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KevinDB

Request: Possible legal advice? (shop related)

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I don't want to dive into a lot of detail here.  I need to start considering some kind of legal action, as I seem to have no other recourse at this point.

In a nutshell  I dropped off my car with a shop (supposedly known to do good work on Chevy stuff) to do some engine work (turned into engine build/swap that was "I have an engine for you" not "we're going to build/rebuild an engine from scratch"), back in March 2019. Next thing I know the parts / build process is underway (not what I was lead to believe at all), and months are ticking by. After a number of set backs, in November I got word the engine was ready and the differential rebuild was also ready (needed new ring & pinion etc) and that I was 3rd or 4th in line to be put back together, with about a 2 week assembly/build time for each project in front mine.  So I thought I was looking at 6-8weeks or so when the tuner would be scheduled and he'd call me.  

That was the last update I received.  I've texted, emailed and phoned.  No response.  Phone goes to voicemail and the voicemail box is full.  Previous communication was done via text and phone call.

From our original conversations, the initial job was going to take about 3 weeks total, then the "engine I have for you" job was going to take about the same amount of time in his words (only verbal of course).  So it's more than a little disappointing that we're over a year gone, and the guy has ghosted me.  I haven't nagged him constantly like maybe I should have.

Worst thing of all, I prepaid for the all of the engine work.  Trust comes too easy for me I guess.

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That's awful. Seems like a common story, too. I don't have any solid advice for you, unfortunately. I would probably be thinking small claims court or lawyer, depending on how much money is laid out. I would be thinking about what sort of outcome you want. I'd probably be aiming for my money back and to collect my car, parts, etc.... wash my hands of the situation.

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do you have any sort of written statement/ receipt from him?  scope of work, bill of material, quote/ estimate, anything?

I'd start with sending a copy of that and a registered/certified letter to the business address showing the initial scope of work and promised delivery dates.  explain this date is well past what was promised and demand all unused materials and a refund of the remainder by XXX date.  (I would not want them to do the work at this point because they would not be trustworthy- anything they do will be rushed and likely of poor quality.  Thus the demand for any raw parts purchased and a refund of what's left.)  If that does not happen, then you will file a claim in small claims court.

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Have you gone to the shop and had an in-person "polite" visit? That's where I'd start...probably with a trailer attached to my truck...and a few buddies...depending on how that conversation goes then everything would probably be going home with me....that's assuming that your stuff / car is still at that shop...and the guy is still around...etc etc...but until you put eyes on the shop AND your stuff / car...you're just whizzing in the wind...respectfully.

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Can't it be criminal charges if he has your property and is not returning it after multiple attempts?  What if he actually just took your money and stuff and took off? 

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thanks fellas.

All I have in writing / email are invoices with the build / parts in detail, labor, and tune - and the paid receipt of said invoices.

There was no promise of time written down, only lip service via phone call which I can't prove.

The shop is not easily accessible.  Gated, back on the guy's property.  

For what it's worth - I don't think he intended to screw me over.

He's not an engine builder - rather has been using 3rd parties such as Texas Speed and Modern Airflow.  He had a series of blown customer engines come back on him, shortly after taking on my project.  In part I think he needed my LS3 to get someone off his back, then stalled me while he rebuilt someone else's blown engine for my project. Really think he got in over his head with a lot of high dollar builds.  Supposedly he got screwed over by TSP...but they have an otherwise good reputation so I don't know if that was true or a load of bs.  If true, good news is that my build did not go through their supposed loose tolerance issue and rather went to Modern Airflow Dynamics (as will the rest of his projects) which has a solid rep and according to the dude has much better tolerances, etc.

Pat G (renowned tuner and supposedly going to tune my car if ever done) responded to me back in January saying ya he's alright, we just talked about your project yada yada.  So that good word restored my faith for a little bit longer...but now...again months later...no response, no update from the guy. 

My last email to him weeks ago was also in part to offer alternative suggestions - "if the engine build is not good, then let's just get a low mile LS3 back in it and call it" and "if you don't have time and staff to wrap up the job then I'll come get the complete engine and differential and car and have another shop finish it" etc.  

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Kevin - I still think you need to pay the guy an in-person visit. That tends to be a "reminder" to make things right...in a timely manner...look at it this way - at least you'll have some peace of mind getting an eyes-on sit rep.

BTW - what you're describing is the typical "Engine Ponzi Scheme"...I've dealt with that before...waaaaaay back when...too long of a story to type...the short of it - the guy building the motor said he couldn't locate some part (that was brought in with my motor)...I politely told him that it "didn't grow legs and walk away"...he got the point...and all ended well...he also kept on wanting more money, an advance, if you will...I held my ground...half up front, the other half when completed...it was the whole "rob Peter to pay Paul" thing...a non-stop racket...it was a learning experience...the shop was in the hood of Ft. Worth...I was the only cracker there...as part of the deal, I got to use his storage warehouse to pull the engine and put it back in...so, being in college at the time, that was a blessing...but nothing like telling a hood "business man" twice your age how things "are going to be"...guess I grew some balls during that time... LOL

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I agree with Brad in that sense.   With the caveat of putting a finish date in writing and agreed by both parties.  If it's not done by that date (and done CORRECTLY), then you get your money and your materials back.

Having a car sitting in someoen's shop for a year is just looking for bad news...  I've heard way too many stories of coming back and the car is missing parts- your custom valved shocks replaced with off the shelf equivalent..  that $$$ REM finished $$$ differential is gone..  etc.  either that or they put someone else's shitbox on the lift above yours and it leaked brake fluid all over your hood..

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I would definitely pay a friendly visit. Don't say much...just ask a few questions and feel him out. Not sure there's much you can do to recoup lost time and money. And how much time and effort do you want to put in maybe getting something back?

What I've found is that skilled professionals tend to finish stuff on time or close to it. If they are skilled, they know what it takes to get the job done and how much time he/she needs. Sheesh...I could build an engine for you in 1 year. I could figure it all out and then build it. Go to school...practice and then build yours. Hence...I'm not a professional.

I have little patience for running over time...I've learned that from painful experiences in the past. My machine shop turns a head around in 5 days. They know how to do it, what it takes to get my job done and all of the other ones pending in his shop. My REM polisher...turn around in 2 days. The professionals I enlist give a target time and they meet it most of the time. I strongly believe that is a reasonable expectation of a professional.

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13 hours ago, bigjae1976 said:

I have little patience for running over time...I've learned that from painful experiences in the past. My machine shop turns a head around in 5 days. They know how to do it, what it takes to get my job done and all of the other ones pending in his shop. My REM polisher...turn around in 2 days. The professionals I enlist give a target time and they meet it most of the time. I strongly believe that is a reasonable expectation of a professional.

Dammit..  wish I knew of a REM shop when I had my differential rebuilt last year.  the one I broke was lightened and REM finished, but i didn't know of a shop to do it for me on the next one..  I'll have to ask around more next time!

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12 hours ago, Matt93SE said:

Dammit..  wish I knew of a REM shop when I had my differential rebuilt last year.  the one I broke was lightened and REM finished, but i didn't know of a shop to do it for me on the next one..  I'll have to ask around more next time!

Hit me up if you need something REM polished. I can get an R&P, 4 bearings and 4 races all done for at most $250 plus shipping.

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Thanks.  next time I need a diff redone, I hope I'll remember this conversation. 🙂
 

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Sob story update - the conman thief POS remains elusive and does not return phone calls / voicemails, emails or text.

Rumor has it he was / has been robbing Peter to pay Paul as they say, and is underwater with lawsuits.  I will be engaging in a lawsuit myself as that is my only legal recourse. I'm also sure that he's probably going to be impossible to pin down and get any money out of, probably has already shutdown his LLC or whatever slippery BS someone like that does to get away with his nonsense.

Happened to be in the neighborhood (no really, I was at Spoaks MX and Creedmoor is on the way) and as expected the "shop" is behind a closed and locked up gate.  No sign of my car outside.

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Well...

I got a call on Friday the 15th from the person / shop in question.  Basically saying I can come pick up my stuff next Friday. 

So I'll be rolling out there with some help and probably a wrecker service to grab the rolling chassis of my car, and some boxes of parts.  

The engine itself is mostly complete and is at the engine builder, so I'll pick that up separately.  

I guess this is the best possible outcome at this point - ironic that I was just in the process of having a lawyer send a DTPA letter and go from there.  If all goes well this coming Friday, that won't be necessary. 

In talks with Biddle Motorsports to pick up the pieces and try to put humpty dumpty back together again.  Biddle knew of this other person, and this will not be the first project they've taken over from that shop.

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Glad you have a potential resolution, but this isn't over yet.  DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!!   I assume you have at least some photos of the car and parts before it went in?  Soon as you show up, get you pictures of the car where it sits before you touch it, all the parts, etc.   There's a large percentage of these cases where the shop has damaged the car requiring a repaint (laying parts on top of it for months, cars on lift above leaking fluids onto your paint, etc)

If you took or shipped loose parts for install, you might want to bring photocopies of receipts for that stuff to prove it belongs to you.

I hope none of that is needed, but be prepared to fight for what's yours. bring witness(es), stay polite and factual.  get your crap, get out, and don't look back!

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Good news.

Picked up the car and all the parts (sans engine) today.

The car looks like it did the day I dropped it off 3/15/2019.  I'm satisfied with this outcome, and the shop gave me a small refund as well.  I don't feel the need to pursue any legal action at this point - which is a relief.

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Good call.  Can't get blood out of a turnip.  Usually, only the lawyers do well in a lawsuit.

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