Can I sue a car dealer and his mechanic for negligence in not properly diagnosing a problem with my car?

I had my 1994 car towed this dealer due the auto not starting and flames coming out. I spoke with one of his employees who runs the deqalership and he had it towed to his mechanic. The mechanic stated the next day that there was nothing wrong with the car; it had just flooded out. About 7-8 weeks later my car broke down again and burst into flames; it was a total loss. The cause of the fire was due to gas leakage. I feel that this problem should have been detected by the mechanic. Other mechanics stated NO FLAMES SHOULD COME FROM THE CAR IF IT HAS FLOODED.

Asked on December 6, 2010 under General Practice, North Carolina

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You could sue the dealer and the mechanic for negligence in the same lawsuit.  Negligence is based on the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care in this case that a reasonable dealer and a reasonable mechanic would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances).  You would need to establish that the dealer and mechanic owed you a duty of due care and breached the duty of due care by failing to diagnose the problem.  You would also need to prove actual cause and proximate cause.  Actual cause means but for the failure to diagnose the gas leakage, would the car have burst into flames?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, you have established actual cause.  Proximate cause means are there any unforeseeable intervening events that would have relieved the dealer and mechanic of liability?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, the mechanic and dealer are liable for negligence.

An alternative method for establishing negligence is if a statute has been violated; such as the Lemon Law or another applicable statute.

After establishing negligence, your damages (the amount you are seeking to recover in your lawsuit) would be the value of the car that was destroyed in the fire.

A declaration under penalty of perjury signed by another mechanic stating that "no flames should come from the car if (the engine) has flooded" would provide additional evidence supporting your negligence claim.


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