Legal Question in Mediation in Washington

Property law

I was having my truck worked on at a local dealer. A con man entered the service shop passing himself off as a paint and body guy, then talked the service department out of the keys to my truck. 5 weeks later the truck was found with some stuff stripped out of it and dinged up. I am told the dealers insurance company is paying for the repairs and my property that was in the truck. I looked in on the truck last week and found the dealer is using parts from a local salvage yard (gas tank, steering column). The dealer has had my car for 8 days now and the only repairs they have made is to replace the steering column. I want new parts, money for my personal property, my truck detailed, a 1 year-no deductible-nationwide warranty, and the money back for two months of truck payments while my car was not in my possession. The dealer has had me in a rental since my truck went in but it's a small, cheap car that doesn't fit my needs. The owner of the business and service manager has never called me first person. I was the one to initiate the meetings, the talks, the phone calls to find out about my truck, the status of repairs, and I have yet to hear back on the coverage I want. What type of attorney do I need should this turn into a cause

Asked on 4/05/09, 3:00 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Amir John Showrai The Pacific Law Firm, PLLC
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Re: Property law

You are looking for someone who handles consumer disputes or tort claims. Depending on how much damage was done, you may find someone to take it on a contingency basis or an hourly basis. Without more info, I'd guess most attorneys would only touch this case on an hourly rate.

Most courts would allow using junkyard parts. Consider that you did not have a brand new steering column or fuel tank when you took the truck in. Giving you a new one would be going beyond what you lost. The law is not here to say, "it's the least we can do and you deserve better to make up for what happened." On the contrary, the law is designed to try and put you back in the very same position you were in when you brought the truck to the dealer originally-with a used tank and steering column.

Getting money for your personal property is not really an issue. What is an issue is proving what personal property you had in the vehicle to begin with. Additionally, does the estimate or invoice or any paperwork from the dealer contain a disclaimer against loss or theft of property left in the vehicle? That may be an issue in court. From there, assuming everyone agrees on what you had in the truck that was stolen from the truck, the next issue is how much was it all worth?

If you had a 2 year old iPod in the truck, you are entitled to the value of the iPod at the time it was stolen, not the replacement cost for a brand new one. So, if two year old iPods are going for $60 on eBay or Craigslist, and new ones are going for $250, guess what? You're getting $60 from the Court.

Last, regarding the substitute vehicle, normally when you take in a vehicle the courtesy cars are merely a perk for taking it in to a dealer and you are going to get a Ford when you go to the Lincoln dealer. However, given your situation, I think you are correct: They should have given you a comparable vehicle right from the get go, once they realized they literally got conned out of your truck. So, you have two choices about what to do about this. Either keep using what they give you and later ask a court to make up the difference with cash. You can alternately rent a similar truck and ask for the rental cost to be reimbursed to you, but you risk not getting such an award.

I think if you hire an attorney to at least write the dealer a letter after going through all the paperwork and spell out the law and all the dealer's liabilities and your demands, you may be able to get their attention a little more effectively and hopefully more quickly settle this matter.

The alternative is to go to court, with a lawyer and spend perhaps more than you lost in the first place on lawyer's fees, with no guarantee that you'll win. If you go without a lawyer, the odds are you'll make errors procedurally and that will cause you all sorts of lost time and maybe outright losing the case.

To that end, I am happy to help you out. Just e-mail me or call anytime.

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4/05/09, 4:19 pm

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