitly states that.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
This particular body shop has a reputation for doing exactly what they're doing to me. After I brought it there I spoke to a few insurane agents and body shops. They said to watch out
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

The body shop really can't be responsible for delays due to the insurance company so that is a separate issue.

Did the contract allow for storage fees while parts were being ordered?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
They're charging me storage fee's for aftevr the work was completed and they had received some of the supplemental payments
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

Were you able to review my response about how the court will look to the circumstances and if the mechanic failed to notify the customer the car was ready then it would be difficult for the owner to know when to retrieve the car?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
My question was why was checking once a month? My friend got in an accident a little after mine and it cost about the same, she had her's back in four days
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
The fee's I'm being charged for are after the work was completed
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
From May 2017 to August 2017
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I couldn't drive to get it, physically unable to get there
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I had to go there to get an answer. All I had to do was get the expired check back to the insurance company of the person who hit me and they would issue another one,, before I could get there I broke my foot
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

So to be clear, the work was completed, and the shop provided notification to the customer, and the customer failed to retrieve it in a timely manner due to physical constraints?

Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

The shop can only charge after notice is given to the customer. Unfortunately the shop generally is not responsible for any delays in retrieving a vehicle due to physical injury but would rather request the owner to authorize a third party to pick up the vehicle (ie power of attorney).

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
the work was completed by the middle/end of April and I had to return the check, because it expired. The other insurance company had to physically get it back before they would issue another. Before I could get there I broke my foot. So, they're charging storage fee's from May through now
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
After I went to the shop and was tol;d the work was complete, I never saw it, so who know's if it was, I heard from the shop once in June, an email, no calls since then
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

OK; so to summarize,

RS code 32:1726 does authorize, pursuant to RS 32:1719 et seq, a mechanic to properly notice and then sell a car that is left at their business without the owner paying storage fees or repair fees

So once the work is completed and the owner is notified, if the owner does not retrieve the car (or authorize a third party to do so due to physical incapability) then the shop may charge storage fees. The shop cannot charge for storage fees prior to the date of notification of completion.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I would have had to get to an attorny's office, I couldnt get to the grocery store, if that gives you any perspective
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
The repairs are completely paid for and I couldnt get that done until 8/7/17. They accepted that with no question but still want me to pay 100 days of "storage". It's sitting in a parking lot
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
since the final payment didnt get to them until 8/10/17 does that change the storage fee situation?
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
What is "proper notification" technically??
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

The statute addresses notice requirements for the sale of a vehicle due to nonpayment of repair/storage fees and does not prescribe a precise notification requirement for other situations.The relevant date is when the owner was notified the work was completed and the car is ready for pick up.

Generally a power of attorney can be signed without an attorney. Some repair shops even accept verbal authorizations for a third party to retrieve a car depending on their policy.

But final payment does not impact the storage fee issue- standard practice is that the owner will retrieve the car after completion either by the time frame specified in the contract or based on local custom.

Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

But unfortunately the court normally won't take into consideration delay due to the customer's personal situation-they will generally expect the customer to make arrangements as mentioned above for prompt retrieval of the vehicle.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I ended up with $2300 for the repairs and now $3300 in storage fees. It's flabbergasting to me. I know I said this before, but I didnt have anyone to get it for me. I don"t have family here and had no one else to ask. I went to that shop against my better judgement on the recommendation of the paralegal of the attorney I've used in the past.
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

The storage fees would need to be reasonable.

Here is a general guide which limits it to $19 per day:

http://www.lpsc.louisiana.gov/_docs/_Orders/General%20Order%20R-33105%20Attachment%20A%20Rates%20Effective%2004-17-14.pdf

A professional can be liable for negligent referral (based on common law doctrines of negligence) but that requires showing the referring party knew or should have known that the referred company would provide substandard services.

There is a legal doctrine called in contra proferentem and if a contract is ambiguous (whether oral or written) the court will construe the contract against the drafting party (typically the company, since they have increased bargaining power-not a level playing field so to speak).

Storage fee cases typically end up in small claims court and since those courts are more informal it is difficult to say with certainty what a possible outcome will be. The court is often guided by principles of equity or fairness so if they find the business engaged in deceptive or unfair business practices, or that a reasonable person would not have been aware of the possible outcome they will typically rule against the business.

Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 month ago.

Hello again; just checking in to see how things worked out;

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