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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    13

    Question Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave Up

    Here is as much of the story as I can recall.

    In mid-August 2009 I delivered my vehicle to a repair shop that had previously never let me down. They are a husband/wife run shop and their kids are usually there. They are very reputable and again, had always done me right. They are expensive, but always did me right.

    When I delivered the van I gave them a full sheet of instructions on what has been done to it to try to alleviate the problem. It has a new transmission, a new engine and 90% new external engine parts as well. I specifically stated on the information sheet that I needed them to tell me when the bill would get to $200 so I could check with their status and of course my finances were/are limited.

    They knew I had another vehicle, and I did tell them to take their time within 1 - 2 months to fix it. The shop (owner) told me several times that he was really busy and that it would be a while before he could get to it. I told him I could wait, because the original shop that installed the engine could never figure out what was wrong afterwards. So I waited and called every week about 75% of the time and the rest of the time I called once every 2 weeks.

    I rarely ever heard from them. They kept telling me they were too busy to work on it and would get to it the next week, the next couple days, etc.. I have no real knowledge of how long they actually worked on it. All I do know is that they surmised there is an electrical problem with voltage instability (a likely short circuit) and they can't and don't want to find it now. They told me the other day, after I've given them 6 months of patience, that they are throwing in the towel.

    They told me initially they thought nothing was wrong with it after doing a smoke test to see if there were any air leaks in the engine intake and there were none. Then they found the voltage problem and tested it with 3 different main Ford computers (the brain of the vehicle), replaced a battery terminal, and now they tell me my starter (which was a young starter of only about 20k miles ago) is bad and I never had a single problem with it until I went there.

    They want me to come pick it up and I know the bill so far is at a minimum $500. My father and other friends all tell me they would not pay for a vehicle that did not get fixed after 6 months. My point is that I've lost 6 months of usage in this vehicle and I told the repair shop up front that I intended to use it for business purposes. It has also been the reason we could not go on 2 family vacations. This problem in the van has been troubleshot for 2 years. It is easy to say to sell it or get a new vehicle, but that has not been my option as its too old to get money for parting it out or for selling it in a "not functioning properly" condition. It is actually potentially dangerous to drive the way it is acting (shooting gas through the engine as if the gas pedal were pushed through the floor constantly).

    On all of my phone calls they always said they'd call me back and never did. They explicitly told me they would tell me when we'd reached $200 and did not. I asked them to have it done by end of November and they didn't. I asked them "comedically" to have it done by Christmas as a nice Christmas gift and they didn't and now here I am at the beginning of February still without my vehicle because I thought they were actually working on it. As far as I know based on the phone calls they only worked on it 1 time out of each month and maybe even lapsed 2 months at one point without touching it.

    To me they have cost me 6 months of my own time and loss of vehicle usage for the business I had planned to start it with and use for hauling materials. Now I have a "more broken" vehicle (starter-less) and only some vague idea of the problem and no idea where the problem actually is and I am anticipating a $1000 bill for analysis time, though they have not told me the bill amount ever except to say 3 months ago that we were around the $500 mark and that was after I asked them.

    I cannot stress enough how many times I asked them to let me know when the bill would reach $200. I cannot stress enough that on the end of each phone call they said they would work on it in the next 2-3 days or next week and did not do so. I cannot stress enough how many times I told them I needed to get the vehicle back because I had to tow a trailer to move my things.

    They kept taking other work instead of working on my vehicle, likely because the other work was faster. I understand that, but I feel disrespected, mistreated and stepped on here. I have a new outlook on them now, whereas before I used to trust them and now basically I can tell even though they said they work on consumer vehicles that they prefer very quick work or business contracts only. To me, it seems I could sue for negligence and basically all I really want is to be let out of the bill or have it minimized to something fair since they have wasted so much of my time.

    Currently, I am supposed to go pickup the vehicle and I have not heard from them on what the charges are going to be. I ordered a starter and was originally having it shipped to them last week, but when I found out they wanted to give up on it after telling me the starter went out I had it rerouted to my house.

    Look, I know there is plenty I don't know about the law, but I am not some fool lacking intelligence. I don't want to go to jail for not paying if I have to pay, but what am I paying for in the end? IE: Paying for an already broken vehicle that is now in worse state than it was when I delivered it after having taken up 6 months of my time due to negligence.

    I admit to not knowing what the law says about such matters and is why I am posting here.

    Do I have a case? Could I take them to small claims court if they force me to pay the bill? Do I have to pay the bill for something not fixed?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    27,120

    Default Re: Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave

    well, a very important question, which you were asked, you also failed to answer and that is:

    what state?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave

    So sorry. This is in the New Orleans, LA metro area.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    27,120

    Default Re: Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave

    from what I can see, you told them to contact you when they reached $200 spent. If they have not contacted you to let you know they reached the $200 limit, then there is no reason to believe you would owe more than $200 unless there were subsequent discussions allowing that to be raised.

    so, go there with the intent of paying $200 to get you car back. You are due nothing for not having the vehicle for 6 months. You could have picked it up any time and taken it home or taken it elsewhere.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    13

    Default Re: Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave

    Ok, that sounds good to me, but what if they want to say I owe more. Do they have the right to collect more?

    What if the $200 was verbal only? I just looked over the documentation that I submitted to them and I don't see the $200, however I do recall telling them $200 on the phone in at least 3 phone calls. However in 2 documents, 1 delivered on vehicle drop off and 1 delivered another time with 2 engine computers, I did say to call before proceeding with repairs to assess the bill. These calls were promised, but never happened.

    Can the car repair shop come take my van away once I leave with it if I don't pay'em more than $200?

    Can they have the police come arrest me if I take it for only the $200 if they say I owe more?

    I ask these questions as I am sure they will want more than the $200.

    I'm not due anything for the 6 months even though they kept giving me vague information as if they were stringing me along "acting" like they were really working on it, but weren't?

    Would the starter going bad in their possession all that time hold up in small claims?

    Would any of this hold up in small claims?

    And no, they never discussed overall estimate price with me once. The only thing that price was discussed on was the smoke test which was under $100 in the very beginning.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    13

    Question Re: Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave

    So are my further questions worthless?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave

    it would be arguable as to the $200. If you could convince a judge you said stop at $200, then that is all they should be able to collect. If you were ambiguous about the figure, a judge may not limit it at $200.


    as to driving away after paying them only $200 if they say you owe more; not a good thing. If they dispute the number, you taking the vehicle could cause you more problems than it is worth. You would be better off noting the receipt they are going to give you and very likely have you sign that you are paying the amount demanded under protest. Then sue for whatever you believe you should not have had to pay.

    Can the car repair shop come take my van away once I leave with it if I don't pay'em more than $200?
    depending on exactly how you would end up with this result, I can think of a couple ways that would get you into trouble criminally. Not a good plan.

    Can they have the police come arrest me if I take it for only the $200 if they say I owe more?
    what are you going to do? Throw the $200 on the counter and grab your keys, run out a grab the van and speed away?

    chances are they are not going to release the vehicle until you pay the bill.

    I ask these questions as I am sure they will want more than the $200.
    it appears you both have phones so call them and ask them. When they say what ever if over $200, I would simply say that you told them to call when it reached $200 to discuss it and they never called so you did not expect it to be over $200.

    then, listen to their explanation. Their fee may be fair, maybe not. Negotiation is a lot better than cash and dash.





    about the length of time: even in your presentation here, time was not of the essence. In the beginning you had no problem with 1-2 months at all. Then as they did not have time to work on it, you acquiesced to them taking longer. That was your choice and will get you nothing other than sympathy from a judge as it was apparent you did not push the garage to rush things but you simply wanted it fixed.

    the starter: maybe, maybe not. You would pretty much have to prove something they did caused it. That is going to be difficult if not impossible. Sometimes starters go bad for no apparent reason. If you want somebody else to pay for it, you need to prove it was because they did something to cause it.

    I would like to remind you to take notice of all they did while it was in their possession. If they charge only $50/hr (way under market where I am), as little as 4 hours would have used up the $200. You are aware of work they did that would most likely be much more than 4 hours. This is where a judge would look at it and ask you if you were aware of the time spent and $/hr charged and ask you if you believe they only did $200 worth of work. That with any ambiguity will most likely cause a judge to award them more than the $200.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Key West, FL
    Posts
    2,350

    Default Re: Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave

    You need to research your state law. Most states have motor vehicle repair acts that specify each party's rights and obligations. In states with such laws, you do not have to pay for unauthorized repairs. There is no such thing as a verbal auto repair bill.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    13

    Question Re: Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave

    First off, thanks so much JK.

    To address your last paragraph in the previous post:
    Well, in this case I was not aware of the time spent nor was I aware of their rate. Surely I figured it would take more than 4 hours from the get-go, but the point is no one discussed labor rates or amount of "hours in" at any given point in time at all despite several repeated attempts to get this information (every phone call) and I was told they'd call back with the figures and never did. My statement to them about $200 was to assess where they were and to limit how much over that amount I would go. I set it to them as a "checkpoint" in the repair process so I could make a decision about "whats next" or "IF NEXT".

    My mistake here was trusting them because I held them in high regard prior to this incident.

    In every phone call I made to them I did try to have it rushed and their constant response was, "I'll get on him to get to it tomorrow." or something similar.

    Does any of the above, in this post, make a difference to the judge?

    Going into this matter with the repair shop, I do not think negotiating on the phone is going to do anything. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. I think I will have to have documentation (my own and a lawsuit form from the Justice of the Peace) and a decision prepared before I walk in to be prepared for either outcome. I will tell them what I think is fair for the situation they've left me in by their negligence, eminent lying that they maybe didn't intend to be lying - but turned out to be every time, false promises of when they'd work on it, non-disclosure of labor hours in, non-disclosure of labor rate at any point and state if they don't agree to a price I deem fair to us both given the circumstances, that I will have no choice, but to pay their higher bill and then take it to small claims court. Perhaps the thought of small claims will change their mind and if not I'll go anyway.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    1,995

    Default Re: Do I Have to Pay a Car Repair Shop That Didn't Fix My Car After 6 Months and Gave

    I owned a car repair facility once, and I often dread getting cars of the type the OP owns coming in. If it was someone we never seen before, we wouldn't even touch it. However, if it's a regular customer, and if taking the car in is to make the customer happy, I've learned over the long run that it's a losing propostion, and we can never make anyone happy.

    First, it's not cost effective to repair vehicles of this type, and as the OP mentioned, he should get a new vehicle, but probably cheaper to fix it if you say to the shop "I don't want to spend more than $200.00, and if the shop is dumb enough to keep you happy spend $500 in labor and only charge $200.00, thus losing $300.00, go ahead.

    Second, every other thing we touch on these cars can come apart, or break. Then customers would blame us, such as we have to get a new starter, or a new whatever, and suddenly, if you deduct that from the $200, on a $500.00 job, we find we make less than $50 on a $500.00 job.

    Third, we get vehicles where customers had unauthorized things added, friends trying to fix it messing it up, or other incompetent repair shops making the repair, coming to us, and demanding we make it right for $200.00.

    Fourth, we have people coming in, if we didn't break anything, saying the car ran a whole lot better before we touched it, like we're supposed to know "how much better it ran", and if weren't smart enough to say NO the first time around, and take another look at it.

    Looking at WHAT?? I don't know.

    Fifth after spending countless hours on it, blamed for touching the clunker and breaking parts in it, spend countless more hours of managements time arguing with the customer about it.

    Sixth, we always have one or two of these clunkers around, taking up space, we turn around its' there, using up space that we can use for customers with more profitable jobs.

    Finally, being a busy repair shop, we do have other customers with cars that we can work on TODAY, and get it TUNED UP today, and get PAID on it TODAY, and the customer is happy to be able to go on a vacation tommorrow. I can then pay the salaries this week. Or would I rather work on a clunker where I'm sure something else would break if I coughed on it, and knowing he'll come back and say "it ran better before", and spend another hour arguing about it.

    As to the legal issues on this, I see:

    1) Was there a written contract or written estimate?? Some states are stricter than others on this.

    2) If I know a customer might not pay, or throw $200 on the table and run off with the car, I would slap a mechanics lien on it. Oh, the customer cannot legally take the car off the lot till the repair bill, and/or storage charges are paid.

    3) BTW, some nasty customers of mine refuse to pick up their clunkers, so we have to impose our storage charge of $50/day, which they would have to pay in addition to retreive the car.

    Finally, a true story.

    Some customer bought a leased car in to be repaired, found out that it'll cost her much more, so left the car there. It was then we found out it was leased, and notified the leasing company.

    Turned out the customer was behind on the payments, and the leasing company was looking for the car for repo. We told the leasing company, they can pick the car up if they paid for the repairs.

    The leasing company refused. So they first had their legal department make threatening calls and letters, then had a nasty law firm get after us. They harassed us for two months without success. They want the car, but they don't want to pay for the repairs.

    At this point we told them we wanted the repair AND two months of storage, and filed a mechancs lien.

    Finally, the leasing coming called and asked how much ther repair and storage came out to, and if they can bring a check in. We said "NO, we want cash".

    They called back and asked if a bank check was OK. We agreed.

    Conclusion?? They paid $3,000 in storage arguing with us over a bill that came to less than $200.00. When it all started, we didn't even want storage, we just want to get paid on our work.

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