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Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4829
Experience:  Experienced in both state and federal court.
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This is a small claims court case involving auto repair gone

Customer Question

This is a small claims court case involving auto repair gone bad. Essentially I have sued a dealership and a body shop for destroying the engine on my car. This happened in January of this year, and the case is now going to trial. However, in the pre-trial the defense threw me a curve ball that I'm still trying to deal with. Basically they tried to intimidate me by saying whether I win or lose, I will "lose" because my car is 15 years old , and has very low book value compared to the value it has to me, as reliable transportation that I have mostly maintained myself for a decade. Loss of this car cause me and my wife agony on a daily basis as we are forced to use just one existing van that I already had before this case arose. Is there any way to get compensated for such additional damages for the loss of this car in a case like this?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Chris T., JD replied 2 years ago.
Hello. I'll be happy to assist you.
Under what theory are you suing? Negligence? Breach of contract?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I believe it would be negligence. I asked several questions about this case before I filed, but it seems they are not showing up in the history.

Anyway, a summary:

1) Vehicle brought to body shop for simple body repair (door panel)
2) Vehicle wound up being at body shop for over a month due to other damage cause by the body shope
3) Out of frustration, and their refusal to do a proper repair on a shift knob they broke, vehicle was towed to the only local dealer for the car make.
4) No joy at the dealer, and car was ultimately towed back to me without permission, dumped in driveway, unlocked with keys in seat. Not much later found engine to be massively overfilled with oil, and later massive engine damage.

I do have questions about "winning" my case too, of course, as they are never easy. However, this whole issue of the vehicle value and what/how I'm arriving at my 5,000 dollar asking judgement is becoming a problem. Of course I know I won't get the max, but as an attorney friend of mine said. It is hard to imagine that the value of a vehicle could be so low, that a repair shop could destroy it without any significant consequence. I simply can't buy a car that would "replace" what they took from me, and make me whole again, for some ridiculous 200 or 300 dollars.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
It may also be important to add that I have since towed the car to a local indy shop, and back to my home. This for purposes of a 3rd party diagnosis on the damage. The repair costs (replacing engine) are at about 5,000. However, due to the age and nature of this vehicle, replacing the engine is not a wise move.

I thought the repair cost may be justification for the money I am seeking in judgement , however the mediator told me those may be limited by this arbitrary vehicle value.

Also in the FWIW category, I do plan on having my wife testify, if need be, to how the loss of the vehicle has affected her. Inability to get to work, get overtime hours, etc.
Expert:  Chris T., JD replied 2 years ago.

OK. Thanks for the information.

Unfortunately, under the circumstance you've described, you cannot recover for emotional pain and suffering. You can, however, recover for your expenses incurred as a result of not having transportation or losses you suffered, like an reduction in income as you described. Essentially, you can sue for any damages that "logically flow" from their negligence or breach of contract.

Expert:  Chris T., JD replied 2 years ago.

So, here you could recover for the cost for the repairs you had done, you needed done and your lost income as a result of not having a vehicle. Also, if you had to take taxis, buses, etc. you can include that cost, as well.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Well , I did realize that emotion sufferring woudl not be an issue. Also, what you are saying, is in line with what I was thinking may be possible, as it is kind of common sense.

The problem I am having is as described. When a problem like this happens , most people do what we have done, and just do the best we can to cope. As such, there are no "official lost wages", as if my wife had not gotten rides from co-workers and friends, and we hadn't made arrangements, she would have lost her job anyway.

So, what I'm asking is what strategy might you suggest in presenting this to the judge, either at trial or preferably pre-trial? Would you recommend I have my wife testify in addition to my testimony? Understand there wouldn't be much in the way of official documentation. The van has broken down , and I've had to fix it, and it could be argued that was cause by the increased use, but again all of these are just general, but also expected "losses" that a person or family could expect to incur when some bad repair outfit totals out their car, and they have no means of buying a comparable replacement.

The defense had the audacity to throw a printout from one of their dealer auctions for a similar car. Now that's a car that's being purchased to be resold for a profit! Anyway, you can see the type of opponent I am dealing with, and I have 500 dollars in court costs and so much time and stress invested in this case. I don't want to throw in the towel now, nor do I want to do myself any disservice by not seeking all the damages I legally can muster.
Expert:  Chris T., JD replied 2 years ago.

Yes, you will need your wife to testify at trial during the trial regarding the extra stress and potential lost wages. You can also ask for punitive damages, which may be appropriate in this case, as well as ask the judge to order the defense to pay your court costs. It can't hurt to ask.

Expert:  Chris T., JD replied 2 years ago.

I hope that answers your question. If not, feel free to ask follow up questions. If so, please remember to "rate" my answer before you go. Good luck.