Can I sue an auto shop owner who had my vehicle for 2 months and to whom I paid $1100 to give me a tune-up and new motor but my vehicle still doesn’t work?

UPDATED: May 12, 2015

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Can I sue an auto shop owner who had my vehicle for 2 months and to whom I paid $1100 to give me a tune-up and new motor but my vehicle still doesn’t work?

The mechanic did not do the work I payed him to do. Another mechanic noticed the motor looked untouched and the supposed tune up was never done. We cannot figure out what the mechanic did for the reason that my vehicle does not start (not sure about giving it back to him). I had my vehicle towed home last week because I was told I needed a new fuel pump ($250) which worked when I dropped off my vehicle, as well as the motor.There is something shady going on and I need to know what do I sue for in small claims court.? I have receipts for all of the work and pictures.

Asked on May 12, 2015 under Business Law, New Jersey


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

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Your lawsuit against the auto shop would have separate causes of action (claims) for fraud and negligence.

The fraud claim would be based on the fact that you paid $1100 and the work was not done (no tune-up and motor was untouched).

The separate negligence claim would be for damage to the car caused by the mechanic such as the water pump.

If you have your car repaired by another mechanic, those additional costs should be included in the amount of compensation you are seeking in the lawsuit.  You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages (the amount of compensation you are seeking) by selecting another mechanic whose fees are comparable to other mechanics in the area.  If you were to select the most expensive mechanic you could find, you have failed to mitigate damages and your damages will be reduced accordingly.

Instead of filing in Small Claims Court, you may want to file your lawsuit in a higher court because you are claiming fraud and could be awarded punitive damages ( a substantial amount to punish the intentional wrongdoing of the auto shop).  That amount might be beyond the jurisdiction of Small Claims Court which means more than the maximum amount that Small Claims Court can award.


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