Man posts secret auto repair video – then gets sued

April 2, 2014 ?? –A Missouri car dealership is suing a customer who allegedly secretly recorded repairs and posted the video online.

Jim Butler Chevrolet of Fenton, Missouri, about 30 miles southwest of St. Louis, claimed in his lawsuit he billed for 5.5 hours of work, but Dwayne Cooney’s video claims the weather was a lot less long.

Cooney brought in his 2007 Chevrolet Malibu on Friday, Jan.31, for some repairs, according to a lawsuit filed last month in St. Louis County Court, according to which Cooney had agreed to two hours of diagnosis at $ 129.95 an hour.

Cooney, 42, told the dealership he needed three repairs – for the tire sensors, key fob and airbag warning light, according to the lawsuit.

In mid-February, Cooney released a 17-minute video of his dashcam on YouTube, titled “Dash Cam Video: Dealer Charge 2 Hours to Move Fuse,” describing about 45 minutes of work, according to the lawsuit.

Cooney claimed in the video, which has received thousands of views, “The problem with the airbag was that a fuse had been moved and all he had to do was move the fuse. I was charged. 2.5 hours for airbag repair “, depending on the suit.

“We were shocked when this video appeared online and he refused to recognize the previous three hours of work in his 17 minutes,” said Brad Sowers, part owner and general manager of Jim Butler Chevrolet. “As a small family business, we have to protect ourselves. It’s part of the internet world. People can say whatever they want until they are proven false by a court.”

The dealer is claiming more than $ 25,000 in damages.

Read more: “GMA” Survey: Do Used Car Dealers Sell Cars With Open Recalls?

Cooney said he installed cameras in his home and in his cars for security reasons, according to the St. Louis Post-Expedition.

“We have them in all of our vehicles, and they record 24 hours a day for the protection of our families and our vehicles,” he told the newspaper.

Cooney and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment from ABCNews.com.

On Saturday February 1, the dealership called Cooney to inform him that he would not be able to diagnose his car that day, apologizing and offering a free rental car, which Cooney agreed to, according to the trial. On Monday, a dealership technician began diagnosing the problem, working 3.22 hours, the dealership claimed in his lawsuit. The tech called Cooney that day to let him know he would need two extra hours, which Cooney agreed to, according to the lawsuit.

“The task was complex because no diagnostic code was revealed by GM’s tech equipment,” the court record said.

Three days later, technicians finally made the necessary repairs and fixed the issues, totaling more than five hours of work on the vehicle, according to the complaint – although the dealership only billed Cooney for 4.5 hours: 602 , $ 32 instead of $ 668.38 for five hours.

After negotiating with the dealer, Cooney accepted a further reduced invoice of $ 553.61, which included parts and taxes, the lawsuit said.

“I never disputed that they had worked there the day before,” Cooney told the St. Louis Post-Expedition. “The question is, if you did, what did you do? “

Cooney told the Post-Dispatch that the dealer had offered to drop the lawsuit if he removed the video and paid the dealer’s $ 8,000 in legal fees, but he refused.

“We have repeatedly offered to settle this for a simple apology and a partial refund. Jim Butler insists on suing a loyal former customer, ”Cooney told the newspaper.

Computer records show how long the technicians worked on the car and that the dealership tried to meet with Cooney “on several occasions” to no avail, Sowers said. The dealer is asking for an injunction to remove the video.

With the help of the non-profit group, Public citizenCooney’s owner’s insurance company hired a lawyer to represent him, blocking a temporary restraining order from unpublishing the video.

“If the defendant made a false statement of fact about the plaintiff through negligence or actual malice, the plaintiff gets damages, possibly even punitive damages, but he cannot get an order requiring that allegedly defamatory material be removed in the interim, ”wrote Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen lawyer Cooney contacted, in a blog post.

Cooney, who has yet to file a legal response, has been summoned to a hearing next Monday.

In the meantime, the dealership has created its own website, Gatewaydashcam.com, with an open letter to clients explaining his side of the story.

Sowers, who bought part of the concession from his stepfather 10 years ago, said the video had not affected business. But he said he was concerned about the future effects of online video.

The company sells about 300 cars a month and maintains about 80 cars a day, Sowers said.

“We can fail, and if we do, we fix the problem, and that’s why our customers love us,” he said.


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Sylvia F. Hernandez

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