What is the best way to proceed against a company that installed the wrong part in your car which resulted in the engine seizing up?

Had wife’s car serviced at a national retail chain’s tire and lube service, 2 months ago. My wife was on way home from work about 10 days later when the car lost power and left her stranded on the side of busy highway. Car was transported to an auto shop. The mechanic there discovered that the wrong sized oil filter had been installed; the tire and lub service admits this. The end result is that th, motor lost all motor oil which caused the engine to seized-up. Claims management say all I’m entitled to is a used engine with a supposed 40,000 miles on it and 12 month warranty. What are my rights?

Asked on October 20, 2011 under General Practice, Ohio


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Tell the company that you will sue them for negligence unless they replace the damaged engine with a new engine comparable to the engine they damaged.

Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that in this case a reasonable tire and lube shop would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  Since the tire and lube shop has admitted liability, prevailing in your negligence lawsuit should not be a problem.  Your damages (the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit) would be the replacement cost of the engine.  You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages by not selecting the most expensive engine you can find as a replacement or the most expensive repair shop to replace the engine.  If you did that, your damages would be reduced accordingly.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you had signed an agreement wiith the retail chain which limited their liability, you are bound by that agreement and may only recover what that agreement itself says that you can. On the other hand, if you did not sign any such agreement, you could recover the value of the damage they did (i.e. the value of the motor they destroyed) or the cost to repair (if possible and lower); and you should also be able to recover the towing, transport, etc. costs, any car rental fees, if you had to rent a car while yours is disabled; and other out of pocket expenses. To recover these, if the center won't pay them, you'd have to sue  the center; before doing so, compare what you could possibly recover if you sued and won to what is being offered you; unless you stand to potentially recover substantially more, it may be worthwhile to take their offer without going through litigation.

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