November 07, 2019
On October 15, 2019, the Court of Appeals released its published opinion in Anaya v Betten Chevrolet, Inc., In the case, the Plaintiff sustained injuries in an automobile accident that occurred after one of the tires came off the vehicle in which he was a passenger. Plaintiff and the vehicle’s owner, Doris Myricks, had just left the Betten Chevrolet car dealership following a tire rotation service for the vehicle.
Plaintiff brought suit against Betten Chevrolet and the service technician who performed the tire rotation, alleging that the Defendants failed to properly perform the vehicle maintenance, rotate the tires, and secure the tires to the vehicle, leading the tire to come loose, the crash to occur, and the Plaintiff to suffer injuries. Plaintiff brought his claim, in part, under the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Act (MVSRA), specifically MCL 25.1307a(a) and (e), which regulates the practice of servicing and repairing motor vehicles, and proscribes unfair and deceptive practices in connection with these activities. In pertinent part, the Act imposes liability on a motor vehicle repair facility when it charges for repairs that are not, in fact, performed, or when it fails to perform promised repairs within the time agreed or within a reasonable amount of time. According to the Plaintiff, the Defendants violated these provisions of the Act by failing to properly complete the tire rotation. As a result, Plaintiff sought damages, costs, and reasonable attorney fees, all of which the Act permits as awards for those who successfully bring claims under it.
At trial, Plaintiff moved for directed verdict that Defendants violated the MVSRA by charging for a repair that was not performed. Defendants responded that they completed the repair, albeit incorrectly, and that they could not be held liable under the Act because the Plaintiff was not their customer and because the language of the Act did not support a finding that they “failed” to perform the tire rotation, thus seeking directed verdict in their favor. The trial court entered a directed verdict in favor of the Plaintiff on his MVSRA claim. The trial court did not grant the Plaintiff’s request for penalty damages, which the Act permits under certain specific circumstances, but the trial court did award the Plaintiff costs and attorney fees, which the Defendants contested on appeal.
The Court of Appeals first found that Plaintiff did not need to be Defendants’ customer to bring a claim under MVSRA. The Court agreed with the Defendants’ position, however, that the Act’s plain language did not support a finding that the Defendants had “failed” to perform the promised services. In this regard, the trial court determined that the Defendants did not “perform” the tire rotation because they failed to tighten the lug nuts on at least one of the wheels of the subject vehicle. The Court of Appeals explained, however, that the term “perform” means “to carry out an action.” It generally “refers to the completion of an action according to an established procedure; the term does not imply that the action has been completed properly, successfully, or without mistake.” Further, the Court explained, to conclude otherwise and affirm the reasoning of the trial court “would transform every negligent repair into a statutory violation,” which the Court said would have contradicted the Legislative intent of the Act. Accordingly, since the Plaintiff presented evidence that the Defendants performed the tire rotation negligently but did not present any evidence that the Defendants had not “performed” the tire rotation to begin with, the Court held the Defendants could not have violated the Act and reversed the trial court’s entry of a directed verdict in Plaintiff’s favor. The Court remanded for entry of a judgment in the Defendants’ favor on the MVSRA claim. The Court also vacated the trial court’s related award of attorney fees and costs to the Plaintiff, and permitted Defendants to tax costs on appeal as the prevailing parties.
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Sarah Nadeau, Editor of the Law Fax Publication, is a Shareholder in our Detroit Office. Sarah can be reached at 313.446.1530 or firstname.lastname@example.org