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To sue or not to sue??

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Old 09-21-2007, 08:14 AM
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Default To sue or not to sue??

Hey guys, need some opinions on a possible small claims ordeal I might be going through. Sorry for the long post, but I think it will help give some background about the situation. So back in August '06, I had some top end problems in my 454 mag. The local mechanic I took it to came recommended by a couple locals, and also a gentleman on this board. So, I took the boat in, and he tore it down, and found I had a bent valve. So, I told him to go ahead and fix the heads and go through them and replace what needed to be replaced, and have any machine work done that needed taken care of. So, he did, and had a local machine shop do all the machine work. I got the boat back, and was told both heads were gone through, and all is good to go. So, I had a $2400 bill for all the work that was done. Because it took a while for him to get it done, I used it one last time in September '06 for a total run time of 2 hours or so before winterizing it. Fast forward to early June '07, and I got it out of storage to use for the summer. All is well, and got it ready to go. Dropped it in the water for the first time in '07, and put about 20 minutes on it before the cable to the outdrive was wore through because it was routed wrong when the heads were put back on. So, I was stranded and towed back to the launch. Talked to the mechanic because it was obviously routed wrong as it was rubbing on the shaft to the outdrive, and didnt take long to wear a hole right through. I was told by him it was like that when I brought it to him, and it wasnt his fault. I was a bit pissed that if it was like that, he wouldnt have told me about it if indeed he did notice it, but had a feeling he just fubared and didnt want to be accountable. So, I forked over more money to have that fixed. So, now up to end of June '07, and boat is supposed to be good to go, new top end, new cable, should be set. Took it out, and used it for about 15 minutes, and the motor sounded like it was about to explode. Rattled and knocked like crazy, so I shut it down. Got towed once again back to the launch, and back on the trailer once again. This time I took it to a different mechanic, and he tore it down. In the lower end this time, there was a lobe wiped off the cam, 2 bent valves, rod bearings fused to the crank, crank unuseable. So, this mechanic took the motor down state to a machine shop that he uses, which happens to be in the Baja dealership in Bay City MI. They told me I would basically need a short block because of the damage, so I bought a short block they had built and was waiting for a buyer. I told them my heads were just gone through, so hopefully the majority of it would have survived. They told me they would go through them and check everything out. Thats when they found the bent valves. What I didnt expect them to tell me was that the $2400 I spent to have the heads done in '06 was basically a waste of money. They found mismatched valves, wrong size valve guides, so the valves were sticking, machine work that was obvious to them, should have been done previously, and wasnt. So, basically I have about 3-4 hours of run time on the top end work that was done, and come to find out, most of it was wrong parts, and shoddy machine work. I breifly talked to a lawyer, and he said it sounds like I have a case to take the first mechanic to small claims court, and get my money back. But, he admittedly didnt know much about the marine industry. So, my question to you guys is, do I have a case, and can I get my money back for what I paid for that was never done? Again sorry for the long post guys.
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Old 09-21-2007, 08:29 AM
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I have been hearing a few stories like this latley. Makes you afraid to take your boat in for repairs. Good luck with what you decide to do.
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Old 09-21-2007, 08:43 AM
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Go to your local district court and file a "warrant in debt" - essentially a small claims warrant. You can do them up to $5,000. The Police will serve the defendant with a warrant to appear in court. At that time you can state your case and see what happens - OR, MOST LIKELY - you will get their attention and they will work out somethign with you. Most business either don't have the time, or don't want their name to appear in court so they are willing to work something out with you - and the fee for filing is nominal (~$50).

Personal Experience:

1. - I ordered some granite countertops online, they arrived unuseable adn after a year I never had my replacements or any sense that I was goign to get a refund. I filled out a warrant in debt that I printed off the internet, scanned it, and gave them the ulitimatum that they refund my money by the end of business on "x" day or I woudl file the action - long story short, I had my money back the next day in full.

2. - Our wedding photographer took a 1650 deposit and we didn't hear from her from for 8 months. Wouldn't return our calls or anything. This time I actualy filed a warrant in debt, the local PD served her the papers, and I had a check before the court date rolled around.

GOOD LUCK!
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Old 09-21-2007, 08:44 AM
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I know what your going through. I had a similar problem with a builder in NJ. A motor he built for me was supposed to take 2 weeks it took 6 months & detonated first time out. He repaired it & it wiped out a cam in 15min. 6 weeks later he put a new cam in & that wiped out. I brought it to a well known builder & he found 27 year old rocker arms, a cam from 1996 and the motor needed a complete rebuild. So you should sue not for the money but so no one else gets screwed.
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Old 09-21-2007, 08:46 AM
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The lawyer will be the only one to win in a boat lawsuit. However, if you're really pissed off, sue the individual, plan on loosing more money, wasting a lot of time, increasing your stress, but in the end have the satisfaction of the courts saying you are in the right, however no legal recourse to collect on damages. These guys are smart and have great ways to pass the buck and protect their assets.

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Old 09-21-2007, 08:50 AM
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Thanks for the info SeaFordGuy. That is basically what the lawyer I talked to told me to do. He said more than likely, the mechanic won't want his business showing up as being named in the lawsuit, so he would probably just try and settle it and get it over with. The first mechanic subletted the head work to a machine shop here locally, and all the mechanic did was disassemble and reassemble when it was complete. I actually think it was the machine shop that is at fault for the bad/wrong machine work, but I was told I would need to take the mechanic to small claims because he subletted the repairs to the machine shop. In turn, he can then go after the machine shop if he so chooses. Thanks guys.
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Old 09-21-2007, 08:55 AM
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Thanks for the reply BraceYourself. I just consulted with a lawyer to find out what my plan of action should be. It would be a small claims thing, so neither party would be represented by a lawyer. Its just set in front of a small claims judge, and he basically hears both sides of the case, and makes a judgement, so there would be no representation fees involved.
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Old 09-21-2007, 09:18 AM
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I just completed a case in small claims where a company paint oversprayed our vehicles twice. Documentation was the key to victory. Pictures, letters, etc. Try and get the second dealer to provide you written info. on what they found. Regarding an engine builder not wanting their name mentioned in a trial - I have found they just don't care. So be prepared to go all the way with the case and not just scare tactics. Good luck - Tommy ps: If you're a member of BoatUS, they can defintely provide some assistance with legal matters.
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Old 09-21-2007, 09:21 AM
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Try to get any bad dirt you possibly can get to build a case against this guy. The more stories you can get from boat owners where he messed up their ride, especially in writing, the more it will make him look negligent.
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Old 09-21-2007, 09:39 AM
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Thanks for the replies guys. I had the machine/Baja dealer downstate document eveything as far as their finding and whatnot, and also have them sending me all the old parts so I have physical eveidence, so it doesnt turn in to a he said she said thing. So, I think Im covered as far as documentation and physical evidence.
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