R. Scott King, BSME, CFEI, Principal Automotive/Mechanical Engineer
At both the state and federal levels, consumer protection laws generally provide opportunities for relief to vehicle owners adversely impacted by manufacturing defects or “non-conformities” that cannot be resolved within a predetermined time, vehicle mileage or number of repair attempts. Like many litigated cases, matters arising within the so-called “lemon law” framework can be aided by expert analysis, reporting, and testimony; however, an expert can also be used in an advisory role to objectively evaluate a case’s strengths and weaknesses, and equip the retaining party with information to facilitate an efficient resolution. So it was in a recent case.
The owner of a high-end sports car reported a defect that was covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. The selling dealer promptly and properly diagnosed the condition, ordered the necessary parts, and installed them. Upon the vehicle’s return, however, the owner detected and reported blemishes and imperfections that allegedly did not exist prior to the repair, and thus, correlated them to the repair of her initial complaint. The selling dealer either denied causing, or minimized, the owner’s new complaints, catalyzing the lemon-law action.
Plaintiff’s expert report explained how the dealer’s remediation of the initial defect caused the additional blemishes and imperfections, as well as provided an estimate to repair them, and an opinion relating to value diminution. The dealer’s expert evaluated the case details, examined the subject vehicle, and provided verbal consultation explaining its strengths and weaknesses. For example, the dealer’s expert explained the initial repair procedure and how some of the subsequent damage was related to it; education and insight into typical dealership repair work distribution and its relevance to this case; and affirmed some of plaintiff’s allegations regarding her damage claim. However, the dealer’s expert also explained how and why plaintiff’s damage claim was unreasonably high; the difficulty the plaintiff would likely have explaining how all the claimed subsequent damage resulted from the initial repair; how the selling dealer could lower its remediation costs and the effect this would have on settlement value; and how plaintiff’s value diminution claim was moot.
The case resolved at mediation.
R. Scott King, BSME, CFEI, Principal Automotive/Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.