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  1. #1
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    Default Suing an Auto Repair Shop for Negligent Repairs

    My question involves a consumer law issue in the State of: Oregon


    Greetings,

    Do I have a valid claim to take an auto repair shop to small claims court for negligent repairs?


    The story is as follows:

    I purchased a car in October of 2011. The day after purchase, the check engine light came on. Because I'm a full-time student, with no source of income except financial aid, I opted not to take the car to get checked out. A few days later, I took the car to a place that does oil changes. While they were looking under my car, they noticed that my transmission was leaking fluid in several places. They refused to change the oil due to some sort of liability concern over the leaking transmission.

    With two issues already on a car I just purchased, I decided I needed to take it to a shop. I read some Google reviews and picked out the local place now in question. I called the shop to schedule a time to take my car in, and told them that I had a check engine light on and a leaking transmission. The morning of the day of my appointment to bring the car in, the transmission started slipping really bad, which I later learned was due to a serious shortage of transmission fluid. I called my roommate, because he knows more about cars than I do. He said it was dangerous to drive the car while it was slipping like that, because the transmission may run out of fluid entirely. He advised me not to drive it anymore, and to have it towed in to the shop. He reiterated the danger of running it out of fluid by driving it to the shop, or anywhere else.

    It was towed to the shop later that day. The mechanic at the counter was curt and rude. I told him I had an appointment for a check engine light that was on and a leaking transmission. He went out to the car see why the check engine light was on. While he was doing that, I asked him to take a quick look at the wiring under my steering wheel area, because my stereo was only operating when the lights were turned on, and my gas light wouldn't come on. He rudely told me that "that shit is all just a mess," that "he would not look at it" and that if I wanted, I could take it to an electrician who would charge an absurd amount per hour to fix it.

    He told me the check engine light was on because of a bad HR valve, and it would be about $400 to replace it. I can't recall any more of what he said because it was awhile ago. I do recall this was a piece in the engine. I was also told that it did NOT require an immediate fix. The transmission did need an immediate fix though, so I opted only to have the transmission fixed at the time.

    Another mechanic was sent out to test drive my car. He did not speak English. I tried to explain to him that the transmission was dangerously low on fluid, and the car should not be operated. He plopped into the car, started it up, and peeled out of the parking lot. You could hear how bad this was for the car. I was absolutely pissed, in light of what my roommate had advised. At this point, the transmission was either out of, or just about to leak the last of its fluid. When he returned, I was told my transmission was slipping. Thanks for the newsflash. The rude mechanic told me they would have to inspect the transmission, because he was unsure if it needed to be rebuilt or could be repaired if the leaks were sealed. I left the car there to have the transmission inspected and the leaks repaired. The shop called me later and told that the transmission had been run dry, and may need a rebuild. This infuriated me, because it may have run dry when they were driving it. They said they would keep working on it.

    They called me a day later to tell me they could fix the transmission if I had the output shaft seal replaced, which would stop the leaks. They did this work for $280. They told me the car would run, but recommended I do a transmission rebuild. They gave me a quote for that of $3000, which I could not afford. They told me the car was roadworthy with the leaks fixed, and there would be no further damage caused to the transmission from the leaks. I paid them $280 and was grateful they were able to salvage my transmission.

    The car still slipped awfully after this. It never ran the same again. It was shifting perfectly until the morning I was about to take it in, when it started to slip going into 1st and 2nd gear. I took the car back to the shop that same evening and asked why it was still slipping so awfully. I was told this was because the transmission was run dry. I have no way to know if it ran dry the morning I was driving it, or later that day when they were test driving it. A few weeks went by, and I took the car back to the oil change place to get my oil changed. This time, they were able to change my oil. However, they once again alerted me to the fact that my transmission was leaking in numerous spots. I wrote down the names of the parts/areas that were still leaking and went back to the auto shop.

    They basically told me to piss off. They said they fixed all the leaks, and any leaks I had now must be new leaks. They offered to fix these for another $300. I asked them why they didn't warranty their work. They said they did, but that these new leaks were not the result of their work on the previous leaks. This sounds like bullshit. I didn't climb under the car before I took it to their shop, so I can't possibly know how many leaks it had, where they were, and if these new leaks were really "new" or just ones they didn't fix. I was barely able to afford the $280 I paid them to fix my transmission the first time, so I left in a rage.

    I had no way to afford a fix at the time, and was forced to drive with a leaking transmission from November 2011 to July 2012. I took great care to keep the fluid topped off to prevent any further damage to the transmission from going dry.

    The transmission died last week. I had the car towed in to a different auto body shop, where I was told the transmission would need a rebuild for $3,000. No surprise there. I authorized the rebuild, and they're doing it right now. Since the car is already in the shop, I wanted that $400 HR valve taken care of, so my check engine light would be off, and I would be able to pass inspections later this year, or sell the car should I be so inclined. This new guy hadn't heard of an HR valve, which is not surprising. No one I've asked has.

    So when I asked him why that check engine light's been on since the day after I bought the car, he explained it was on because of transmission leaks, and because some pressure sensor plates or something also related to the transmission were malfunctioning. He said the second error, the one with those plates, had something to do with faulty wiring to the transmission. I found this especially delightful, because it seems like a transmission error that could not be discovered without... looking at the wiring to the transmission. The very thing the first shop refused to do.


    My question:

    If the check engine light is, and has been on the entire time I've had this car, it's been on for transmission leaks and errors. Not for an HR valve. This means that the auto body shop that charged me $280 bucks, $80 of which was to "check transmission" missed all these errors with the transmission. Additionally, since the light was on when they gave me the car back, they likely did not actually fix any of the leaks. This is supported by the fact that a few weeks later, all the leaks were back.

    I don't know much about cars. But I do know that this shop performed awful work. Not only did they either a) not fix any leaks, b) half-ass fixed the leaks, or c) just plain missed some... but they outright refused to check the wiring when I asked them to do so, and it turns out that was also causing a transmission problem.

    I don't see how you can charge a consumer to check their transmission for problems, then refuse to perform a task that would alert the consumer to potential problems with the transmission.



    I want to take this shop to small claims court. I want $3,000 for the cost to rebuild the transmission, $280 back for the work they performed to "fix the leaks," and $400 for the money I've had to spend on a rental car while my car is having its transmission rebuilt.

    I'm not sure if I have a good claim. There's definitely some injustice going on here. What concerns me however, is the shop's statement that I "would eventually need a transmission rebuild." That means a rebuild is something I would have likely had to pay for myself in the future, and thus, why should they have to pay for it now? However, their failures to properly diagnose the transmission errors undoubtedly hastened its demise.


    ==================
    ADDITIONAL QUESTION:


    Do I have any chance of recovering these repair costs from the person that sold me this car? I signed a contract to accept the car "as is." However, I believe I was deceived. I've since learned over the time I've had this car, that when the battery is drained and you give it a jump, if the check engine light was on, it will not come back on for a period of time that can be as long as 24-48 hours. I've personally had this happen 4-5 times, because that's how many times I've had to jump this damn car battery.

    If he drained the battery and jumped it before he sold me the car, this would explain why the check engine light came on the day after I bought it. If that's the case, it means the check engine light was on when I bought the car, likely for these transmission leaks. The car I agreed to buy "as is" did not have a check engine light on. The car I was sold, did have a check engine light on.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Suing Auto Repair Shop

    It does not sound like you have a valid claim against them. It appears you bought the vehicle AS IS and failed to do due diligence. If the transmission leaked at the time they repaired it, you should have requested they keep it until fixed or taken it elsewhere. By your silence, you approved the repair at the time. In the future, have the car inspected before buying it.
    With enough thrust, pigs fly just fine.
    You may believe that you understood what you think I said. I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Suing an Auto Repair Shop for Negligent Repairs

    You purchased the car "as is". Your feeling that you were deceived does not translate into evidence of any actual deception. Feelings, supposition, speculation... none are evidence.

    If you buried some reference to evidence in that massive narrative, do us the favor of digging it out.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Suing an Auto Repair Shop for Negligent Repairs

    I repeat...

    A proper inspection by you or a mechanic, would have revealed evidence of leakage or burned fluid on/in the transmission. You were not deceived, you failed to uncover the defects the seller potentially hid from you by lack of inspection. It took me 2 years to buy a pickup/suv because I could not find a used one that did not need repairs that made its purchase a poor decision. I finally made a great deal on a new one.
    With enough thrust, pigs fly just fine.
    You may believe that you understood what you think I said. I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Suing an Auto Repair Shop for Negligent Repairs

    Quote Quoting amk320
    View Post

    As to the claim against the auto shop, there's a considerable amount of evidence there.
    actually I don't agree with you on that. They fixed some leaks. You have nothing to prove what they fixed is what is leaking now and even if it was, did you ever return to have them repair their work? They told you at the time your trans needed to be rebuilt. You deferred the repair until it quit totally.


    as to the damage; it was slipping when you brought it in. Good luck trying to prove it was not already damaged at that time.

    the fee for the scan; did you notice the codes recorded at the time? Just because there were subsequent codes indicating the trans had an issue does not mean it was present at the time they ran the scan.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Suing an Auto Repair Shop for Negligent Repairs

    Quote Quoting jk
    View Post
    actually I don't agree with you on that. They fixed some leaks. You have nothing to prove what they fixed is what is leaking now and even if it was, did you ever return to have them repair their work? They told you at the time your trans needed to be rebuilt. You deferred the repair until it quit totally.


    as to the damage; it was slipping when you brought it in. Good luck trying to prove it was not already damaged at that time.

    the fee for the scan; did you notice the codes recorded at the time? Just because there were subsequent codes indicating the trans had an issue does not mean it was present at the time they ran the scan.
    1) They were asked to repair a transmission, and whatever was causing the check engine light to come on.

    2) They charged $280, $80 of which was to inspect the transmission for problems. They reported that the only problem it was having was leaks from the output shaft seal. They charged $200 to seal all the leaks. They charged me $280 total and recommended a transmission rebuild. When they were finished "repairing" the car, the check engine light was still on, and the car was slipping the same as it did when I brought it in. Many puddles of transmission fluid appeared on the street where I park.

    3) Two weeks later, during an oil change, many, MANY leaks are still leaking in the transmission. Keep in mind I paid them $280 to "seal all leaks" and "make all transmission repairs short of a rebuild" only two weeks earlier. They told me they did this. Clearly, they did not do a good job sealing leaks if all leaks reappeared. If all leaks were new, which is highly unlikely, they did a shit job of spotting seals that were about to go.

    4) I took it back to their shop. They do not warranty their work at all. They wanted to charge me the same $280 fee to do the same work all over again.


    I don't know how to explain this any better. If you pay someone to perform a service, and a few days later the work falls apart... it's usually negligent or otherwise poor work. That this place does poor work is supported by the fact that they do not warranty their own work. The check engine light was on still when I got the car back from them. A new shop just told me that the light is on because the transmission is leaking. If you put two and two together, the light being on, and the transmission leaking again right after being sealed supports that this shop did not seal the leaks properly, if at all. If that doesn't meet the definition of "negligent work" I don't know what does.

    Recommending that I do a rebuild does not alter the fact that a continuously leaking transmission from November 2011 until July 2012 did extensive damage to the transmission. Because of that extensive damage, the cost of the rebuild is increased. That damage would not have occurred if the transmission wasn't leaking. The transmission would not be leaking if the auto body shop 1) correctly sealed the leaks, and 2) correctly diagnosed that the check engine light was on because of both errors with pressure plates in the transmission AND because it was leaking. They refused to inspect the area of the car that would have led them to discover the pressure plate error, yet still led me to believe (and charged me $80 for) that they did an adequate inspection of the transmission.

    As to your comment that because there were subsequent codes indicating a transmission error does not mean it was present when they ran the scan...

    1) They said the light was on because of an HR valve. The current shop, and everyone else I've asked, including Google, does not know what an HR valve is. This suggests that they read the code wrong, or don't know what they're talking about.

    2) If the HR valve is, in fact, a real part... and it was, in fact, the only thing producing the check engine light at the time they scanned it, why is it not producing the light now? The first shop said it was a $400 fix, and it certainly hasn't fixed itself over time miraculously.

    All signs point to this check engine light being on from one or more ongoing transmission errors that were concealed from me when I purchased the car, and that the first auto body shop failed to recognize.


    EDIT:

    I supposed I could ask the new shop if they specifically repaired a leak in the output shaft seal. That would lend support to the argument that the shop failed to repair it.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Suing an Auto Repair Shop for Negligent Repairs

    amk320;634086]1) They were asked to repair a transmission, and whatever was causing the check engine light to come on.
    they told you it needed to be rebuilt. You didn't want to do that. They aren't magicians

    2) They charged $280, $80 of which was to inspect the transmission for problems. They reported that the only problem it was having was leaks from the output shaft seal. They charged $200 to seal all the leaks. They charged me $280 total and recommended a transmission rebuild. When they were finished "repairing" the car, the check engine light was still on, and the car was slipping the same as it did when I brought it in. Many puddles of transmission fluid appeared on the street where I park.
    and again, it needed to be rebuilt but you deferred that repair until later

    3) Two weeks later, during an oil change, many, MANY leaks are still leaking in the transmission. Keep in mind I paid them $280 to "seal all leaks" and "make all transmission repairs short of a rebuild" only two weeks earlier. They told me they did this. Clearly, they did not do a good job sealing leaks if all leaks reappeared. If all leaks were new, which is highly unlikely, they did a shit job of spotting seals that were about to go.
    if you can get a mechanic to testify that what they repaired was leaking again, you can seek repayment.

    4) I took it back to their shop. They do not warranty their work at all. They wanted to charge me the same $280 fee to do the same work all over again.
    did they tell you the work was warranteed?


    I don't know how to explain this any better. If you pay someone to perform a service, and a few days later the work falls apart... it's obviously negligent or otherwise poor work. That this place does poor work is supported by the fact that they do not warranty their own work. The check engine light was on still when I got the car back from them.
    A new shop just told me that the light is on because the transmission is leaking.
    doubtful. There is no "transmission leaking" code. The fact it is leaking could cause something like a low fluid or low pressure code but there is no "trans leaking" code.



    Recommending that I do a rebuild does not alter the fact that a continuously leaking transmission from November 2011 until July 2012 did extensive damage to the transmission. Because of that extensive damage, the cost of the rebuild is increased.
    You are responsibe for keeping the thing full. If you let it leak enough to cause a problem, that is on you.

    That damage would not have occurred if the transmission wasn't leaking.
    or you put fluid in it when it was low.



    As to your comment that because there were subsequent codes indicating a transmission error does not mean it was present when they ran the scan...

    1) They said the light was on because of an HR valve. The current shop, and everyone else I've asked, including Google, does not know what an HR valve is. This suggests that they read the code wrong, or don't know what they're talking about.
    two places to ask:

    the guys that told you it was the HR valve

    Honda

    I have found multiple references to an HR valve.



    2) If the HR valve is, in fact, a real part... and it was, in fact, the only thing producing the check engine light at the time they scanned it, why is it not producing the light now? The first shop said it was a $400 fix, and it certainly hasn't fixed itself over time miraculously.
    How do you not have codes now? I thought the vehicle was being repaired as we speak.

    I had the car towed in to a different auto body shop, where I was told the transmission would need a rebuild for $3,000. No surprise there. I authorized the rebuild, and they're doing it right now.
    All signs point to this check engine light being on from one or more ongoing transmission errors that were concealed from me when I purchased the car, and that the first auto body shop failed to recognize.
    failure to diagnose does not make them liable for the damage. It just means they are wrong.

    You might have an action for the work they did (the $280) but I don't see a claim against them for anything else. You can try to sue for whatever you want but as the plaintiff, you have to prove your case. What you presented here doesn't prove anything.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Suing an Auto Repair Shop for Negligent Repairs

    If there is slop in the output shafts and the transmission needs rebuilt, I tell the customer this and the customer says just fix the leaks. I put new seals in, to replaces the ones that have been damaged by the slop in the output shafts. The slop in the output shafts then damages the seals i changed. Why is this my fault? I did what I was told to do. If the underlying problem is not fixed, yes, it is very likely the seals will leak again. Sorry bout yer luck. Rebuild the transmission like i told you next time.
    With enough thrust, pigs fly just fine.
    You may believe that you understood what you think I said. I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Suing an Auto Repair Shop for Negligent Repairs

    1) Technically, they "recommended" it be rebuilt. The reason I chose not to have that done is because they assured me that sealing the leaks in the transmission would result in a car that would still run.

    2) I doubt a mechanic would need to testify. A detailed repair receipt showing which leaks were patched should suffice.

    3) I did not ask if the work was under warranty.

    4) I'm only going by what the mechanic who is currently rebuilding the transmission told me. I'm sure when I pick the car up and get the bill, I'll have all this information.

    5) I did keep the thing full. Religiously. I would argue the cost of all that transmission fluid should be recoverable.

    6) Like I said, even if the HR valve is a real thing, there's apparently nothing wrong with it now. Is it, in fact, a magician? Does it regenerate over time somehow? Either that, or the guy that said that's why the light was on read the code wrong.

    7) It is being repaired. I'll get the codes when I pick it up.

    8) I would argue that failure to diagnose based on the mechanic's outright refusal to inspect the wiring (the wiring to the transmission or pressure plates or whatever being the other problem in addition to the leaks) they missed what a reasonably competent mechanic would not have missed. All we've been speaking about are the leaks they fixed. They didn't do a good job on that, obviously, and you even concede I might be able to recover the money for the work they did on that. We haven't even touched the fact that they failed to inform me of an obvious and serious problem with the wiring to the transmission. Even though I knew about the leaks and was able to keep my fluid topped off, I had absolutely no idea the transmission was overheating and dying from this wiring failure, which is, according to the new mechanic, the reason the check engine light is on.



    I'm also trying to find a way to bring the seller into this. He's almost certainly committed some type of fraud. He butchered the wiring, likely to the transmission creating that issue (overheating, which in turn probably caused the leaks) and likely drained and jumped the battery to keep the check engine light off during the sale. Unlike rolling back an odometer, shutting off a check engine light is intentionally concealing damage. If he told me there was no damage to the transmission (which he, and the advertisement did) then that would be fraud. If I can prove that the state of the wiring when I purchased the car was such that it would have caused the check engine light to come on, which can be supported by the first mechanic's outright refusal to look at it, and the current mechanic's statements about how messed up it is. The seller informed me he done some extensive rewiring recently, which may support that he created the problem. A problem that would cause the car's check engine light to appear on. Which supports my theory that he drained the battery to shut the light off temporarily.

    I wish I could locate the repair receipt he gave me with the car. He had taken it somewhere for work recently. I'd really like to have a word with the people who worked on it to find out the state of the transmission. The bottom half of the repair bill was conspicuously ripped off. At the time, he told me it was just personal information of his that I didn't need.

    =======
    UPDATE:

    I found that half of a repair bill he gave me. I called the place to find out what the other half contained. Turns out it contained a lot of information about the transmission slipping and leaking. It also contains that they recommended it be sealed and the customer declined. He also had the check engine light codes pulled, which the dude explained to me isn't even legal. A copy of this is being mailed to me. Considering the seller revealed none of this, and advertised a car in good working order with no transmission problems, he's.. well, that's fraud. "As is" does not give you a license to commit crimes.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Suing an Auto Repair Shop for Negligent Repairs

    I am not going to waste time arguing with you. Take it to court if you think you will win.
    With enough thrust, pigs fly just fine.
    You may believe that you understood what you think I said. I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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