PR for People Monthly MAY 2017 - Page 37

The full image is only visible in the preview, so I created a viewable version of it for this article with the Snipping Tool (a new trick I did not know back then). It says that the camera was recording on 9/24, but stopped and did not record through 10/10, when it resumed regular recording. If I asked them for the video immediately on 10/6, why would they have needed until 10/10 to turn this camera back on? This is just one example of the nonsensical nature of the evidence Jiffy Lube offered in their defense.

I officially filed a case with the Magistrate Court of Houston County, Georgia on October 30. The claim is a brief form that asks for information on the plaintiff, the defendant, and the type of claim (“Fair Business Practices Act Violation”), together with the reason for filing in that jurisdiction: “business is run in the county of filing.” I initially asked for $3,152 in damages because my 1998 Toyota was worth $2,045 according to the Blue Book, as it was completely totaled and I gave it away to the junkyard for scrap metal after paying them $450 to examine the cause of the damages (which they explained was “engine failure,” as a pistol inside the engine blew up).

Alternatively, I found a cheap fitting engine and it would’ve cost $3,151 to replace it and pay for the other damages, but I scrapped this idea because something other than the engine might have been the true cause of the problem. The magistrate court filing costs came up to $170. The cause for filing I put on the form was that when the Jiffy manager said, “We weren’t looking for no cracks,” he admitted negligence or failing to find a potentially catastrophic problem with my old radiator.

I wrote 7,614-word letter to the President of Jiffy Lube, Rick Altizer, and also submitted this information to the magistrate court. Its entirety won’t fit here, but here are the key points. Georgia state law’s Fair Business Practices Act protects my right as a consumer against “unfair or deceptive practices.” I went on to cite case law. In TOOKES v. MURRAY (2009 Ga. App. LEXIS 532,*;297 Ga. App. 765;678 S.E.2d 209;2009 Fulton County D. Rep. 1705), the doctor’s treatment of the patient “demonstrated such an entire want of care that would raise the presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences and thereby justify an award of punitive damages, even under a ‘clear and convincing’ standard of proof. n13.” Jiffy Lube’s mechanics showed a similar “entire want of care” and “conscious indifference,” which led to the loss of my vehicle. I then cited numerous similar previous lawsuits against Jiffy Lube. Since before 2003, there have been numerous reports of consumers against Jiffy Lube locations in North Carolina, California and several other regions. For example, in 2007, in North Carolina, a UCG student, Kateland O’Donald, left her car at Jiffy Lube and they put oil in her car with the car on, causing engine failure.

Then, I included several pages of my close research into the clues the car showed for the failure, which pointed to sabotage at worst or negligence at best by Jiffy Lube. I also included the various complaints I made on the matter together with the Governor’s Consumer complaint form (to which I never received a response).

Before the trial, I did in depth research into court procedure, and put together several pages of detailed questions for the managers of Jiffy Lube and Chandler (who I called as a witness). Here is one question from this list: “Is it your common practice to check the radiator for possible 6 inch cracks while you are inspecting the fuel and radiator system or while you are performing a radiator flush?” The trial was scheduled for 2:30pm on March 21, 2012, and I continued my questioning through 4:30pm, when the court had to close and the Judge asked me to wrap up.

After this grueling session, the managers from Jiffy Lube approached my newly bought car in the lot and suggested they might be interested in a settlement. The Judge eventually ruled against me, with a lengthy explanation that concluded that I did not have sufficient proof for my claim of negligence. I had expected to lose at this initial filing, so I immediately appealed this case to the county-wide civil court. I prepared a lengthy list of witnesses and additional research for the pre-trial, and asked for a week to fully make my case. The Judge gave me a full day. The Judge also insisted that we had to attempt to mediate this matter before proceeding to the trial. The mediation would’ve been an additional cost, and would’ve been pointless because the case was clear cut. So, I insisted that if Jiffy Lube wanted to settle we had to do it without going through the mediation process. I asked for $2,000 simply because I wanted to cover the costs I took on to fight this case. They thought about it, and proposed dropping the total down to $1,800. I agreed, and after they paid me, I composed and filed the necessary paperwork to drop the case.

If you’re keeping score, the total losses I endured and should’ve been suing for add up to around $25,000 (new car) + $3,152 (old car) + $450 (damages inspection) + $170 (court) + $147.67 (Jiffy Lube) + $112.50 (towing) + $200 (taxi) + $250 (insurance deductible) = $29,482.17, or my entire annual teaching salary, after taxes.

Instead of this fair settlement amount, I had to settle for $1,800 because I could not continue the case into the following school year, for which I had to move to China to work for Shantou University. Before the relocation to China on a 3-year contract, I had to sell this newly bought car for less than ½ its cost. Sadly, I was forced to resign from Shantou at the end of the first semester due to a bleeding illness (h pylori food poisoning), and had to buy yet another brand-new car (another $25,000) upon return to the states to teach at a college in Arizona. But, I digress.

Shortly before the final settlement with Jiffy, at the end of that school year, just when grades were due, on May 17, 2012, somebody hit my car with a metal instrument or with another car while I was in the Hong Kong Restaurant