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SCRS video: Attorneys split on technicians’ civil exposure for repairs

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Civil attorneys might choose to pursue action against an employer rather than a technician for an improper repair, an attorney said last year during an SCRS panel — but technicians might not want to bet their future on that, another suggested.

Asked what liability a technician had for an error committed while adhering to repair procedures, Tracy Law Firm attorney Todd Tracy said he and his peers often wouldn’t name the tech in a lawsuit.

“It’s bad form,” he said during a 2017 SCRS OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit liability panel, a free video of which has just been released by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists. (See the tech liability discussion around the 29:55 mark in the film.)

Generally, attorneys are following the legal concept of respondeat superior, which allows them to pursue action against a company for the actions of its employees, Tracy said.

“They’re (the employees are) working on behalf of the company,” he said.

This ought to give shop owners pause and cause them to consider just what kind of risk their untrained, undertooled or rushing-to-flag-hours staff are dumping upon the business and the customer.

Tracy said that if the technician were habitually drunk or a meth addict, an attorney might bring them into the case to “really punish the company” for negligent hiring or “failure to get rid of the clown.”

However, fellow attorney and panelist Erica Eversman of Vehicle Information Services said that while Tracy might not sue a technician, “I know a lot of bad lawyers who would.”

So techs might not necessarily be immune from litigation — a concept she elaborated upon last year in a Collision Hub “Repair University Live.”

As for criminal cases, “overly aggressive district attorneys” in “little bitty counties” might try to prosecute a negligent drunk or drug-addict technician during an election year, Tracy said.

The DA might also seek charges for corporate liability as well, he said, advising the audience that “the biggest fear you guys need to worry about” was an indictment from such a prosecutor.

“That will absolutely bankrupt your company.” Even with an acquittal, the business will “never overcome it,” he said.

If a technician’s repair results in harm to an occupant, Eversman said in the August 2017 “Repair U” film, “you’re the person who’s going to jail.”

She said people were upset the first time she pointed that out. “I’m like, ‘I’ve seen it happen,’” she said then.

See the SCRS liability panel video

To view the video of the SCRS OEM Technology Summit panel, you’ll need a free SCRS account. It’s easy, and anyone can obtain one — you don’t need to be a formal SCRS member or work at a body shop.

If you’re an SCRS member who’s registered a password with SCRS.com, log in here.

If you’re an SCRS member who hasn’t yet established an account on SCRS.com, visit www.scrs.com/set-password to get that ball rolling.

If you’re not an SCRS member, sign up for a free Premium Content account here.

More information:

“SCRS Releases Video of Liability Panel from OEM Summit at the SEMA Show”

Society of Collision Repair Specialists, Jan. 30, 2018

“Repair University LIVE: The Brewing Legal Storm (Presented by BASF)”

Collision Hub YouTube channel, Aug. 25, 2017

Images:

Asked what liability a technician had for an error committed while adhering to repair procedures, Tracy Law Firm attorney Todd Tracy, right, said he and his peers often wouldn’t name the tech in a lawsuit. (Screenshot from www.scrs.com video)

“The Hidden Dangers of Vehicle Technology, Improper Repair Methodology and Your Liabilities” was perhaps the most memorable panel during the SCRS OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit. See a video of the session on www.scrs.com. (Screenshot from www.scrs.com video)