Any legal recourse for potential damage from RV shop’s mistake?

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RV Doctor

Dear Gary,
I am writing you for your opinion about an event that has taken place involving our new trailer. We purchased a brand-new unit from a local dealer in June of last year and had many problems (5 work orders worth). Prior to taking it in for work to be done, I took the low point drain plugs off and put RV antifreeze in all the traps.

One of the repairs that was made involved repairing a leaking water pump. When I dropped it off I asked if the temperatures were going to be below freezing that they blow out the lines. I had to pick the trailer up this past January because the service center needed the space and could not hold it until February, when it was to be taken to the factory shop to have a wall and floor replacement completed.

When I was at my storage location I, by chance, checked the low point drains and found the shop had put new plugs on and had left the water lines, water pump and water heater filled with water and the lines were frozen solid. I checked the weather data and found that we had 10-plus days of below-freezing temps while my trailer was at their shop.

I know that they could do a pressure check to see if there is a leak, but I feel that there could be damage to fittings, elbows and connectors that may not leak today but could be fractured and could leak later.


I have told them they need to take my trailer back and trade straight across for another trailer on their lot, as they would never warranty the water system for the life of the trailer. I feel that they created an issue they can’t fix. Are my concerns valid? And am I being unreasonable for my request to trade for another new trailer? —Randy

Dear Randy,
Your situation is a sticky one for a couple of reasons. First and foremost: Did they add your request to winterize the trailer onto the Repair Order? If they did, then I feel they could be liable. If not, then it would be your word against theirs. If the dealer is truly interested in customer service, they should honor the situation anyway.

It’s doubtful they would swap another trailer out for you. Some states have lemon laws that may or may not force a dealer to do that, but it may prove difficult to prove a “lemon” situation, especially since they are apparently taking care of the warranty issues you do have.

It’s also totally up to the dealership to determine if they are willing to store your trailer for three months free of charge. If they are indeed charging you a storage fee, there should be a listing of liabilities as to the safety of the unit during the storage period. Check your written agreement with them.

At the very least they should perform the NFPA water leak tests as per the RVIA Standard. A leak test will determine if the system has any leaks. If no leaks are detected, it’s doubtful they would appear in the future due to the freezing endured in that one incident. Perhaps you can negotiate a Repair Order that states something along the lines of “if” leaks develop in the future, that they will be taken care of via the coach warranty or an extended warranty that the dealership will honor. Future water leaks will still be covered by the current warranty for the remainder of the warranty time.

So, if they agreed to winterize the coach, they could be liable for any and all freeze-related repairs. It’s not unreasonable to ask that they swap the RV, but once you take the emotion out of it, it’s also not unreasonable that they would be willing to test and repair current leaks as well as future leaks that may develop. A lot would depend on what was actually contracted for – the exact wording of the agreements and repair orders, etc.

But keep in mind, I’m not an attorney though I have performed “expert witness” evaluations/testimony and I’m happy to say I’ve never had to testify at a trial; we’ve always managed to negotiate a settlement or come to a logical resolution amicable to both sides. To be very sure of all your courses of action, I do recommend you get professional legal advice though.

gary-736Read more from Gary Bunzer at the RVdoctor.com. See Gary’s videos about RV repair and maintenance.

##RVT884

 


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Bill
Bill

Fatigue and crack growth can cause leaks in the future, the longer the time period the harder it may be to tell if the original crack was due to freezing, damage to the pipe or fitting during manufacturing, damage during use, or just old age. Most RVs have plastic piping, which can have an expected lifespan longer than that expected for the RV, but that assumes proper installation.

Vanessa
Vanessa

He stated he put antifreeze in it before delivering it to the dealer in June…who put the water in the system and why? Was one of the warranty repairs dealing with the plumbing? If so then why did he drain it? Why would anyone leave their RV with the dealer for 6 months or more for repairs unless it is to save the storage fees? Why couldn’t they order the parts and have you bring it in when they have them all together. If the company is going to fix it at the factory why isn’t it shipped there sooner.… Read more »

Steve Lawhead
Steve Lawhead

I fail to see why these RV dealers can’t take reasonable care of the RVs they have in their possession for repairs. If they are performing work that requires them to put water in the system and it’s going to freeze then they should take the necessary action to prevent damage. Same with taking care of batteries, locking up the unit, keeping windows closed, etc.

If I leave my RV with you to work on then I expect that you will take care of it in a reasonable manner like I would if it were sitting at my house.