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Lyles v. Meineke Car Care Center

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

January 17, 2019

Karen Lyles
v.
Meineke Car Care Center

          Submitted: November 1, 2018

          Karen Lyles

          Gregory A. Morris, Esq. Liguori & Morris

          NOEL EASON PRIMOS JUDGE

         Dear Ms. Lyles and Mr. Morris:

         Appellant/Plaintiff Below Karen Lyles (hereinafter "Appellant") appeals from the May 14, 2018, order of the Court of Common Pleas (hereinafter "CCP"). In that order, the CCP held that Appellant had failed to meet her burden of proving her case by a preponderance of the evidence and dismissed the suit. Specifically, the CCP held that Appellant had failed to establish that Appellee/Defendant Below Meineke Car Care Center (hereinafter "Appellee") breached the standard of care and that, as a result of a breach, Appellant was damaged.[1] This Court similarly finds no merit to Appellant's appeal and affirms the CCP's decision. The Court's review is confined to the facts contained in the record, and it is those facts that are referenced herein.

         The record reflects that on August 22, 2016, Appellant took her 2008 Acura MDX with over 200, 000 miles (hereinafter the "Vehicle") to Appellee for an oil change. An employee of Appellee, Benjamin Marvel (hereinafter "Mr. Marvel"), was working on the Vehicle and removing the drain plug to initiate an oil change, and noticed that the threads in the aluminum oil pan were stripped.[2] Upon discovering the damaged threads, Mr. Marvel, an experienced technician and manager at Meineke, went to the lobby to speak with Appellant and took Appellant into the shop to explain the situation.

         Mr. Marvel testified that once the threads are damaged, they must be replaced either with an oversized drain plug or a full oil pan replacement. He stated that these are the only two options to remedy the problem and that, typically, he will try the plug first. Mr. Marvel testified that he explained these options to Appellant. As the oversized drain plug does not always remedy the issue, Mr. Marvel indicated to Appellant that he was uncertain if the plug was going to work; if it did not, she would need to return and replace the entire oil pan. It is undisputed that Mr. Marvel did not provide Appellant with any other options at that time and that, ultimately, Appellant had the oversized drain plug placed in the Vehicle.[3]

         On September 16, 2016, Appellant brought the Vehicle back to Appellee, as she had noticed that there was oil dripping from the Vehicle. Appellee informed Appellant that the only way to remedy the situation was to replace the oil pan and gave her an estimate for the repairs; however, Appellant chose to go to another dealership to have the oil pan replaced.

         Appellant subsequently filed a civil debt action against Appellee in Justice of the Peace Court No. 16 (hereinafter "JP Court") seeking damages for the cost of replacing the oil pan. On June 2, 2017, the JP Court held that Appellant had failed to meet her burden of proving her case by a preponderance of the evidence. The JP Court found that there was insufficient evidence and no expert testimony to prove that Appellee had caused the stripped threads on Appellant's oil pan. Moreover, the JP Court held that "[g]iven the mileage and age of the vehicle, Defendant's explanation of normal wear and tear is just as feasible as Plaintiffs claim."

         On June 13, 2017, Appellant filed an appeal from the JP Court's decision to the CCP. On May 14, 2018, the CCP ruled in favor of Appellee and affirmed the JP Court's decision. In so holding, the CCP found that Appellant had failed to show that Appellee had caused the damage to the Vehicle or that Mr. Marvel had acted in a way that was below the standard of care that a mechanic would have used in those circumstances.[4]

         On May 31, 2018, Appellant filed an appeal to this Court. In her Opening Brief, Appellant argues that the CCP did not take all of the evidence into consideration, namely, evidence that there were more than two options for repairing the Vehicle. Appellant asserts that another option would have been to pay for rethreading the oil pan, instead of paying to replace the entire oil pan. Appellant also argues that Appellee was responsible for the damage to the Vehicle, as "Meineke destroyed the threads by placing adhesive and aftermarket washer on the threads of the oil pan."

         Appellee argues that the factual findings from the CCP are sufficiently supported by the record and that Appellant had ample time to obtain an expert opinion to testify as to whether her damages were caused by Appellee. Moreover, Appellee points to the testimony of its representative, Mr. Marvel, that the alleged damage to the threads of the oil pan was likely caused by the age, normal wear and tear, and mileage of the Vehicle, and was not the result of any negligence or breach of care on the part of Appellee.

         Appeals from the Court of Common Pleas to this Court "shall be reviewed on the record and shall not be tried de novo."[5] This Court functions as an intermediate appellate court when considering appeals from the Court of Common Pleas.[6] Thus, issues not raised in the trial court are not heard on appeal, [7] and this Court limits its review to correcting errors of law and determining whether the lower court's factual findings "are adequately supported by the record and are the product of an orderly and logical deductive process."[8] This Court does not sit as a trier of fact with authority to weigh the evidence, determine questions of ...


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