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?