My bike was in for a routine service at my franchised dealer. While there, it was knocked over, scuffed and had some modest fairing cracks. However, the dealership has said they are not going to repair the bike as the bike fell over through no fault of their own and it was, to use their words, “just one of those things”. I have never received an explanation as to how my bike fell over but I have heard at least two versions.
Version one is that a mechanic dropped it while either taking it off its centre stand or putting it on its centre stand. The other version is that a customer under-estimated the width of his own bike, parked it next to mine and when he let it drop on to its side stand, it managed to knock mine over. Either way, my bike is damaged – through no fault of my own.
My insurers are pretty reluctant to get involved and have politely but firmly advised me that if they do repair the bike it will cost me my no-claims bonus. As the repairs are £90 more than my excess, this is not a good option for me. All in all, I am not happy. What is my legal position in all of this?
Your dealership had a duty of care arising from an ancient legal doctrine of bailment but once you scrape through all the ancient law it boils down to this: the dealership owes you a high duty of care such as would be used by a careful man exercising such care as he should over his own goods. The burden is on the dealership to show the level of care it took.
If the bike was dropped by an employee, the law is clear: the dropping of a motorcycle is a negligent act for which the dealership is liable. An employer is liable for its employees.
The second scenario is where things get a little bit more difficult. If the bike is safely stored in a compound and a third party comes along and knocks It over, then the dealership could have a defence. However, they need to show that the damage to your vehicle happened without negligence on their part. If the bike was knocked over by a third party then you would be able to allege (and on balance, I think prove) that the failure to keep a record of the details of the clumsy customer fell below the standards of a reasonably competent dealership. That means that either way, they owe you.
I am not sure it would be negligent to keep your bike in a compound to which customers had limited access. They do not have to provide a perfect environment, I don’t know your dealership but my experience puts dealers into two very clear camps. There are those who will do the right thing, and quickly. Then there are those who will regard every problem as being the customer’s issue and try to avoid paying until they are dragged off to settle the matter in a small claims court.
My feeling is that you are probably going to have to take this matter to be settled in a small claims court. Your case is that they had your bike for a service, it came back damaged and in the absence of an explanation you want the repairs carried out at the dealer’s expense. It would be so much cheaper for the dealer to replace the damaged parts than get sued but their reaction is so odd, I think that the real explanation might be that they are about to go bust. If that’s the case, you’d do well to get your bike off them and then sue.
RiDE Magazine March 2014