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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 33555
Experience:  Began practicing law in 1992
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I had my car in and when picking it up paid $50.39 and left

Customer Question

I had my car in for service and when picking it up paid $50.39 and left with my car. Now they are calling and said they made a mistake and should have charged my over $400 more and threatening to go to a magistrate. There was not a written work estimated provided and I have the paid invoice of $50.39 from when I picked up the car. Is this legal?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 1 year ago.

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today. If at any point any of my answers aren’t clear please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Also, I can only answer the questions you specifically ask and based on the facts that you give so please be sure that you ask the questions you want to ask and provide all necessary facts.

They can sue you for the difference under a couple of theories. The first is under a contractual concept known as "mistake". It means just what it says.

The other way they can sue you is under an equitable theory of law known as "quantum meruit". This is a theory which means that a person or company is entitled to be paid a reasonable amount for work they do.

Please don't take my answer to mean you don't have a defense should you be sued. You can use a defense known as "accord and satisfaction". That means you were presented a bill and paid it, thus satisfying your obligation.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
If they go to the magistrate as stated, what will happen next?
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 1 year ago.

I assume when they say they are going to the magistrate they mean they are filing a lawsuit. I can't imagine any other reason for doing so.

The process of a lawsuit is essentially the same everywhere, with a few, minor procedural differences.

A lawsuit generally follows this process:

1) File the petition in the court with jurisdiction and venue. The court with jurisdiction and venue is usually where the defendant resides or has their place of business. You also have to look at the amount you intend to sue for to determine what court is correct

2) When you file the petition with the clerk of courts you will pay the filing fee and also ask for citation to be issued and service to be done. The clerk doesn't serve the papers so ask them if you have to take them to the sheriff's office for service or if they will do it. Just follow their directions as to that.

3) The sheriff will serve the defendant with the lawsuit.

4) The defendant will file their answer.

5) You can then do some discovery if necessary but you will need to check with the clerk and ask if your court allows discovery. Some small claims courts do not.

6) After that the next step is to set the case for trial.

7) During the trial you introduce your evidence and they introduce theirs.

8) The judge renders a judgment and a written order is entered.

That is the basic process of a lawsuit.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
even though I never a written estimate for the work, they can say they charged the incorrect amount? How would this be different than buying a TV for $300 and then the store saying a few days later we should have charged you $600 before giving you the TV?
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 1 year ago.

They can using those methods I mentioned. The stores can do it too, although it is a little different since they have an advertised price.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
How is this possible when the only thing I signed was the invoice for $50.39 and paid it and was given the car? The invoice also states I declined the work they are now claiming they did.
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 1 year ago.

The second sentence there is new information and would be another defense you use.

However, it is possible because of the two theories of law I set out above. Those provide the basis for making the claim. They don't, by any means, guarantee the claims will be successful but they do allow someone to make a claim under circumstances with facts like yours. Let's change the facts slightly and say that you took your car into the shop for them to completely replace the engine and transmission and he charge should have been $4000.00. Instead, the clerk at the counter made a mistake and printed an invoice for $40.00, which you paid, took your car, and went home. The law allows them to then make a claim for the additional $3960 under the same two theories I gave above.

Your facts are slightly different but the legal theories are the same. They are claiming they mischarged you for something and are asking you to pay the difference or they will sue. You can certainly refuse to pay and require them to prove their case in court but the have a basis in law to sue, then it is a matter of whether or not the facts specific to the lawsuit allow them to win.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Is it best to let them sue if that is their true intent if I believe that I have fully paid what was charged and given they keys to my vehicle on those terms instead of debating with them that I owe don't owe more after the transaction was finalized?
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 1 year ago.

Probably so, although a better solution would be to get a local lawyer to write them a letter, explain why they are wrong, and explain why you will countersue for attorney's fees, sanctions, etc. if they sue you. That may scare them off.