I Got Sued!

Or at least the business I work at was. I performed a tune-up on a car. This consists, basically, of replacing the spark plugs. The customer called to complain, not about the tune-up, but about scratched wheels! The service manager told her we didn’t touch the wheels, but she filed a lawsuit anyway. I figured all we would have to do was show up in court and tell them what we did and he would dismiss the case. Unbelievably, he found for them! The manager asked the judge why he found for them and he said “Well, you have insurance don’t you?” Never mind that the deductible is higher than what the wheel cost, and they’ll raise the rates if you have claims during the year. I couldn’t believe it, and neither could the manager. We found out later that the judge was well known as a plaintiffs judge. The manager is going to appeal, which means the dealership will have to pay a lawyer, which will cost more than the wheel did, but he feels it’s a matter of principle now. I’ve got to reiterate this point: At no time did I touch, or even look at the wheels on her car. I was replacing the spark plugs. I didn’t even raise the car up in the air.

Oh man, I was reading this, hoping for some hot Judge Judy-style action.

I suppose the rest of this kind of fits. If you counter-sue, can you collect court fees?

I hope the “do you have insurance” comment finds a halfway reasonable (or entirely reasonable for that matter) judge.

That blows.

what a load of crap. hope you win the appeal.

Glad to hear the manager’s going to appeal, one of the reasons people file stupid lawsuits is because too many companies would rather pay out than fight. Maybe if more corporations fought the lawsuits, fewer idiots would file them.

I, too, wish your company luck in the appeals.

What I can’t figure out is why anyone would bother suing over scratched wheels. Bah, what a world!

What a fucking asshole judge.

Experience tells me there is a fair bit more to this story than what we are hearing. For a start, I would be astonished if the judge said that the reason he found for the plaintiff is that the defendant was insured. I’m not saying that the judge did or did not think that, but I doubt he said it. It’s instant appeal material any jurisdiction I’ve heard of.

And another thing: it never ceases to amaze me the way people think that “the truth” (from the POV of that person) will be instantly obvious to the judge. If I had a buck for every time a client of mine has said “but surely we can get this thrown out of court, all we have to do is explain to the judge that [insert objectively unverifiable fact here]”, then I’d be, well, I’d be about $23 richer or something.

She said your business scratched her wheels. Your manager says you didn’t. The judge can instantly tell who’s telling the truth how exactly? Are you saying that because you didn’t work on the wheels you couldn’t have scratched them? Does that logically follow?

I bet if this thread had been started by the plaintiff it’d go something like this:

“I put my car in for just a simple effin tune up, but those dunderhead mechanics have managed somehow to scratch the frickin wheels! I saw the wheels before they went in, they were fine. I pick up the car and they’ve managed to scratch them somehow. I mean, how hard could it be to do a tune up without scratching the wheels fer chrissakes! And then the dickheads deny it. Well, they would, wouldn’ t they? So I sued the bastards and that judge was a wise old guy, and he saw through them, no trouble.”

And then the participants of this thread would say “Great stuff, those mechanics are so damn careless, that’ll learn them”.

I agree with Princhester. The judge can’t rule for the Plaintiff simply because the Plaintiff has insurance. That’s ridiculous. There has to be some causation somewhere. There has to be some fault. Judge may have figured since the car was in the garages possession the whole time, and the wheels weren’t scratched when it went into your posession but were scratched when it left your posession, logic would dictate your garage somehow inflicted the damage.

But there’s no way the judge ruled for the Plaintiff soley because your garage has insurance.

Maybe you guys should start photographing cars when they come into the garage and when they leave. Seems tedious but it would prevent you having to pay damages for injuries you didn’t inflict. Might be worth it in the long run.

I hope the gold diggers lose, good luck.

This is the part that bugs me. I read it like this:

Plaintiff: The wheels weren’t scratched when it went in there, and they were scratched later on!!
Defendant: At no time did we touch or even look at the wheels. We have no idea if the wheels were scratched when the car came in or went out. We can neither confirm nor deny the plaintiffs testimony.
Judge: In that case, defendant is guilty. Pay up.

Errr - how was fault determined again?? Because the defendant can’t counter the claim? Was anything in the way of evidence provided by the plaintiff? Is there any need for evidence in a civil suit? Or is the plaintiffs word good enough?

The plaintiff’s word is good enough, to a point. What the defendant mechanics have to show is that 1) changing the spark plugs never involves touching the wheels; 2) that they didn’t touch the wheels for some other reason; 3) that their shop is set up so that there is little likelihood of them accidentally scratching the wheels.

If the mechanics can give the judge a reasonable basis for determining that its pretty unlikely that it was the mechanics that scratched the wheel, then they’ll likely get out of this mess. But simply saying, “I didn’t do it” probably isn’t going to suffice.



But there’s no way the judge ruled for the Plaintiff soley because your garage has insurance.

Uhh… Yes they do that all the time.

  One of the reasons that personal injury is such a big thing these days is the fact that insurance companys can be gotten to pay.  Suing a business may not do much more that get you a few thousand and cause the business to shut down. If the business has insurance JACKPOT! The insurance companies have deep pockets and can pay big bucks (bigger than an individal business) for not only the Plaintiff, but his Lawyer.  Now as the OP mentioned, the insurance premiums go up, and eventually the business may go under because they can't afford to pay. By that time the lawyer has moved on, and his client can be assured that he didn't ruin the bisiness, it was the evil insurance companys.

 This is EXACTLY the logic that caused a huge malpractice chrises here in West by Ghod. People were suing Doctors at the drop of a hat (yes I know that sometime malpractice is warrented,  but suits were flying left and right). Several judges in the state gained national notority for always ruling against doctors. The result: Many WVa doctors couldn't get insurance and left the state, many insurance companies wouldn't cover doctors in WVa. The Doctors blamed the lawyers, the lawers blamed the insurance companies.

 Note that the ONLY people who claimed that the insurance companies were to blame were the lawyers. Everyone else blamed the the lawyers.

Did you inform you insurance company of the claim and lawsuit? It’s likely they would have defended you. Then your defense may have consisted of more than: “Nu-uh we didn’t do that.”

I, too, feel that we’re not getting the whole story. I used to defend these suits all the time. Plaintiffs have to prove a case and they may have proven in their case-in-chief res ipsa loquitur which basically means that they took the car to you with no scratches, you had sole custody and control of car, scratches don’t happen without negligence and when they picked the car up there were scratches.

But, it may have been JP court or small claims where sometimes the rules of evidence don’t apply. Still though, educate yourself on any case before going to court.

Some wheels can be VERY expensive. If I hauled a set of Volk wheels into a tire shop to have them mounted with tires, and they scratched them, they would be buying me new wheels, at well over $600 EACH.

This was JP court, and I testified that I didn’t scratch the wheels. I think the girl who drove the car told her mother we scratched them. She says she bought them a week before she came there. The judge did say “Well, you have insurance don’t you?” in reply to the question why he found for them. Shouldn’t you have to prove that something happened? Isn’t the burden of proof on the plaintiff? How can I “prove” I didn’t do something? There is something I forgot to say. The bailiff told us the judge was wrong! How stupid do you have to be before your bailiff says something like that?

As far as insurance goes, didn’t you see where I said the deductible was five-hundred dollars and the wheel was four-hundred? Besides, insurance carriers for car dealerships are notorious for raising rates when you have any claims. At least that’s what the general manager told me.

Sure there is: the judge could be incompetent. We’ve lately had news stories about Judges refusing direct orders from the Supreme Court (Ray Moore and his 10 Commandments) and masturbating while presiding over a court room. (Apparently, the French have been getting in on the act, too.) Being a judge is not proof against being insane, biased, or dumb as a brick.

After seeing what judges in Orleans Parish, Louisiana are capable of doing and saying, nothing would surprise me. Certainly not this judge’s comment.

If it was small claims court, then I assume it wasn’t a court of record. Do you have a witness, i.e. the bailiff, to testify to the fact that the judge did indeed make that comment? Because otherwise it’s going to come back to a yes, he said it/no, I didn’t say it kind of situation again.

Good luck. I hope you can win your appeal!

Mike, they should have at least reported it to the insurance carrier. Even if it’s JP, it’s best to bring a lawyer along especially if the insurance company would pay for everything over the 500. It would have been good to have at least checked as in JP if you represent yourself, you have a fool for a client (if you can afford an attorney).

Also, in Texas at least you can pay an extra 50 bucks or so and get the hearing transcribed. That would have taken care of the insurance comment.

And from what I can tell, if res ipsa loquitur applies in your state, they did prove their case in chief. They put on prima facie evidence of negligence. They said there were no scratches when they brought it to your shop. You had sole custody and control of the vehicle, when they got it back–there were scratches–which don’t ordinarily occurr in the absence of negligence. Ergo, res ipso loquitur.

And kkep in mind JP judges are not always judges. But they can take believabilty and credibility into account when ruling.