Many people who call my office have legal problems for which it would not be cost-effective to hire an attorney. I often tell them they can pursue their claim in Small Claims Court if they so choose. Frank called to tell me he took my advice and won.

Frank first called me in December and wished me a Happy Festivus. He also told me of the transmission problems he was having with his ‘02 Explorer. I’m not sure if it was the Festivus greeting or the soft spot I have in my heart for Explorers, but I spent a bit of time on the phone with him. (His last name is not Costanza, BTW.)

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He had brought his truck to a transmission shop in Wayne County and I recognized the name: I had sued them before. They had quoted him a price for a trans repair but had not put it in writing. After they tore down his trans they called him with the news. The cost to repair the trans had jumped from the $1,100 range up to $2,300. When he balked, they told him he would have to pay $450 to get his truck back.

I pointed out to Frank that the actions he described violated the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Act and that if he went to small claims on his own, he could handle it and the case was pretty clear cut. I told Frank the citation for the law and he said he would call me with an update.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. At his first hearing before a magistrate, Frank didn’t get a chance to get into the law. The transmission shop owner told the court that this is how he always does business and the magistrate ruled against Frank. But Frank, being one who observes The Airing of the Grievances, filed an appeal. And when he got in front of a judge, the judge read the law which Frank had brought with him. And then ruled in his favor.

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Frank now has a Judgment against the transmission shop for the $450 plus the costs of filing the action. I told him to call me in a few weeks if the judgment isn’t satisfied and I can walk him through the steps to make a defendant want to pay a judgment. I know the season of Festivus is behind us now but I like to think this was all part of a larger Festivus Miracle. Now, perhaps, it is time to take down the Festivus Pole.

Follow me on Twitter: @stevelehto

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Steve Lehto has been practicing law for 24 years, almost exclusively in consumer protection and Michigan lemon law. He wrote The Lemon Law Bible and Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation.

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