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Woman can sue dealership for failing to identify needed repairs

In a complicated case, Ruth Webb's car shuddered and vibrated after it was repaired following a minor collision.  She complained repeatedly to Progressive Insurance and Adrian Dodge, the entity that was paid to fix the front end.  Adrian Dodge claimed it couldn't find anything else wrong and Progressive claimed that any additional problems with the car related to normal "wear and tear."  Webb had the vehicle examined by other mechanics who confirmed collision damage, but when she sued Adrian Dodge in Small Claims to compel it to complete the repairs, the magistrate ruled against her. 

A few weeks later, she lost control of the car when it began vibrating and Webb was badly hurt in a collision. A mechanic who examined the vehicle found damage in the left tie rod socket and steering knuckle that he felt was related to the original collision and the vibration problem--and which he believed caused the second collision.

When Webb sued Progressive for denying the original repairs, Progressive added insult to injury by blaming Adrian Dodge as a third-party at fault, even though it had refused to pay for any further inspections by the dealership.  Webb added the dealership as a defendant but the lower court held that she was bound by the magistrate's previous decision and dismissed her claim against Adrian Dodge. 

The Court of Appeals reversed, noting that when she sued in Small Claims, she could not claim her damages from the second accident because it hadn't happened yet.  Further, the issue of Adrian Dodge's negligence or "failure of due care" hadn't been decided in that earlier contract action.  Therefore, Mrs. Webb was allowed to take her negligence claim to a jury against Adrian Dodge and Progressive.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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