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Doyle v. Nash Park Auto Body

A-4776-03T3 (N.J. Super. App, Div. 2006) (Unpublished)

CONSUMER FRAUD; DAMAGES—Where a consumer’s loss arises out of shoddy workmanship and not from the failure of the automobile repair facility to give a written estimate, there are no ascertainable damages under the Consumer Fraud Act to be trebled.

A customer whose truck was damaged in a motor vehicle accident brought the truck to an auto body shop for repair. After the repairs were completed, the customer noticed that the truck was rattling, the bumper was not properly aligned, and the paint was chipping. The customer sued the repair shop for negligent repairs and for violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. The crux of the customer’s consumer fraud claim was that the repair shop failed to provide him with a written estimate and fraudulently repaired the truck with after-market parts as opposed to original manufacturer’s parts (as he claimed he was promised). The customer’s expert witness testified as to the cost of completing the repairs that were negligently done by the repair shop and the lower court trebled the damages as provided for under the Consumer Fraud Act. The repair shop appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed in part. It agreed that the repair shop negligently repaired the truck and was therefore liable to the customer for the cost of completing the repairs to the truck. However, the Court found that the treble damages were not appropriate. The Court noted that, even if there is a breach of the Consumer Fraud Act, in order to award triple damages there must be an ascertainable loss by the customer, a causal relationship between the unconscionable behavior and the loss, and “substantial aggravating circumstances.” Here, the Court found that the customer did not demonstrate “substantial aggravating circumstances.” With respect to the repair shop’s failure to provide genuine manufacturer’s parts, the Court found that there were no substantial aggravating circumstances because the evidence demonstrated that the use of after-market parts was authorized and approved by the customer’s insurance company. The Court also found that there was no ascertainable loss by the customer. It found that the customer’s loss was caused by the shoddy repair work and not because of the repair shop’s failure to provide a written estimate. Since there was no relationship between the consumer fraud violation and the customer’s loss, the Court found it inappropriate to treble the customer’s breach of contract damages.


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