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.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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.