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Rats in engine caused car fire, B.C. muffler shop claimed

Courtenay business ordered to pay $2,285 after car catches fire on roadway one day after being repaired.
Rats in engines can cause car fires, according to a B.C. muffler shop.

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal has ordered a muffler shop to pay for the cost of a car that burst into flames due to fuel line problems after it had been repaired.

The March 15 decision said Elisa Thomas and Austin Diotte-Turner took their vehicle to 662405 BC Ltd., which does business as Budget Brake and Muffler Auto Centre in Courtenay, to be repaired.

They claimed the shop did not properly fix their vehicle and sought $2,285 in damages they say resulted from the deficient repair. The muffler shop, however, said it repaired the vehicle properly and said the damages claim was inflated.

Tribunal member Peter Mennie ruled the business had not met its duty of care and ordered payment of damages.

Mennie said it was undisputed that the pair dropped off their 2003 Chevrolet Impala at the business on Dec. 9, 2021. Thomas and Diotte-Turner said the vehicle smelled of gas.

They said the business told them that the vehicle’s straight pipe needed to be replaced and an O-ring could fix the gas smell.

Thomas and Diotte-Turner agreed to these repairs and picked up the vehicle later that day. They submitted a receipt for $419.75 paid for work on the vehicle’s fuel system.

However, Thomas and Diotte-Turner said the smell of gas was worse when they picked up the car but believed it was repaired and safe to drive.

The pair told the tribunal a fire started under the vehicle’s hood the next day when one of them was driving home from work.

Completely destroyed

“They provided the fire department’s report which says that the vehicle caught fire on the roadway,” Mennie said. “They provided photos of the vehicle after the fire which show that it was completely destroyed.”

The shop said the vehicle was in poor condition when it was brought in. The company said the vehicle’s fuel line was leaking, and that the best solution was to buy a new fuel line from a dealership.

“However, it said a new fuel line is expensive and takes several weeks to order. Instead, the respondent used a fuel line repair kit,” Mennie said.

The company refunded the applicants’ repair bill but refused to pay anything more.

“The respondent suggests that the fire was caused by rats in the engine or by stress on the engine caused by a previous repair,” Mennie said.

However, Thomas and Diotte-Turner said they were never told that the best solution was to order a new fuel line from a dealership. They claimed one of the mechanics told them after the fire that the company “jerry-rigged” the repair.

“The respondent does not deny this and in its submissions only says that ordering a new fuel line was ruled out because of the cost.”

Mennie said Thomas and Diotte-Turner provided invoices showing they maintained the vehicle regularly and would have paid for a new fuel line because they wanted to keep the vehicle in good condition.

The tribunal rule the muffler shop owed a duty of care to perform its work to the standard of a reasonably competent mechanic.

“I find it obvious that the respondent’s repair of the applicants’ vehicle fell below a reasonably competent standard,” Mennie said. “The fire occurred less than 24 hours after the respondent repaired the vehicle’s fuel system.”

Mennie said the pair had proven they suffered $2,285.84 in damages, including $1,000 for their car, $515.59 for the towing fee, $48 for the insurance cancellation fee, $310 for their CDs, and $412.25 for their other personal possessions.