What is the liability of a petrol station when one of its attendants damages the engine of a car?

Question Details: A friend of mine went to a petrol station to get petrol and asked for the oil and water to be checked. The attendant put water into the oil entrance of the engine, damaging the car’s engine. Is the petrol station obliged to pay to remedy the damage?

Filed under Consumer Law | 3340 View(s)

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

Your friend can expect the petrol station owner or company to be liable for the damage their employee has done.

Your friend is entitled to expect the petrol station to do any "normal" job (for a petrol station) with reasonable care and skill. From what you tell us, the employee acted with little or no care or skill, and his or her employer should therefore be responsible.

Your friend should collect some proof, in case the petrol station or the employee denies what happened. If the car has already been seen by a mechanic, get them to provide some information (for example a signed letter) on how likely or unlikely it would be for water to get in the oil without someone pouring it in. Clear details about when the water was added and when your friend noticed a problem will also help.

Your friend should then approach the petrol station and ask them to pay to remedy the damage. The petrol station may have liability insurance to cover it for any damage to customers' cars. But, even if they don't, your friend could take a claim to the Disputes Tribunal if the petrol station won't pay. So long as your friend has evidence well organised, including either what it cost to get the car fixed or an estimate if the work hasn't been done yet, then the Disputes Tribunal can order the petrol station to meet the cost of repair. For more information on going to the Disputes Tribunal, click on this link: www.communitylaw.org.nz.

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