What is your shop liable for? Are you a "Reasonable Person"?

Andrew Technician Commack, New York Posted   Latest  

When I researched liability in our industry years ago, the main or only take away I could come up with was the legal concept of a "Reasonable Person":

A person has acted negligently if she has departed from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances. The hypothetical reasonable person provides an objective by which the conduct of others is judged. In law, the reasonable person is not an average person or a typical person but a composite of the community's judgment as to how the typical community member should behave in situations that might pose a threat of harm to the public. Even though the majority of people in the community may behave in a certain way, that does not establish the standard of conduct of the reasonable person. For example, a majority of people in a community may jay-walk, but jaywalking might still fall below the community's standards of safe conduct.

law​.​jrank​.​org/pages/8780/Neg…

What does a reasonable shop owner or technician do in all cases? What do you do if a customer's vehicle is unsafe and repairs are declined? For example, the vehicle is being driven on may-pop tires with the steel belts coming out, the brakes are down to the metal, or there is a fuel leak under the hood? To my knowledge the only way to avoid liability in these cases is to have the vehicle towed off of your property. A related concept is "Duty of care":

In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence. The claimant must be able to show a duty of care imposed by law which the defendant has breached. In turn, breaching a duty may subject an individual to liability. 

en​.​wikipedia​.​org/wiki/Duty_of_c…

If you know of any examples where someone has sued a shop and alleged liability for personal injury, please share them.

Just what standard could we really be held up to?

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Michael Mobile Technician
Clinton, Utah
Michael
 

Andrew, It seems that you have put some real research into this. From what I have heard and seen it is more about emotion and victim mentality than the law. Most shops that end up in small claims court over repair issues rarely come out the victor. Not because his company did something wrong but because there is prejudice against the auto repair industry. The poor consumer lays his claim upon…

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Samantha Manager
Claremont, California
Samantha
 

As always, my disclaimer is that I have zero automotive experience. I'm the person that a bad mechanic could probably sell blinker fluid to ;) That being said: Would Due Diligence have any form of protection for shops? noun: LAW reasonable steps taken by a person in order to satisfy a legal requirement, especially in buying or selling something. A comprehensive appraisal of a business…

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Christopher Technician
San Antonio, Texas
Christopher
 

This is pretty much what we do, though without an actual waiver document. Lines are added to the RO with "vehicle is unsafe to operate" and "customer declined repairs" (or similar verbiage) in the description, which must be signed & acknowledged by the customer before the vehicle is released. This (in theory) places the liability of operating an unsafe vehicle squarely on their…

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Anthony Technical Support Specialist
Kirkwood, Pennsylvania
Anthony
 

Hi Samantha: In a forum such as this, these types of discussions are fraught with potential liability. Why's that, you say? Because I haven't heard anyone in this forum claim to be a product liability attorney. Even if someone here is one, each state has its own take (laws and regulations) on things. So, where's the potential liability? People tend to forget inconvenient l'il factoids like what…

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Samantha Manager
Claremont, California
Samantha
   

Guido, Those are excellent points, especially considering how murky legal waters tend to be. I suppose in my response I was thinking along the lines of small-claims court, where perhaps the parties are representing themselves (did someone say Judge Judy?!). Or perhaps it could be wise of shops to reach out to their local lawyers and have a document drawn up. Sure, you can't waive a victims…

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Anthony Technical Support Specialist
Kirkwood, Pennsylvania
Anthony
 

Hi Samantha: I call this a trade and not an industry. The reason is that an industry has standards. IF, those populating this trade, ad hoc (using the literal definition), are willing to support and adhere to standards, then it becomes an industry. Put some money and soft skills (threats) behind it and there may be enough political muscle to be in a position to "help" write the rules. What's…

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Michael Owner/Technician
Quakertown, Pennsylvania
Michael
 

These types of situations don't happen too often but when they do...see what I did there? lol If a repair is declined and the vehicle leaves unsafe the customer needs to sign a waiver. Never had any push back from that. In PA we can not legally condemn a vehicle. We had ONE vehicle that had NO brakes due to rotted lines. The customer insisted on taking it off the lot "i'll just keep putting…

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