Pro Bono Team Wins Treble Replacement Value for Botched Oil Change

October 20, 2017

After a routine oil change at a Charlotte auto service shop destroyed the engine in Antoinette Foster’s small car and left her facing a bill for storing the immobilized vehicle, a McGuireWoods pro bono team helped her find justice in an Oct. 12 arbitration.

On Foster’s behalf, McGuireWoods’ Susan Rodriguez and Abbey Krysak sued S and Sons Automotive Inc. Foster had paid S and Sons — doing business as SpeeDee Oil Change and Auto Service — $39.67 for the oil change and drove her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt less than two miles when her engine died. She alleged that SpeeDee failed to replace the dirty oil it had drained from her engine. SpeeDee admitted the mistake and offered her $1,500 for the vehicle, or half of what an automotive valuation expert testified it was worth. Engine repair costs alone would be $5,740, a Chevy dealer estimated.

Foster had the car towed to a relative’s property after she was told she’d incur storage fees if she didn’t move it from the shop. She sued for breach of contract, negligence and violation of North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The case was solely one of damages since the shop admitted liability in not replacing the oil.

In addition to the expert testimony about the vehicle’s true value, Foster testified about missed appointments, issues getting her kids to school on time and $2,500 in transportation costs resulting from the loss of her car.

The arbitrator awarded Foster $9,000 in damages, or triple the car’s replacement value, plus interest and costs.