Posts Tagged ‘repair’

NOT IN MY CAR: WHY THE REPAIR SHOP WILL BE LIABLE FOR A JOY RIDE

June 20, 2012

By Sara B. Morgan, Esq.

A coffee-run to my local Starbucks (Brockton and Arlington) prompted my last article about the liability of an automotive repair or service shop for damage to a vehicle left in its care. Since posting my last article, I am happy to report that I have not seen any other mechanics using customer’s cars to pick up coffee.

Garages and other vehicle repairers would be wise to heed the warning, however. As previously discussed, a vehicle repairer is fully liable to the car owner for any damage which occurs when the vehicle is used without the customer’s consent. Civil Code, Sections 1835 and 1836. Presumably, this would include using a customer’s car to take a joy ride to get coffee at Starbucks. In these situations, the vehicle repairer bears the burden of proof to demonstrate it was free from fault or negligence. Downey v. Martin Aircraft Serv. (1950) 96 Cal. App. 2d 94.

Finally, the law prevents a customer from signing away this protection. In Gardner v Downtown Porsche Audi (1986) 180 Cal. App. 3d 713, the court held that an automobile repair garage may not limit its liability for negligent care of the vehicles entrusted to it by having customers sign a written disclaimer. The Gardner court relied on the premise that contractual clauses which purport to exculpate repair garages for liability for negligence violate Civil Code, Section 1668 and are invalid as contrary to public policy.

In most circumstances, the vehicle repairer’s liability for its negligence, or the negligence of its employees, is limited to the value of the vehicle left in its care. Civil Code, Section 1840. However, exceptions exist which may involve fraud or misrepresentation. If you believe you are the victim of wrongful conduct and have suffered damages or injuries, it is important to consult with an experienced, knowledgeable attorney.

The law firm of Heiting & Irwin has over 100 years combined experience representing the interests of people who have been harmed by the actions of others. We offer free consultations, a warm and inviting office, and a friendly staff to anyone interested in speaking about a potential legal matter. If you would like to speak with someone about your circumstances, please call our office at (951) 682-6400 for a free consultation.

NOT IN MY CAR: WHY THE TEST DRIVE SHOULD BE LIMITED TO TESTING

June 13, 2012

By Sara B. Morgan, Esq.

One recent morning while leaving my local Starbucks drive-thru, I waited while two men wearing mechanic uniforms crossed the parking lot to what I assumed was their vehicle. I thought nothing more of this until, several days later, I saw the same men, again clad in uniforms, only this time walking to a different vehicle. This time, I noticed the fluorescent writing on the rear window, and suddenly realized these were auto service or repair men who were using customer vehicles to get their morning coffee!

A vehicle repairer to whom a vehicle is delivered has the usual duty of ordinary care and liability of a bailee for hire. Civil Code, Section 1852. The vehicle may not be used for any purpose without the customer’s consent, and the vehicle repairer is responsible for any damage which occurs when the vehicle is used without the customer’s consent. Civil Code, Sections 1835 and 1836.

Now, being the daughter of a mechanic, I appreciate the importance of the post-service test drive. However, I doubt that those customers anticipated the extra risks these men were taking in exposing their vehicles to the small, busy, bustling shopping center, particularly at the height of the Starbucks morning rush. Nor is it likely they would anticipate the vehicle repairer’s employees consuming food and beverages inside their vehicles. Thus, in addition to liability for any fender-benders, the vehicle repairer would also arguably be liable for any stains or cleaning fees in order to restore the vehicle to the condition it was in at the time the customer left it with the repair shop.