Do it Yourself Approach Leaves Plaintiff Unable to Pursue Claim for Faulty Goods feature image

Do it Yourself Approach Leaves Plaintiff Unable to Pursue Claim for Faulty Goods

With the economy struggling and many experts predicting that a recession is looming, it makes sense that people are looking at ways to save money. For some people, it might mean changing what they buy at the grocery store, while others might look to save by doing tasks they may otherwise hire professionals to do. 

However, a recent decision from the Provincial Court of Alberta highlights the risks that can come from doing a job on your own if you’re not experienced, especially if litigation arises if things don’t go as planned. 

Plaintiff has plans to make a bus his home, but transmission problems stall

The plaintiff involved in the matter is a man who decided to purchase a school bus and convert it into a home so he could “live on the road.” In 2019 he bought a 20-year-old school bus, converted it into a home, and moved in close to two years later. 

Without getting into the technical details, at the time of purchase, the bus contained a transmission with four speeds and reverse. While we refer to it as well as the cooler and radiator, as the “original transmission,” it wasn’t the one that was in the bus when it was built but was installed at an unspecified time before the plaintiff purchased it. 

On the plaintiff’s first trip with the bus, he drove three hours only to discover that the transmission had stopped working and would only drive in reverse.

This led to the plaintiff towing his bus to his parent’s house, where he lived, while getting it fixed. He brought the transmission to the defendant, who owns an auto repair shop. The defendant agreed to rebuild the transmission, but the plaintiff said he would install it himself.

Defendant rebuilds transmission

The defendant examined the original transmission and determined it had been contaminated by debris and was missing a part called the low clutch pack. It was also missing forward gears. The defendant washed all of the parts of the original transmission, ordered new parts for it, and installed those parts. The plaintiff paid the defendant $4,042.50 for the “second transmission” and decided to install it himself. While he had never installed a transmission before, he relied on his experience as a mechanical engineering technologist and the procedure manual for such a task. 

The court heard from two experts who stated that installing a rebuilt transmission falls somewhere in between a “simple” and “difficult” job. They agreed that the plaintiff should have been able to install it if he followed the instruction, noting that it’s critical to flush the transmission cooler when doing so. Unfortunately, the plaintiff failed to perform that step, and the transmission failed. 

Plaintiff returns for another transmission

The plaintiff returned to the defendant’s shop in July 2021. The defendant had another expert on transmissions who determined that the cooler was unserviceable due to corrosion and contamination. The defendant then replaced the second transmission with a rebuilt third transmission, this time at a cost of $2,433.20. The plaintiff picked it up in October 2021 but never installed it. Instead, he took it to a testing company that performed tests on the transmission and found that it did not meet the specifications set out by the bus manufacturer. The company that provided the testing sold the plaintiff a new transmission and installed it. However, the defendant was not aware of these tests. 

This led the plaintiff to pursue a civil claim against the defendant, stating that the transmissions he purchased were unfit for their intended purpose and not of merchantable quality. 

What does the law say about faulty goods?

The court wrote in its analysis that goods are not of merchantable quality if they come with defaults that make them unfit for whatever they were intended for or require further work to make them useable. To establish this, a buyer of said goods must prove there is a defect. If there is no evidence that the buyer’s own faulty work was a cause of the defect, the courts can infer it is due to the good itself.

However, in this case, the court looked at the facts leading up to the failure of the second transmission. It determined that the plaintiff had failed to prove on a balance of probabilities that the transmission was defective when delivered to the plaintiff. This was because it was discovered that the transmission had failed. After all, it was contaminated with debris. It was clean when returned to the plaintiff, who installed it himself but failed to flush the coolant as directed. This led the court to conclude that while the defendant’s faulty workmanship might have been responsible for the faulty transmission, the court was not entitled to find it was necessarily the defendant’s fault. The court wrote,

“It is more likely that transmission 1 failed because the Plaintiff did not properly flush the transmission cooler/radiator before he installed transmission 1 in the bus, and as a result, contamination that was left behind in the original transmission cooler/radiator after (“the defendant”) flushed it entered transmission one after he installed it in the bus.”

In turning to the second transmission, the court wrote that the plaintiff’s evidence that the transmission was faulty was based solely on the test performed by the third party. The court sided with the defendant, who suggested that the tests were faulty because they did not replicate the engine used by the school bus. This left the court unable to rely on the test to prove that the transmission was faulty. 

HMC Lawyers can help establish your case in civil litigation matters

Our team of experienced litigators advises individuals and corporations on complex disputes around contracts, insurance coverage,  and more. The decision discussed in today’s blog demonstrates why it is so important to talk to a lawyer when considering pursuing litigation. We provide highly skilled legal services to make sure you are well-positioned to pursue your claim. We can be reached online or by phone at 1-900-480-3534.



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