Can I sue for distress due to a dealer's service department's negligence?
I had a new 2013 Hyundai purchase in 2012 with a "Drive Worry Free Program" from the "Dealer for the People." I agreed to do all services with the dealer and in return I'd receive free tires, and battery & engine replacement for life (drive worry free service contract).
I drive 1 hour to the location for all services every 3K miles (approx. every 2 months). The first incident the car died because the service department failed to put the oil plug back in. There was a stain on my driveway as a result of losing all the oil. Service cost approx $200, and cost $600 time off work for 2 people (I needed someone to follow me to the dealership).
The second incident they forgot the antifreeze clamp, so the car died and had to be towed. The service cost $300 & $300 time off work. The third incident was an oil change, but within 7 days the car died & had to be towed. The issue was that the thermostat "malfunctioned". Per other service areas this could have been a result of past negligence on services that only now showed up. The service cost $40 & $300 time off work.
The final outcome was an entire engine replacement & diminished value of the vehicle. This shows complete negligence and violation of the contractual service agreement. They will not reimburse me for anything and offered only $300 for compensation. The sales manager also embarrassed me in the dealership by telling me my business wasn't welcomed in a very loud tone.
What can I do about this negligence and mistreatment? They caused a lot of damage and cost to me and don't want to pay for it. Is there anything I can do? Can I sue for emotional distress? Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Can I sue for distress due to a dealer's service department's negligence?":
Kerri (Torrington, CT):
You certainly have a viable claim for reimbursement of your lost wages. But you can’t be compensated for the lost wages of the person who had to drive you to the repair shop. That person would have to file his own claim.
While rare, a Connecticut Appellate Court did analyze the issue of emotional distress resulting from a breach of a personal services contract. Whether or not the court would consider your claim for emotional distress would require substantial expert evidence showing the type and depth of the emotional distress you suffered.
Without such expert evidence it would be impossible for any court to measure your emotional distress and then apply an amount of compensation for that distress.
You also likely have a viable claim for the diminished value of your car resulting from the engine replacement.
Connecticut small claims court jurisdiction (the maximum amount you can sue for), is $5,000. Because it is very unlikely you will find an attorney to accept your case, you should consider taking advantage of the small claims court in the Torrington area.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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