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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Question - Is it possible to sue a mechanic in small claims?

Had a trans flush and new filter installed in 2009. During that same year, my trans died 300 miles later after the filter gasket was incorrectly installed. The gasket was not seated properly leaving a 2 inch area bulging outwards and causing 4+ quarts of fluid to leak out. Car sat until 2011 until when I gained financial ability to fix the problem and found out by another mechanic. On the original mechanic's paperwork, I did not sign the disclaimer stating labor and parts were only covered for 1yr/12k miles. I did not sign my copy either.

Second question: hypothetically, if I signed their copy, can I still sue because it happened within a year? I have a dated/timed photo of when my car's trans died and the car was blocking my driveway (my mom and her fiance who were there that day who helped me move the car), I've got photos of the incorrectly installed gasket, and may have photos of a significant amount of metal fragments inside the filter/pan covered in very dark brown fluid (all witnessed by about five individuals who were there the day we removed the transmission at a friend's house).

Furthermore, I also have the original paperwork indicating I needed shifter bushings because the shifter linkage was moving around but no trans issues were noted. The car shifted like a car with 51k should when I took it in and don't know what to do now. My second mechanic said fluid was leaking out of the bottom where the filter/gasket is, and potentially from the front seal (which may have just gotten the bottom wet). Two of the people who helped remove the transmission were engineers (electrical, and aircraft) said the trans burnt up because of a very evident bulge and opening due to the incorrect installation of the trans filter gasket. Both have removed transmissions before and fully understand the process and the main components. And could a written testimony work?




any statements in this thread are purely hypothetical and may or may not reflect true accuracy of a particular situation and should not be used and or applied directly or indirectly for any purpose
 

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Anyone can sue for anything at any time. Sure you can sue. Can you win? I don't know. Small claims are heard by a judge. Judges are big on technicalities, and I think you lose on that, altho I am not really clear from your post as to whether or not the mechanic has a signed copy of his disclaimer. If he does, you will lose in front of a small claims judge, they want to move along fast and just seeing that will cause them to dismiss your suit just to make you go away. You'd have better luck with a jury, which is usually made up of people who are tired of getting screwed, so they side with the plaintiff more, and they would screw the guy just to get back at all the mechanics who have screwed them in the past. But then you would need a lawyer, who wants to screw you too. What a world.
 

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I think that without photographic proof that the original failure was the root cause you are going to get nowhere fast.

The judge is going to look at the age of the vehicle, and unless you can document all of the required PM on the trans for the life of the car you might be getting yourself in your own legal trouble (frivolous lawsuit). Even then they may decide that stuff this old just breaks.. and that te failure occured within 300 miles of them touching it isn't enough..

You might stand some ground had you had it repaired already (by another certified/approved shop) and are seeking to recover damages (the amount of the second bill). That shop should have been notified of your intent and they should have photo proof during the disassembly and notes on the work order.

Just my $0.02..
 

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Question - Is it possible to sue a mechanic in small claims?

Yes. It is done every day across the U.S. The results however are not certain.

Analysis:

As in all states in the union, you have to file and serve your petition for small claims action upon the mechanic.

For you to prevail, you have to retain an expert witness in automatic transmissions of the Mercedes type you have in the car who will testify the failure of the transmission arose because of the incompetently installed seal/filter. Lay witnesses count for nothing so members of your family who saw fluid puddles and metal shavings are useless to the case. Similarly useless will be dated photos of the problem. You need the expert and the transmission materials in court to show that the mechanic's incompetence proximately led to the damage and do so by a preponderance of the evidence.

The mechanic's defenses are rather formidable. Your failure to sign a contract will likely be corrected on the stand when you testify you entered into a contract with the mechanic to fix the transmission. Across the U.S., in contract cases, a contract can be reconstructed on the stand before the judge. Once that is established, the mechanic will move to dismiss for your exceeding the limitations period imposed under the contract.

Assuming you sued right away or assuming the motion to dismiss is denied, the mechanic would bring in his own expert witness who would testify that the work was done properly on the car and your use of the car caused the problem. He would impeach your evidence as irrelevant to the repair because old cars develop metal faults in their parts. Shifter bushings are not compensable unless they were explicitly provided for in the contract.

I hope I adequately addressed your points. If there is anything missing let me know. It seems you exceeded the contract period, did not keep the parts available for court and do not have an expert witness who can render an opinion on the workmanship and its connection to failure. Prosecuting this case will cost more than the transmission is worth and the results are uncertain. I advise against suing just to harass the mechanic.
 

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My frist question is did you take the car back to the original shop when you figured out that the repair was faulty? If not I would say that you have no case. you have to give them a chance to fix what the broke.

The other problem I see is that you have already made the repair. now there is realy no proof that their install was at fault. even if you have pcis, can you prove that this is the same car?

Also I know here in CA all shops have to have a bond. This is for situations like this. if it is like that in yout state you cant sue. you need to go through medation.

one suggestion if you have attempted to let the shop fix the issue and they refused. We have local news stations that will try to go to bat for you. I used one of our local channels to get a refund from a crooked business. might be worth a try.

good luck either way.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
My frist question is did you take the car back to the original shop when you figured out that the repair was faulty? If not I would say that you have no case. you have to give them a chance to fix what the broke.
No. At the time, my car was suffering from low compression. I thought the engine died so it sat until I fixed the head. After fixing that and restoring the engine bay, I sent the car to the second shop to have everything looked at and the OVP relay replaced, which was when the second shop dropped the bomb that the trans was dead. I just found out my 16v trans was dead about 3 weeks ago. The replacement is a temporary transmission from an 8v 190e

The other problem I see is that you have already made the repair. now there is realy no proof that their install was at fault. even if you have pcis, can you prove that this is the same car?
Vin numbers are on the major parts I believe - chassis, engine and trans. I have not admitted that I touched the trans filter or gasket on the original transmission - the gasket it still bulging as it was when myself, an electrical engineer and an aircraft electrical engineer discovered the problem under the car.
 

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Had a trans flush and new filter installed in 2009. Car sat until 2011. I did not sign the disclaimer stating labor and parts were only covered for 1yr/12k miles. I did not sign my copy either.


any statements in this posting are purely hypothetical and may or may not reflect true accuracy of a particular situation and should not be used and or applied directly or indirectly for any purpose
If it was Dec 31, 2009 @ 11:59.59 to Jan 1, 2011 @ 12:00.01, that still would have been considered over the 12 months. So your out on that one.

As far as the other guys testimony, any judge would ask for degree's in automotive tech. Being engineers in other fields may work, if they had master degrees that's even better.





I see you throwing away alot of money on litigation, where you might be able to bully the shop into some form of cash. Just by the idea of being sued. Most shops want to stay out of court, and would rather pay, then spend the money on it. Remember the retainers are usually 5K, on both sides for good liars, I mean lawyers.

I would rather pay 4K, sit in the shop and not have a bad mark on my name, but I wouldn't pull that kind of shit. I would tell you that I would fix it free. And then still detail your car out. Just for the hassle. And too maybe keep you as a customer?
 

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Lawyers are not allowed in Small Claims Courts.
 

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Lawyers are not allowed in Small Claims Courts.
I understand that. Which is a totally valid point.


I was suggesting that they go and talk to the shop, with the idea they were going to be suied. Not that he would actually do it. Just the idea.
 

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I don't know what I enjoy more...non lawyers explaining the law, or people (perhaps including lawyers) laying down detailed specifics about law and procedure for a state they don't list in their profile.

OP: The laws of Maryland will control this dispute. If the shop is local to you, your courts will have jurisdiction.

Small claims courts are governed by their own rules with respect to evidence, procedure and testimony, and the courts often post those on their websites. So read up.

I formerly practiced law, and I've sat in a small claims court and listened to judges waive aside evidentiary rules and ignore warranty and disclaimer terms. Very often they just want to hear both sides and it boils down to their sense of fairness.

I'd suggest you check the rules for your local small claims court; if they're not on the website then call the court and ask them to mail them to you. Read through them and decide if you want to proceed. If your jurisdiction allows service by certified FC mail, RRR, then your costs are going to be pretty minimal.

The biggest caveat is if the shop decides to defend vigorously. Again, depending on court rules, they can have an attorney make an appearance and remove the case to the regular civil courts, at which point you'll have to choose between swimming with the sharks or dismissing your case.

Otherwise there's no real downside to pressing your claim.

That said, I don't really like your chances. Thinking logically about it, if I had my transmission worked on and it cratered a few hundred miles later, the reasonable thing to do is head back to the shop that did the work. Absent being in a coma for two years, there's not much of a reasonable basis to argue for ignoring what would appear to be directly related to the work they did. The fact you knew they worked on the transmission, and then it shortly thereafter stopped working, is the kind of thing that would trigger a "call the shop that did the work" response in most ordinary, reasonable people as opposed to an "aw, shucks, may as well park it."

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?
As many posts as you have, one would think you'd begin to articulate something more intelligent boss

I appreciate the people who have responded so far. Check codes, I thought my engine was not producing enough compression to power the car. Engine was running, but just not moving the car. Transmission never crossed my mind as it was running pristinely the day before.

So so far this is what I do
1. Gather pictures, evidence, and a timeline
2. Have experienced Mercedes technicians review the pictures and trans to diagnose what could have led to premature trans failure, and get written testimony
3. Get estimate for complete trans rebuild by Mercedes
4. Mail everything including letter, testimony and evidence via certified mail to original shop with an expected date of payment
5. If shop does not pay, confront shop with dispute
6. If shop does not pay, take to small claims and see what happens
 

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As many posts as you have, one would think you'd begin to articulate something more intelligent boss

I appreciate the people who have responded so far. Check codes, I thought my engine was not producing enough compression to power the car. Engine was running, but just not moving the car. Transmission never crossed my mind as it was running pristinely the day before.

So so far this is what I do
1. Gather pictures, evidence, and a timeline
2. Have experienced Mercedes technicians review the pictures and trans to diagnose what could have led to premature trans failure, and get written testimony
3. Get estimate for complete trans rebuild by Mercedes
4. Mail everything including letter, testimony and evidence via certified mail to original shop with an expected date of payment
5. If shop does not pay, confront shop with dispute
6. If shop does not pay, take to small claims and see what happens
Steps 1 to 5 seem reasonable, step 6 is a no win situation as I see this thread thus far. And I am a Tech, you have my sympathy but I agree with others, you should have contacted the previous mechanic when this happened.
 
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