There’s an old saying that goes you can’t legislate common sense. Neither, it seems, can you appoint it to the bench. Just ask the Michigan judges who ruled that a tire rotation was completed by a mechanic even though said mechanic missed the very important part of the procedure where you tighten all of the lug nuts so that one of the tires doesn’t cause an accident by falling off of the vehicle two blocks down the road from the damn shop. All right, maybe don’t ask the judges. They don’t seem like the sort of folks who have good answers to things. They can, however, look things up in a couple of dictionaries, which is how they determined that although it may have been done negligently, the repair was technically performed. This all seems a bit like a doctor being hauled into court, saying “your honour, we did perform the heart surgery, we just forgot to stitch him back together,” and winning. If the ruling stands or the law in question (the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Act) isn’t changed to clarify what the word perform is supposed to mean, shops all over the state just got permission to do sloppy, potentially dangerous work. That’s bad.
MVSRA, adopted in 1974, declares that a shop cannot charge for repairs that are not performed.
It also says that a mechanic or body shop employee cannot “make, either written or orally, an untrue or misleading statement of material fact to a customer.” Nor can it hide or omit a material fact “that the customer could not reasonably know, if that omission tends to mislead or deceive the customer.”
The dealership asked at trial that the judge not apply MVSRA, claiming it had completed the tire rotation even if it didn’t do a bang-up job. The trial judge instead agreed with Anaya that by not replacing all the lug nuts, the mechanic had failed to perform the repair.
To Anaya’s benefit, Boonstra and the other appellate judges agreed with the trial judge that MVSRA applies to passengers and not just drivers.
To Anaya’s detriment, the judges looked up “perform” in two dictionaries and concluded that the term “generally refers to completion of an action according to an established procedure; the term does not imply that the action has been completed properly, successfully, or without mistake.”
“To accept the trial court’s interpretation,” Boonstra wrote, “would essentially turn every incorrectly performed repair into a violation of MVSRA.”