HRKM Wins Directed Verdict in Auto Repair Professional Liability Case
An often overlooked consideration during most initial case evaluations, is the applicability of the Statute of Limitations. A prime purpose of the statute of limitations is to protect defendants from facing surprise and stale claims which position them at a strategic and technical disadvantage because of an inordinate passage of time. Fla. Dep’t of Health & Rehab. Servs. v. S.A.P, 835 So. 2d 1091 (Fla. 2002). Our firm recently defended a client mechanic shop which had been sued by a customer for car repair work that occurred eight years before.
Plaintiff alleged that defective repair work performed by our client resulted in catastrophic engine damages and Plaintiff was seeking damages equivalent to the approximate replacement value of his now 14 year old motor vehicle. On its face, eight years and 40,000 + miles later seems like seems a long time to a bring an auto repair claim, however, Florida Statute 95.11 contains a provision in section (4)(a) which could theoretically form the basis for Plaintiff’s potential recovery even with a claim so remote. Specifically, Florida Statute 95.11(4)(a) provides that for cases of professional liability the statute of limitations would start to run only after “time the cause of action is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence” and run for two years. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 95.11(4)(a).
In this case, the key question for purposes of applying the Statute of Limitations was whether a mechanic, in Florida, fits within the statutory definition of a “professional” as provided in FSA 95.11. Florida Statute 621.03 defines professional services as follows:
Fla. Stat. Ann. § 621.03 (West)
“As used in this act the following words shall have the meaning indicated:
(1) The term “professional service” means any type of personal service to the public which requires as a condition precedent to the rendering of such service the obtaining of a license or other legal authorization. By way of example and without limiting the generality thereof, the personal services which come within the provisions of this act are the personal services rendered by certified public accountants, public accountants, chiropractic physicians, dentists, osteopathic physicians, physicians and surgeons, doctors of medicine, doctors of dentistry, podiatric physicians, chiropodists, architects, veterinarians, attorneys at law, and life insurance agents.”(emphasis added)
To be considered a professional, for purposes of professional negligence, the occupation must require a license. However, in Florida, mechanics are not required to have a license to practice1 (citation website: (https://asecertificationtraining.com/mechanics-license-requirements-state-florida/)
As a result, mechanics do not fall under the provision of Florida Statute 95.11(4)(a), thereby rendering Plaintiff’s dubious claim time-barred by the Statute of Limitations. Attention to detail turned out to be the difference in this case. Instead of having to hash out time antiquated facts that may or may not have disadvantaged our client, the case resolved in our favor with a defense verdict at a bench trial.
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