New Haven Truck and Auto Body Inc. v. Bunning
An auto body repair shop that restores a truck and fails to provide a customer, in advance, a written work estimate about the maximum costs of parts and labor, can violate Connecticut General Statutes §14-65(b). Defendant David Bunning owns a 1996 Kenworth truck. In February 2010, Bunning asked the plaintiff, New Haven Truck and Auto Body, for an estimate. Owner William Snow offered to restore the truck, if Bunning paid $19,500 to $22,500. On March 5, Bunning left his truck with the plaintiff. On March 22, he approved work described as "[r]epaint & custom work to customer spec." that would cost "$20,000 [plus]." Bunning requested additional work. The plaintiff responded that his requested changes would increase costs. One of the plaintiff's employees imitated the sound of a cash register, "cha ching, cha ching." On May 13, Bunning, who had already paid $7,500, paid $20,000. The plaintiff indicated its work had cost more than $50,000 and it would accept $10,000, as final payment, if Bunning also paid $6,200 to an independent metal fabricator. The defendant paid the $6,200. The plaintiff sued, alleging he owed $36,104. Bunning claimed that the plaintiff failed to comply with C.G.S. §14-65(b). The plaintiff objected that the statute does not apply to the restoration of a truck. C.G.S. §14-65(b) provides, "Prior to performing any repair work on a motor vehicle, a motor vehicle repair shop shall obtain a written authorization . . . that includes an estimate in writing of the maximum cost . . . of the parts and labor." The statute, which is remedial, is to be construed broadly. The court found that a truck qualifies as a "motor vehicle," that restoration work qualifies as "repair work" and that Bunning qualifies as a "customer." If the legislature had intended to exclude trucks, it possessed that option. Bunning did not execute a written authorization, before restoration work commenced. The plaintiff's estimate did not indicate maximum costs of parts and labor. As costs increased, the plaintiff was required to inform Bunning about the amount and to obtain approval. The court granted judgment to Bunning.