Mechanic did not tighten cam bolt. It fell off. Engine ruined. Recourse?

mini
cooper

#1

Took my 2009 Mini Cooper to a friend of a friend who was reported to be a certified mechanic and had worked on minis before. He changed the water pump 3 weeks ago and it worked fine. Told me I need my timing belt fixed. I ordered the parts and he replaced the entire timing assembly last week. On Friday, the day after picking it up, my car died on the highway. Had it towed ($100) to the BMW dealer. When the tow truck driver unloaded the car he found a cam bolt had fallen off of the car and was laying in the bed of the truck. BMW put it back together ($590).but on of the cylinders has a piston jammed in it (4500 to fix). If it has to be replaced $8500. BMW says the bolt was not sheared off it just fell off because it was not retightened appropriately when the new timing assembly was replaced.

Problem. The mechanic was working from his father’s garage on the family’s personal property. Very nice 4 car garage with a lift and all the tools just like any other garage. Two of my friends recommended him plus the local Autozone manager. He doesn’t have insurance or a business license. He has no money to fix it. What is his liability? Would the property owners home insurance cover it? Someone said my insurance would cover it? I’m afraid to ask them for fear of screwing up my insurance. Any input would be great.


#2

Unless you signed a document called a “Contract for Hire” before the repairs were made, you’re out of luck.

Tester


#3

The absolute most that you can do personally is:
!. Ask that they pay damages.
2. Sue them in a civil suit when they refuse.

Prevailing in a civil suit will only get you a monetary judgement. Once the judgement is in hand then you have to resort to trying to collect on it. The judgement just gives you the legal ok to go after bank accounts and other assets.
One option that might exist here is with judgement in hand you could place a lien on the property where the work was done. The father of this guy is not going to like that for one minute and the lien will remain until the judgement is paid or the father wipes it out in bankruptcy court.

Depending upon the state, there may be zoning or licensing infractions the guy is guilty of. That won’t get you your money but might also get the guy in hot water with the city, county, or state; maybe even the Feds if things are going on there that are not environmentally correct.

It wouldn’t hurt to talk to your insurance company about this. It’s not very likely that it will have an effect on your policy and they may be able to answer any question about the homeowner policy the father has; or maybe doesn’t have. Odds are any homeowner policy would deny responsbility since they’re apparently running an unlicensed commercial venture there.


#4

Your recourse would be to present the original mechanic with all the evidence of what took place and see what he is willing to do.

His homeowner’s insurance has nothing to do with it. Your insurance might step in if it was a licensed insured facility, but there’s no way they are going to have anything to do with your choice to have a backyarder/DIY’er work on your car. You could try taking him to small claims court, but unless you have a bill of sale for his work he could flat out deny ever having seen you.

I suspect he will do nothing, and I don’t really think he has any obligation to. If you’re unloading your moving truck and offer a guy walking down the street $20 to help you move grandma’s $3000 antique table upstairs and he drops it, is he obligated to pay for it?

Finding a mechanic who does side work/cash jobs can often save you a lot of money. And sometimes cost you a lot. A shop is licensed and insured and has the resources to deal with this situation if and when it happens. I think you’re on your own for the repair bill here.


#5

"Finding a mechanic who does side work/cash jobs can often save you a lot of money. And sometimes cost you a lot. A shop is licensed and insured and has the resources to deal with this situation if and when it happens. I think you’re on your own for the repair bill here. "

Yeah - there are many reasons that it can cost more to go to shops. And one of then is that the shops have to pay the insurance and all of that. You went for saving money outside of a formal business. So you paid less and took risk in exchange. You lost this time.

My own approach would be “personal” (rather than legal or whatever). I’d go to this person, lay it out and ask if he’d be willing to help you get back on the road. “What if we found a used engine for it? Could you install that for me to help make up for this?” You’ll probably catch more flies with honey…


#6

Normally doing business at home whether his or his father’s property, requires a separate insurance rider for business. They aren’t going to cover additional liability from a business without additional premiums. Even so, this isn’t exactly a liability issue like not shoveling the sidewalk so I think any insurance claim is not going anywhere. To show damages for court, you have to have it repaired and even if you win, trying to collect is another matter. So I don’t know, I guess you just take your lumps and don’t go back. But certainly talk to him about it but I’m not sure I’d want him tearing into your engine.

Way back I bought a car with valve problems. I had a guy that worked for me and did car repairs on the side repair the valves. Cost me $350 which I thought was a little high at the time but no big deal. A week later the car was dead in my parking lot. Had it towed to a local guy who discovered the cam gear just laying in the pan. The bolt was never tightened. Didn’t do any damage but cost another $80 plus the towing. Of course I talked to my employee about it and of course swears it was tightened. Yeah sure. They guy works all day, then works at night. Works fast, and once in a while misses stuff because he’s going so fast. My problem though. Had it been a regular local shop, they would have taken care of it.


#7

@cigroller You are exactly correct. You pay more for vehicle repairs by a dealership or independent shop due to their overhead expenses which includes insurance. If you use a “shade tree” mechanic there is no warranty. It is your risk.


#8

I’m very picky about side jobs I do at my house . . .

No nasty jobs which will ruin the driveway

No engine repairs . . . timing belts and water pumps are fine

I don’t do sidejobs because I desperately need the money. Most of the time I’m helping somebody out for a modest fee. Most of the time it’s so modest it amounts to “beer money”

And I only help out acquaintances, neighbors, or good fiends of direct family members. No total strangers


#9

@db4690‌ “I don’t do sidejobs because I desperately need the money. Most of the time I’m helping somebody out for a modest fee. Most of the time it’s so modest it amounts to “beer money””

I never really did side jobs either, mostly just helping friends etc. Long time ago I lived next door to a guy who was a cabinetmaker/framer. One weekend I was starting to rebuild my backyard fence on the other side, he was laying in his driveway starting to replace the clutch in his wife’s Toyota. I was sure fixing my fence would take all weekend, maybe more. He looked at me and said “I can probably have that fence up in the time it would take you to replace this clutch.” We traded off and we were both done in half a day.


#10

Exactly

As a matter of fact, my neighbor is also a craftsman

A few times he came over, because he was struggling with something. I gladly took over

It was usually relatively minor stuff . . .taking a cluster out to check the bulbs, replacing a battery under the seat, removing a headlamp to replace a bulb, etc.

He has also done some projects on my house. The carpenter should stick to woodworking. And the mechanic should stick to automobiles.

Generally speaking . . .


#11

He has no money…

Sorry it did not work out.


#12

At least talk to him. A little money from him would be better than none. You should talk to a legitimate shop on doing your repairs. The BMW shop is the highest priced shop out there.
Good luck!


#13

Yes, go talk first.
A d.i.y. with that much shop and materials to do all that work must have some recourse in mind for such occasions, even just a savings account.
But be ready for him to argue for …’‘proof’’ that it was in fact his mistake .

I once put on a bug shield but failed to notice all of the possible side clearance when allowing for wobble .
one side corner rubbed through the paint on the hood and I had to buy a hood re-paint.
Lesson learned…the hard way.


#14

Well, lets see what the situation really is. He is defrauding the state he lives in unless they have no sales tax, the federal and state income tax laws, the licensing laws of his state, his father in laws homeowners insurance company and the medicare tax laws. you conspired with him to do all of this to get a better price and now you want the recourse you would have with a legitimate business. Good luck with that.


#15

I think the OP knew this was not a “commercial” establishment and used a backyard mechanic to save some money. There is a risk, a backyard mechanic does not have insurance to cover their mistakes. Basically, the OP took a risk and lost.

The backyard mechanic could own up to the problem and they might work out an arrangement to buy a used motor and have the backyard mechanic install it. Who pays for what and how much is just something you have to work out. I don’t think small claims court would satisfy the OP since the mechanic in this case is working on his own time not in a commercial shop.


#16

Agreed. One reason backyard mechanics are so much cheaper than normal mechanics is that they aren’t paying for insurance policies that cover incidents like this.


#17

A tort suit can be brought against anyone for any reason. This one could be worth a shot and a lien on property can be a great persuader to even things up.

There’s also another option if one wanted to play a bit more hardball. One has to wonder how much income the guy is bringing in and not declaring on taxes. The IRS has a form (3949 or something like that) for reporting someone. Easy to use and if there is some funny business going on the last thing that guy will want is an IRS agent looking things over.

Just my 2 cents, but I’ve worked for 5 dealers over the years and none of them carried insurance for mechanic screw-ups. It’s a combination of self-insured and coercion.


#18

Even small independent shops often have insurance. Working on corporate fleets required me to carry $1million of garage keepers liability insurance. And it wasn’t cheap.

But in my state hiring an unlicensed individual to repair your car makes them your employee, and that makes the car owner the employer. And of course, the employer is responsible for their employee’s errors.


#19

U paid him? At least get a refund.


#20

“One reason backyard mechanics are so much cheaper than normal mechanics is that they aren’t paying for insurance policies that cover incidents like this.”

Also, they usually don’t have the specialized tools for certain tasks that a legitimate repair shop would have bought. In addition to making a repair more difficult and more time consuming, failure to use certain specialized tools can lead to damaging the customer’s car.