So was the recent outcome of a hard-fought claim against one of our members who had been sued for breach of contract after carrying out work on a vehicle presented to them as “a non-runner”.
The Claimant was confrontational throughout, including during the presentation of her evidence before the court, which endeared her to no one.
She tried and failed to argue that she understood the engine was to be remanufactured and would be returned to her “…as good as new”, despite the estimate and invoices presented stating “reconditioned engine”. The distinction was not lost on anyone with a modicum of sense but she persisted, regardless.
Unsurprisingly, the court found it was neither expressly agreed nor implied that the engine would be remanufactured and be like new, and so the first limb of her claim failed.
The court turned to implied terms under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (“the Act”) and specifically sections 9 and 10 thereof with regard to the supply and delivery of goods, notably engine parts, by our member. In this case, the expert evidence recorded that the parts supplied were not of satisfactory quality, had failed within six months, and the judge found that our member had been unable to rebut the legal presumption that the goods did not conform at the time of delivery.
The court then considered the terms relating to the supply of services and the implied term of reasonable care and skill under section 49 of the Act, where the burden of proof falls on the Claimant. Again, the judge turned to the expert evidence on the point, that identified the work was not carried out to the appropriate standard and amounted to a breach of these implied terms.
Turning to the remedy for such a breach, section 56 of the Act provides the consumer with a right to a price reduction and section 56(2) says this amount might be the full amount of the price. In determining the appropriate level of reduction, the judge noted the disagreement between the parties was significant as to the costs of the replacement parts.
Again, the judge was guided by the expert’s opinion that the replacement of such parts would allow the engine to run as intended. The expert agreed with our member as to the items required, as they had previously quoted. The Claimant argued and relied on her own quotation.
The judge was satisfied that the appropriate remedy was to complete the work identified by the expert, as quoted by our member in 2019, as adjusted to take account of prevailing market forces, and settled on a figure between the two opposing quotations. Something of a judicial fudge in the final assessment, which is not uncommon, but the real takeaway from this case which was complicated and hard-fought over a protracted period, is the decision of the court almost entirely turned on the evidence of a single joint expert, the import of which cannot be underestimated in such cases. This is why Lawgistics and Lawgistics Litigation often advise the commissioning of quality expert evidence either on a unilateral basis or as a single joint expert, as appropriate.
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