Is a dealership responsible for damages caused by their mechanic?

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Is a dealership responsible for damages caused by their mechanic?

We have owned our car for 4 years now and for the last 3 years we have had the vehicle serviced by the local dealership. Recently, our brakes went out on us during a trip. We had the issue inspected and they found petroleum in the brake system (i.e. wrong fluid). Petroleum causes all the rubber components to swell and leak. Needless to say, all major brake components must be replaced now and the dealership is claiming that their “master technician” (who worked on it last), would not do that. We have our maintenance records for the last 3 years from them. Are they responsible?

Asked on March 8, 2012 under Business Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if a dealership, garage, service station etc. damages your car either deliberately or (more likely) through negligence, or carelessness, they can be held liable for the cost to repair or correc the situation.

Factually, of course, the issue is whether you can prove they caused the damage. From what you write, you have good inferential evidence of their fault (service records; their technician worked on the care last) but no direct proof; it is therefore possible you would win a court case, but not a given. Remember: if you sue them (which you'd have to do, if they won't pay voluntarily), you will have to prove they caused the damage by a "preponderance of the evidence" (that is, that it is more likely than not that they did it).


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