Legal Question in Consumer Law in California

On November 24, 2013, my daughterís 2001 VW Beetle would not start. When she turned the key the car would make a clicking sound as if the battery was dead. We called AAA and they sent a technician to our location. The technician (Brett) with Advanced Towing ran a test on her vehicle using a meter. The meter indicated a bad battery. Brett said he would jump start her car so that we could drive it home and then replace the battery. He connected the jumper cables to her battery and then proceeded to connect the cables to his battery (a lose battery). He connected the positive to the negative and the negative to the positive and there was a pretty significant spark. He said ďoh man there goes that battery, oh well itís under warrantyĒ. My husband immediately turned to me and said thatís not good he couldíve just did some damage. At this time, all the ignition symbols in the vehicle came on. Brett got another battery from his vehicle and attempted to jump start it again. The car would not turn over so he used his vehicle to jump start her car. Her car did start but would not maintain an idle or go into gear (none of which was a problem before). He tried to run another test using his meter and the meter came back saying ERROR. My husband said you may have done some damage when you crossed the cables and Brett replied yeah possibly but more than likely I only blew a fuse which you can buy from Kragen or Oírielly. I walked away to call my brother who knows more about vehicles to see if he could let us know if the technician couldíve caused damage to our vehicle and before I got off the phone Brett was gone. He told my husband and daughter that he was going to call a tow truck for us and left rather abruptly.

We immediately called and reported the incident to AAA. AAA assured us that a tow truck was on the way and a supervisor would be calling us within two business days regarding the incident. The tow truck arrived about an hour later. We explained to the driver (Humberto) what had happened and he told us that this was not the first time Brett has made this mistake. He did the same thing to a Lexus just weeks earlier which caused a lot of damage to the vehicle. My husband rode with Humberto as he towed the vehicle back to our house. He also told us that Brett had lied when he called the tow truck in, saying that we had electrical damage and he could not help us. He never indicated that he crossed the cables when he made the call. Once we arrived at our house Humberto took the car off the truck and called his supervisor (Craig). Craig told him to load the car back up and take it to their shop. Craig spoke to my husband and assured him the vehicle will be looked at first thing Monday morning and fixed as soon as possible.

My husband spoke to the owner of the company (Ramin) on Monday and explained to him that our daughter is on Thanksgiving break from school and needs her vehicle. He assured my husband that it would be fixed soon and if not he would supply a rental car. They had the car until Wednesday when they called and said the car was repaired. My husband went to pick it up and noticed that the ignition symbol lights were still on and the radio didnít work. He immediately told Ramin and Ramin started checking fuses as my husband and daughter waited. He replaced a couple of fuses and the lights went off but the radio still did not work. Ramin said ok itís just the radio but the car runs fine so go ahead and take it and weíll look at the radio when we have more time (this was the day before Thanksgiving). So my husband drove the car home.

The next morning (Thanksgiving) my husband decided to drive the car to his motherís to make sure it was ok to drive before we let our daughter drive it. He went about 2 miles and all the lights came on again and the car died.

Friday moring my husband called Ramin and told him that the car died. Ramin then told my husband that he could take the vehicle to our mechanic of choice and he would pay for it. My husband let him know that we have always taken it to the dealer for any repairs because we have not found a mechanic that will work on VWís (we have proof of all the work we have ever had done at the dealer). He said thatís fine just take it in and Iíll take care of it. My husband replaced the battery and was able to start the car but all the lights remained on and I followed him to the dealer. My husband explained to the dealer what had happened and we left the car there.

Saturday afternoon the dealer called and said that the wires from the alternator were fried and needed to be replaced and could be a direct result from crossing the battery cables. The cost to repair these wires would be $742. My husband called Ramin to let him know and a supervisor told my husband that Ramin could not be reached. He also told my husband that he shouldnít have taken the car to the dealer that they have a mechanic that could fix it for much less. My husband told him that we gave them a chance to fix the vehicle and they had it for three days and could not find the problem. My husband figured it was poor communication between the two of them because Ramin told my husband to take it to the dealer. So my husband called the dealer and told them to do the repairs.

On Monday, my husband called and spoke to Ramin and he said that he was not paying for it unless my husband brings in the vehicle and the old part for his mechanic to look at to be sure it was a legitimate repair. He said that dealers will make things up to make money especially around the holidays. My husband said well meet me at the dealer and you can speak to them directly and he said no I am not paying for it until my mechanic looks at it. He also told my husband that he just wanted him to take it to the dealer to find out what was wrong with it and then take it back to his mechanic so they can fix it, not to have the dealer fix it.

During all of this time, AAA never called us back even though they said a supervisor would call us in two business days. We didnít contact them because we were informed by Humberto that Advance Towing likes to handle things without AAA being involved so that they wonít lose their contract. As far as we could tell Advance Towing was going to take care of things and make it right so there was no reason to involve AAA aside from making an initial report of the incident.

Because Ramin is now back stepping on taking responsibility we felt the need to notify AAA and clue them in on what has taken place. AAA says they will contact our daughter in 7 to 10 days to start a claim. They said they will have to deal with her and not my husband because she is the AAA member on that account. She is a 17 year old girl.

In the meantime, we need to pick up the vehicle from the dealer and have no choice but to pay for it out of our own pocket. Can you advise on what we should do?

Asked on 12/03/13, 12:21 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Kelvin Green The Law Office of Kelvin Green

First pay for the car and get it back.

Assist your daughter with the AAA claim.

Notify in writing the towing company and repair shop of the claim, and tell them if claim is not resolved, then you will hold them responsible. The repair shop was supposed to fix it, they did not but it does not sound like you paid them anything so the Towing company who caused the issues is liable. The towing company may claim they offered to fix it and provided a shop and repairs. They were responsible to get it back to where it was... They will claim that they did not authorize you to take it to dealer, so you will need to show the faulty repair shop was their agent or the fact that they told you take it elsewhere was an enforceable contract.

At the end of the day if they don't pay and claim is not resolved by AAA, I would file against all three in small claims, and let the court decide who is responsible for how much.

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Answered on 12/04/13, 3:52 am

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