#MrLube pays up! Lawsuit settled! Justice delivered! #LdnOnt

A mere 539 days after one of his Mr. Lube employees botched the oil change in my car by stripping the oil pan plug, 443 days after I filed a claim against him in small claims court, and 71 days after he avoided a trial by offering to settle, Donald (aka Matt) Rowswell finally made good today on his word and delivered a cheque for $500.

That was the amount I agree to accept to settle my suit – far less than I claimed, less even than the $600 repair – but a figure I could justify to end the matter without the expense of going to trial.

 Settlement cheque from Donald/Matt Rowswell, at the location of the botched oil change

Settlement cheque from Donald/Matt Rowswell, at the location of the botched oil change

To be accurate, old Donald/Matt didn’t deliver the cheque himself. He had his paralegal representative, Ronald Trachy of St. Thomas, swing by and deliver the money.

In the nearly 15 months since I sued Donald/Matt, I have never heard from him directly. His company, variously known as Cardoc or Caradoc Enterprise, operates two Mr. Lubes in London, at Oxford & Wonderland and at Highbury & Cheapside.

When I first noticed an oil slick forming in my garage, I naively expected the fine folks at Mr. Lube to pay for the repairs performed by real technicians at Leavens Volkswagen, the dealership where I bought the car.

That was the first time old Donald/Matt gave me the brush off. He didn’t return my calls. Instead he had his right-hand man Mike Morrow call and offer to pay half the cost of the $600 repair. As you can read about at length below in posts detailing the entire series of events, Mike told me part of his job was “to make sure you don’t talk to him.”

Eventually, I got to set eyes on Donald/Matt at a settlement meeting in small claims court Jan. 30, 2015. He was there because he was required to attend as part of the lengthy small claims process. He let his esteemed legal representative do the talking and never addressed me directly. We didn’t reach a settlement that day, so the court set a trial date of May 12, 2015.

The looming trial date prompted Donald/Matt to make an offer of $500 on May 11. In a moment, I’ll explain why I accepted and what happened at the closed-door settlement conference, but for now I’ll note Donald/Matt continued his honourable behaviour by waiting 71 days to finally pay up. And that was only after I threatened to refile the claim and have the court set a new trial date if he continued to stall. His idea of “a reasonable period of time,” which is what’s required to pay a settlement is much like his idea of “a quality oil change,” i.e. open to interpretation.

Since I began writing about this process, I’ve received a lot of emails and tweets from people across the country unhappy with their Mr. Lube service. Some have asked if they should sue. Obviously, one lesson is that the process is long and finicky. If the other side doesn’t take your claim seriously and misses the deadline to file a defence, don’t be surprised if the court rubber-stamps an extension. As you can read below, I actually got a judgment against Cardoc/Caradoc in June, 2014, because Donald/Matt hadn’t bothered responding within the required three weeks. But that was set aside when legal beagle Trachy asked for, and received, a mulligan.

When he finally got around to filing a defence, it turned out to be both entertaining and fanciful. Read Part 6 below to see the long list of laughable defences Mr. Trachy cooked up for his reclusive client.

Throughout the process, I wondered if the Mr. Lube folks were reading my accounts of the suit. I had my answer in the first minute of the Jan. 30 settlement hearing. Mr. Trachy, resplendent in a three-piece suit, asked the presiding justice of the peace to instruct me to apologize for referring to him as a “paralegal flunky” on this blog.

The JP, whose name I don’t recall, said I might well have to apologize if I were a lawyer. But since I’m not, there was no need to apologize, and the settlement conference continued for more than an hour.

I wasn’t allowed to discuss what was said there until the matter was settled or went to trial. Here’s where I will offer a bit of advice to anyone contemplating a small claims suit: Even if you’ve filed all the paperwork yourself and know every detail of the case, you should take a paralegal with you to the settlement conference.

I thoroughly enjoyed the hour. I took every opportunity to needle the other side about the various – and numerous -- mistakes in the papers they had filed to that point. When you can’t nail down the correct name of your company, I think you open yourself up to some ridicule. I took great pleasure in trying to annoy the other side, and in the moment it was a lot of fun. However, it probably reduced the chances of a settlement, both that day and in the many weeks that followed.

The moment I rejected a settlement in that meeting, the JP filled out the forms to set a trial date and informed me I would have to produce a list of witnesses. Since I had neither any witnesses nor a coherent plan for a trial, I quickly realized I might have been better to accept a settlement, even for less than I thought was fair.

That’s when I turned to paralegal Steven Keyes, a terrific guy who took over the process leading to the May 12 trial date. He assured me Ronald Trachy is a fine fellow. Assuming he’s right, I’m left to infer the delaying and stalling tactics of the last 15 months have come from his client, old Donald/Matt.

Again, I’ve never spoken with Donald/Matt, so I have only his actions by which to judge him. And by that standard, I’ve concluded he’s not someone I would let change the oil in a patio lantern, let alone my car. Besides ducking me at every turn, he filed a motion with the court blaming everyone but himself for the general chaos within the Cardoc/Caradoc empire when he missed the deadline to file his defence.

In a court document, he said a “lack of communication” meant my suit “was not brought to my attention in a diligent manner, and that through no fault of my own I was unable to respond in a timely fashion.”

To which I say: Poppycock.

By the end of May, the deadline by which he was required to respond, six weeks had passed since his right hand man, Mike Morrow, offered to pay half the cost of the repair. When I turned that down, I told him I would sue. What are the odds Mike didn’t bother to mention that to old Matt/Donald? And then on May 5, when I served the papers, the store manager, Jerry DeLyzer, made a phone call before accepting them from me. Whom do you suppose he called? His mother? Donald/Matt’s mother?

I’d bet all the Mr. Lube coupons that arrive in my mailbox this year he called Donald/Matt or second-in-command Mike Morrow. But, I’d only be guessing.

What I know for certain is three weeks later, when he missed the deadline, old Donald/Matt was quick to throw his employees under the bus, blaming them for not keeping him informed about the fact he was being sued.

And then, after agreeing to pay $500 to settle the matter, he didn’t produce a nickel until I moved to put the matter back on the court schedule and proceed with a trial.

Maybe he’s just a really busy guy, running his two Mr. Lube franchises and all. Or maybe he’s always out of the room when they give out the ethics awards.

The only thing I know for certain is I won’t ever frequent his business again. I now get my oil changed at Leavens VW, where I bought the car. It’s not quite as convenient, but it costs less. And, of course, I’m confident the technicians there can install an oil pan plug without stripping the threads.

For the whole story, scroll down and read my earlier posts. Thanks to everyone who has followed the saga and offered support. May all your oil changes be hassle-free. 

Part 1

April 22, 2014

            For most people, the court system is little more than the backdrop for some of our favorite movies and TV shows. We might get a glimpse of the courthouse when called for jury duty, as I was two years ago. But even then, we’re likely to be done that day -- not chosen for a case or rejected by one of the two sides, as I was after my name was called.

Here in London, Ont., the courthouse is one of the ugliest buildings in the downtown skyline, a dreary concrete edifice with all the charm of the Grinch on Christmas Eve. Thousands of people drive by the building every day without giving any thought to what goes on inside.

I’ll be heading down there sometime in the next week or so. I’m going to sue someone.

I’ve only ever sued one person, a deadbeat who hired me to write some promotional copy for his business and then refused to pay. I won rather easily since he didn’t really have – or offer – a defence. Winning easily in small claims court is not really that easy. It takes time and money to fill out the various forms and it takes months for your little action to snake its way through the bureaucracy. But it does eventually.

Winning also doesn’t mean you swing by the courthouse to pick up the money the court has awarded you. What you get is a judgment saying the defendant owes you the money. Then it’s up to you to collect it. In my case, after trying for weeks to contact the deadbeat, I simply walked into his office and demanded payment. Surprised to see me, he offered a weak excuse and wrote a cheque. He then asked me to sign a form indicating I would cease further legal action after being paid. That he had this form handy suggested maybe getting sued was not a new experience for him.

Next week I’m going to sue Matt Rowswell. He owns at least two Mr. Lube franchises in London, at 1149 Highbury Ave. and 591 Oxford St. W. I don’t know much more about him because he refuses to talk to me.

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At the end of January, I went to his Oxford St. location and had my oil changed for $126.25. That’s a lot to have the oil changed, but I drive a Volkswagen and that seems to inflate the cost of oil changes regardless of where they’re done. What I didn’t know that day was that the technician (loosely defined) stripped the threads on the oil pan when he screwed in the oil pan plug. As a result, within six weeks, I had a gushing oil leak.

Because it was still winter and because the floor of my garage was always wet from melting snow, I didn’t notice the oil on the floor right away. I think a week went by before I noticed a slick even Capt. Joseph Hazelwood of Exxon Valdez fame would have found impressive. So I took the car, a 2012 Tiguan, to my VW dealership, Leavens Volkswagen here in London. The car was and is under warranty. I left the car early that morning, hopped on the shuttle and looked forward to having it fixed that night.

Alas, it was not to be.

The Leavens technicians (appropriately defined) discovered the damaged oil pan threads and let me know the only fix was to order a new oil pan, which would take two or three days to arrive. My car could not be driven at that point, so I rented a car and sashayed over to Mr. Lube to let them know what had happened. I talked to store manager Ryan Dick and asked him to call Leavens to arrange to pay for the repair. It seemed obvious to me that the botched oil change six weeks earlier had caused the subsequent leak. Funny how these things work, but Ryan Dick was unable to connect with anyone at Leavens. And he was unable to pay me directly for the repair.

He did give me the name of his area supervisor, Michael Morrow (Michael.mrlube45@gmail.com) whom I called after I got my car back. By then I knew exactly what the repair cost: $591.21. Michael Morrow would not give me Matt Rowswell’s contact information, saying “that’s my job, to make sure you don’t talk to him.”

After a lengthy soliloquy about Mr. Lube policies and the vagaries of changing VW oil pan plugs, he offered to pay for half of the repair. I responded by asking if he believed I was half to blame for the damage to my car. Oh no, he said, I wasn’t to blame at all. That was good to hear. I could sleep better that night.

 2012 VW Tiguan

2012 VW Tiguan

I told him I expected his employer to pay for the entire repair. I also said that if I didn’t hear back, I would sue him for the repair costs, the cost of the rental car and for the $126 I paid in January for the crappy oil change.

That comes to something over $1,200, not including the fees I will pay to file the claim, not including the time I’m wasting by doing all this, for which I expect to be compensated as well. (On a side note, just because Enterprise will ‘pick you up’ when you need a car, don’t expect to save any money. It cost more than $500 for me to rent a Dodge Avenger for four days. Ouch.)

That conversation with Michael Morrow was April 14. He must be a busy man because he has yet to get back to me to let me know what his owner said when he passed along my message.

Several people have suggested to me they might be stalling or putting me off to see if I’m serious about suing. I can’t believe they would do that. Michael Morrow promised to call me back. Maybe he lost my number. Also, when Mr. Lube sends regular emails with special offers and links to surveys, their representatives make it very clear they consider customer service to be their top priority. So I’m sure there has just been a mix-up.

Just to be sure though, I’ll file the court papers next week. And when I need my next oil change, I’ll go to my dealership. Turns out they charge $25 less and seem to know what they’re doing. 

Part 2

May 5, 2014

            Here’s the latest on my epic legal battle with Matt Rowswell, the owner of two Mr. Lube franchises here in London.

            To recap: I took my VW Tiguan in for an oil change in January. The technician (loosely defined) stripped the threads on my oil pan whilst replacing the oil pan plug. As you might suspect, that’s not ideal and led to a gushing oil spill a few weeks later, the evidence of which is still on my garage floor. (For more details, read my previous post.)

            I filed my claim today at the London court house. It took about 45 minutes and cost $75. A very pleasant experience. The guy ahead of me in line was filing the last paperwork for his divorce and seemed jubilant.

            I took my officially stamped document over to Mr. Lube at 1149 Highbury Ave., the headquarters of the Rowswell empire, officially known as Cardoc Enterprise. There was no sign of Matt and no sign of his second-in-command Mike Morrow. I was sort of hoping to see Mike to make sure he was OK. Three weeks ago, he promised to call me back after discussing my situation with his boss, and since he hadn’t called I started to worry he might have suffered some kind of terrible accident or been stricken with a flesh-eating disease.

 My VW Tiguan

My VW Tiguan

 Mrs. Rowswell's VW Tiguan

Mrs. Rowswell's VW Tiguan

            In their absence, I gave the paperwork to store manager Jerry De Lyzer. He was very agreeable and took the envelope from me after making a quick phone call. I now have to file an affidavit with the court letting them know Jerry was the one who took the paperwork. It’s worth noting he didn’t seem the least bit surprised to be served with legal papers, leading me to wonder if that was part of his job description at Cardoc Enterprise.

            While he was outside having his clandestine phone call, a friendly employee not working on a car came over to chat me up. She saw my Tiguan outside and told me Matt Rowswell’s wife drives the same car. And then she told me they are “tricky to work on,” because they require special tools and such.

            Presumably, Matt is aware of that, given that he owns two Mr. Lube franchises and is co-owner of a Tiguan himself.

            Now, Matt has 20 days to file a defence. If he doesn’t, I file another claim and he’s found guilty. If he files a defence we meet in a settlement conference, followed by an actual trial if we can’t reach a settlement.

            I kind of hope we have a settlement conference. That might be the only time I get to meet matt face-to-face. I want to ask him where his wife gets her oil changed.

Part 3

May 27, 2014

            For a minute yesterday, I thought maybe everyone suddenly was interested in my ongoing legal dispute with Mr. Lube franchise owner Matt Rowswell.

I went to the London court house to file a default motion against old Matt because he had failed to respond to the claim I filed three weeks ago in Small Claims Court.

The background of this story is available below in earlier blog postings, but suffice to say one of his Mr. Lube technicians (loosely defined) wrecked my oil pan in late January in the midst of a $125 oil change. Eight weeks later, that led to a gushing oil leak that cost about $600 to repair, required me to rent a car for several days and got me thinking perhaps I should get a refund of my original $125.

 Matt Rowswell?

Matt Rowswell?

Matt’s right hand man, Mike Morrow, offered to pay half the cost of the repair, which I thought missed the mark by a significant amount. So I sued Matt’s company, Cardoc Enterprise Inc., for $2,000, which is a rather conservative total of all my costs, including the time I’ve spent chasing around after the elusive Matt and Mike duo. With their aversion to contact of any kind, they make Howard Hughes and J.D. Salinger look like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. (Matt, I’ll explain that reference if I ever have the pleasure of meeting you.)

I got to court just after 10 this morning, and the place was abuzz. Of course, I soon realized that wasn’t because of my motion but because our fair city’s mayor, Joe Fontana, was in the second day of his trial, charged with breach of trust by a public official, fraud and uttering forged documents. The actions are alleged to have taken place when Fontana was serving his country as a Liberal MP and cabinet minister in 2005.

 Mayor Joe Fontana

Mayor Joe Fontana

One wonders how many backbench Liberals decided to get out of politics the day Joe Fontana was chosen ahead of them to be Minister of Labour in the Paul Martin cabinet. Yikes Martha, if I can’t nose out this guy, what am I doing here?

Several floors below Joe’s trial, it was a good news-bad news day in Small Claims Court. I managed to file my default motion against Matt, which allows me to proceed and try to collect $2,000 from him.

However, because I am claiming damages – as in, his company damaged my car – I have to ask a judge to determine if my damage claim is reasonable. Which means I have to file more paperwork, this time around a Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit. I’ll do that in the next few days and swing by the court house a fourth time.

By then, we may know the fate of our second-rate mayor, and the courthouse should be far less crowded.

Part 4

June 4, 2014

While London mayor Joe Fontana waits for a judge to render a verdict June 13 in his case, I got great news today about my equally weighty, but lower profile, legal battle with the elusive Matt Rowswell, owner of two London Mr. Lube franchises.

The mayor is charged with breach of trust by a public official, fraud and uttering forged documents. I was at the court house twice last week, the first time during Mayor Joe’s trial, when the place was abuzz with what passes for excitement there.

A judge is now deciding whether to believe Joe’s explanation for making numerous changes to an expense report and then submitting it for payment for something entirely unrelated to its original purpose. Not to jump the gun, but if that doesn’t constitute fraud, I’m not sure what the word means.

In my case, a judge – and I wish I knew which one but I can’t decipher his signature on the Endorsement Record I received in the mail today – ruled in my favour against Mystery Matt.

For those just catching up, the fine folks at Mr. Lube on Oxford at Wonderland botched my oil change in late January, stripping the oil pan plug and causing a gushing oil leak about six weeks later. I needed a new oil pan. Not having one on hand, I had to pay Leavens VW about $600 to install one. Mystery Matt’s second banana, Mike Morrow, offered to pay half the cost of the repair but declined to refund the cost of the original oil change, a whopping $126. So I sued. For more details, read earlier posts, below.

The judgment is for the cost of the repair, the cost of the oil change and $215 in court costs, just under $1,000 in total. The judge did not allow my claim for the cost of a rental car I had for four days whilst my car was being repaired. Fair enough. I also was awarded interest on all of these costs, which isn’t all that important unless Mystery Matt continues his strategy of avoiding me at every turn.  

I won the case because he didn’t respond to the suit within the allotted three weeks. Now that I have a judgment, it’s up to me to wrest the money from Matt and his high-road company, Cardoc Enterprise. I’ll start this week by contacting Mike Morrow and asking for a cheque next week. On the off chance Matt can’t find his cheque book or is out of town taking an ethics course, I would have to follow up with the court and ask for assets to be seized and so on.

That, of course, is a worst case scenario. I’m confident old Matt will happily pay up. There might even be a cheque in my mailbox right now. I’m going to see…

Part 5

June 8, 2014

            Think back to when you were in school and how many excuses you heard or used for not getting your homework done on time.

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Dogs seem to figure into the story more often than they should, but there’s also the spilled coffee routine and – most common in the classes I teach at Western – a printer that’s out of ink or just won’t print. Having wrestled with printers that wouldn’t speak to my computer or wouldn’t accept shiny new ink cartridges, I am sympathetic to the printer excuse. Maybe that’s why I hear it so often from my students.

In any case, my legal arch nemesis, Matt Rowswell, owner of the Mr. Lube franchise that botched my oil change in January, has filed a legal document essentially blaming everyone but himself for failing to respond to my lawsuit and having a judgment rendered against him.

As you can read about more fully in earlier postings below, Matt’s employee stripped my oil pan plug in January, rendering the pan useless. A new one was $600.

Last week, a judge ruled in my favour, awarding me a total of $932.46. That represents a refund of the original botched oil change, the cost of repairing my car and $215 in court costs. I promptly emailed Matt’s right-hand man, Mike Morrow, and asked for payment within seven days. That seems to have concentrated Matt’s mind because for the first time in this process, he responded to me – albeit indirectly.

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Matt -- or Donald as he is now referred to in his motion -- had his paralegal flunky, Ronald Trachy of St. Thomas, come by my house Saturday. He dropped off a copy of his Notice to Set Aside Judgment and Permission to File a Defence.

That’s right. Nearly a month after I filed my claim and delivered it to the head office of his company, Cardoc Enterprise, Mighty Matt has sprung into action… and asked for a mulligan. He’s really sorry and all, but three weeks wasn’t enough time to respond to my lawsuit. So now that’s he’s been found guilty, he would really appreciate it if the court would bend the rules and let him file a defence. You can call him Matt. Or you can call him Donald. Just don’t call him late for court.

Of course, he actually had far more time to think about responding because on April 14, I spoke with his second-in-command, Mike Morrow, and indicated I would sue if they didn’t pay for the repair to my car. As unlikely as it seems, it might just be that Matt/Donald didn’t take any of this seriously until there was a judgment against him.

He has asked the court for a second chance because a “lack of communication with Caradoc Enterprise Inc.” meant the lawsuit “was not brought to my attention in a diligent manner, and that through no fault of my own I was unable to respond in a timely fashion.”

In other words, Matt/Donald is blaming his employees for not letting him know he was being sued. I find that amusing because on May 5 when I delivered the claim to his office, the store manager, Jerry DeLyzer, made a phone call before accepting it from me. He called either Matt/Donald or Matt/Donald’s second-in-command Mike. So it seems reasonable to assume he knew about the lawsuit that day.

Maybe the office isn’t run with the precision of a Fortune 500 organization. After all, the business itself is known as Cardoc Enterprise on its business cards and the business license displayed at its Oxford Street store, but it’s known as Caradoc Enterprise in the motion it just filed.

Having asked for his mulligan, he gets a hearing June 20 to plead his case. I will be on my way to Cincinnati to watch the Blue Jays play that weekend, so I can’t attend. I will, however, submit a motion suggesting his claim is hooey (sorry for the fancy legal terms) and asking the judge to tell Matt/Donald to quit stalling and pay me.

I hope he isn’t counting on his employees to remind him of the court date. They appear to be wholly unreliable. 

Part 6

July 20, 2014

            Did aliens attack my car, fiddle with the oil pan plug and cause the oil to start gushing out this winter? That appears to be the working theory of the legal minds representing Matt Rowswell, owner of the Mr. Lube that botched my oil change in January, leading to a $600 repair bill.

            As you can read in earlier postings, I sued Matt – known in legal documents as Donald – for the cost of the repair, a refund of the original oil change, the cost of the rental car I needed while my car was out of commission and legal costs. When he failed to respond by the court-imposed deadline, a judge ruled in my favour and awarded me $932.46 – everything but the cost of the rental car.

            That’s when Matt/Donald and his paralegal sidekick Ronald Trachy of St. Thomas swung into action. First they asked the court for a mulligan. Blaming his employees and the general chaos within his Mr. Lube empire, he said he needed more time to craft a defence. That hearing, originally scheduled for June 20, took place July 4 and granted him the right to file a defence.

            Having missed his original opportunity to file a defence, Matt/Donald has taken full advantage this time, blaming everyone except O.J. Simpson for his technician’s original error.

            The most creative – and frankly alarming to the general public – theory is that, “there was tampering of the oil pan drain plug by a person or persons unknown.”

            That’s right. A roving band of thugs targeted my vehicle sometime this winter and tampered with the oil pan plug. They didn’t pull it right out; they just jiggled it enough to cause a leak over the following days and weeks. Could this be the work of rival Jiffy Lube? Did they hire some out-of-work mechanics to follow Mr. Lube customers and tamper with their oil pan plugs?

 Did E.T. tamper with my vehicle's oil pan plug?

Did E.T. tamper with my vehicle's oil pan plug?

            Or could it have been aliens, seeking to understand earth’s internal combustion technology, who inadvertently replaced the oil pan plug incorrectly? You can’t blame an alien for not understanding the finer points of inserting a Volkswagen oil pan plug. One of Matt/Donald’s own employees told me this spring how difficult that is.

            In his defence, Matt/Donald promises to produce evidence that an incorrectly inserted oil pan plug will begin leaking within four days. Yes, the defence is: When we have botched this procedure in the past, the leak has started much sooner. Since we didn’t botch it as badly this time and it took longer for the oil to start leaking, well, it must have been aliens.

            I don’t know a lot about Ronald Trachy, the Clarence Darrow behind this entertaining defence. But I have to assume he owns a thesaurus. In his long list of claims, he refers to my rental car claim as “unecessary, frivolous, vexatious and erroneous.” In addition to misspelling unnecessary, he seems to be doing his best impression of Kramer’s lawyer, Jackie Chiles.

            I have no idea if Jackie Chiles could spell or construct proper written sentences. That talent has eluded Mr. Trachy, whose carefully crafted defence is full of errors.

            Now I wait for the court to set a date for a settlement conference. That is supposed to take place within 90 days, at which time I can ask Matt/Donald or Ronald Trachy what they know about the aliens who attacked my car. I hope they have photos.