Learn­ing a les­son about the Small Claims Court the hard way

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

Af­ter read­ing your 5 July is­sue ar­ti­cle on what to do when good restora­tions go bad, it prompted me to of­fer my ex­pe­ri­ence of a ‘rep­utable’ spe­cial­ist.

I’ve owned a 1985 Lo­tus Turbo Esprit, for some 20 years. About four years ago I felt it was time for the fi­nal phase of my rolling project – the re­spray. I did a lot of re­search and even­tu­ally found a spe­cial­ist in the outer London area, who came with a lot of pos­i­tive feed­back, and he gave me a rea­son­able quote.

All seemed to go well, and he ap­peared to be do­ing what we had agreed as was con­firmed by the many photos he sent me dur­ing the re­paint process. It was soon af­ter I had got my car home that I started to no­ticed var­i­ous de­fects in the paint, from sink­age and lines to lift­ing.

I con­tacted him about this, and he promised to put it right. I live some 100 miles from him so it was not a case of just pop­ping down. When I tried to ar­range to get the car to him, he’d make ex­cuses that he was too busy with other projects or didn’t have enough staff.

I got tired of be­ing brushed off and took him to the Small Claims Court. On the first visit, I pro­vided a lot of ev­i­dence and state­ments con­firm­ing the state of the paint­work. The judge set out court guide­lines for us both to fol­low with the aim to come to an ar­range­ment.

As part of the court in­struc­tions, I took the car to the spe­cial­ist, along with a wit­ness, and he agreed that there were many faults with the paint­work done by him. How­ever, he was only pre­pared put some of it right, ‘a blow over in places’ and his cash com­pen­sa­tion of­fer was barely enough to put the rear bumper right.

The sec­ond visit to the courts did not go as well as I hoped, but I did man­age to win back half of my re­spray costs. This judge said he could not use what ev­i­dence I’d orig­i­nally pro­vided and that if we didn’t sort it out now based on an of­fer made in early ne­go­ti­a­tions then we would have to re-do the whole process. I felt I had no op­tion but to ac­cept the lower of­fer, even though it will not go near to putting the car right. A warn­ing to oth­ers: even though the ev­i­dence is in your favour the courts move in mys­te­ri­ous ways. In my opin­ion it would be best to seek le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, some­thing I would have done had all this not co­in­cided with the birth of my son. To get my car to the state it should be in, the cost is go­ing to be con­sid­er­ably higher than what I orig­i­nally paid due to all of the de­fects. I am now very re­luc­tant to let any­one near my car. Dar­rin Alker, Gosport, Hants

Dar­rin Alker’s 1985 Lo­tus Turbo Espirit will need more money spent on it to put it to right.

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