If my daughter had a friend who caused major damage to her car as the resultof a faulty repair,does she have a case in small claims court?

She needed a clutch in her car and her friend, with the support of several other individuals, assured her that he knew what he was doing. During the process, he broke both axle seals, resulting in the total loss of all transmission fluid. The gentleman let her drive the car away in that condition, insisting that it was a small leak of axle grease. This resulted in the total failure of the transmission. Because he was a friend and not a certified mechanic, does my daughter have a case in small claims court to recoup the cost of the new transmission?

Asked on September 7, 2011 under Business Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It is unclear whether your daughter has a case. If he were a mechanic--or had represented himself as a mechanic--and was being paid/hired/etc. to fix the car, your daughter would very likely have a claim: a service or repair person who undertakes repairs professionally has an obligation to use care; he or she has a duty to use care. It is not 100% clear however, whether a friend who is doing a favor has that obligation or duty. It also may be the case that your daughter was contributorily negligent by letting non-certified or -trained people work on her car, or that she assumed the risk of damage by letting untrained individuals try to repair it. If there was contributory negligence  or assumption of the risk, that would operate against her recovery.

If she is not worried about her friendship and social repercussions, the cost to file a small claims suit is sufficiently low that she might try it. But if she is worried about consequences like that, given that it far from certain that she could win, she may wish to rethink whether it is worth doing this.


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