Deceptive Trade Practices / Loss Of Use

Someone in Aledo, Azle, Haslet, Saginaw, Cedar Hill, Grand Prairie, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Hurst, Bedford, or anywhere else in Texas might ask: What happens when I lose the use of my car because of the actions of another person?
This usually happens in a car wreck situation but also happens in situations where engine repairs are not properly completed. Other insurance situations might be when a car is lost or destroyed due to fire, flood, or theft, and the owner is trying to get their own insurance company to take care of the matter.
As it relates to the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) the issue of compensation for “loss of use” came up in a case decided in 1984. The style of the case is “Yolanda Luna v. North Star Dodge Sales, Inc. and was decided by the Texas Supreme Court.
The basis facts of the case were that in March 1980, Luna sought to purchase a 1980 Dodge Omni from North Star Dodge Sales, Inc. (North Star). A 30-day/1,000 mile “money back guarantee” was offered to Luna. If a purchaser was not satisfied with the car, then the purchase price would be refunded if the car was returned prior to the expiration of 30 days from the purchase date or before the 1000 mile limitation occurred. Luna took delivery of the car and while driving it home noticed a constant vibration and rattling with steering wheel.
Two days later Luna took the car back to North Star and asked the salesman, Lewis, to refund her purchase money. They did not, nor did they ever say they would. Luna was told the refund decision was up to someone who was not available at that time. North Star offered to fix the car. Luna claimed it was never fixed. She returned to North Star several times with the car. She testified that she requested the refund each time which was not honored. She felt she had no choice but to let North Star attempt to repair the car. Luna thought that if North Star did not fix the car, then she would still get her purchase money back.
Eventually, she just left the car at North Star where it remained at the time of the trial. Luna continued to make monthly payments on the car for 15 months. The jury awarded Luna $5,200 for loss of use of the car from April 11, 1980 to the time of trial. This court upheld that finding.
There were several other issues at the trial but only the loss of use is being discussed here. Luna testified she thought the reasonable rental value for her car was approximately $100.00 per week. Luna was unable to afford to rent a replacement car. A man in the auto leasing and rental business testified the reasonable rental value for Luna’s car in April 1980 was $108.00 per week plus approximately $0.18 per mile.
The Court held that in order to prove loss of use of an automobile, the plaintiff need not rent a replacement automobile or show any amounts actually expended for alternative transportation. They cited another court which stated:
If we were to hold that a plaintiff who has lost the use of his pleasure automobile … cannot be compensated because he has not hired a substitute automobile, we would be placing upon recovery a condition of financial ability to hire another automobile to take the place of the injured automobile. The law cannot condone such a condition. He would be denied compensation for his inconvenience resulting from the defendant’s wrongful act.
This Court went on to say that to prove up loss of use, the reasonable rental value of a substitute automobile is sufficient evidence to support an award of actual damages. The period of compensatory loss of use will be the reasonable rental value by the day, week, or month.
The Court said it is not perhaps possible to lay down a rigid and unbending rule, applicable to all cases because it must of necessity vary with the character of the property, and somewhat with the peculiar circumstances of each case. But the thing to keep in view is that the harmed party shall be compensated for the injury done.
There are some rules that can seem kind of strange related to “loss of use” claims and claims related to substitutes by rental. An experienced Insurance Law Attorney will look at the Texas Transportation Code. Section 501.091 of this code and the sections following to give some guidance as it relates to “loss of use” claims.