Repair shop not at fault for broken parking brake

Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 6, 2010, 11:23am


JUNEAU, Alaska (Legal Newsline) - The Alaska Supreme Court has affirmed the ruling of a lower court in favor of an automotive repair shop that failed to fix a truck's parking brake before it rolled over someone.

The Court, in an opinion filed Friday, upheld the superior court's grant of summary judgment in favor of E&E Automotive & Tire Service, Inc., and its owner, James Egbert.

In March 2005, Timothy Lindsey was severely injured when his employer's unattended truck rolled backwards and struck him. An inspection revealed that the cause of the accident was a non-functioning parking brake.

Lindsey sued E&E Automotive & Tire Service Inc., the repair shop that had recently serviced the truck, for negligence.

E&E had been asked to repair the parking brake but was unable to do so. E&E informed Lindsey's employer that it had not repaired the parking brake and that the brake still did not work.

The superior court granted summary judgment in E&E's favor, concluding that E&E had fulfilled its duty to warn Lindsey's employer that the requested repair had not been made and that a defect still existed with the parking brake. Lindsey subsequently appealed.

The Court, in its opinion, said that a mechanic who "undertakes to inspect or repair a vehicle" must exercise "reasonable care" and will be held liable for harm resulting from the failure to exercise such care.

The Court said three more specific duties to exercise reasonable care are implicated in this case. They include the duty not to increase the risk of harm when repairing a vehicle; not to cause another to rely on a vehicle having been rendered safe when it has not; and to warn a vehicle owner of any dangerous unrepaired conditions of which the mechanic is or should be aware.

Justice Dana Fabe, who authored the Court's opinion, said E&E fulfilled these duties "when, after making no adjustments to the parking brake, it informed Lindsey's employer that it had not fixed the brake and that it still did not work."

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