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Devis v. Hixson Autoplex of Monroe, L.L.C.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 23, 2018


          On Application for Writs from the Monroe City Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2016CV02436 Honorable Aisha S. Clark, Judge

          VILAR & GREEN, L.L.C. By: Mark F. Vilar Aaron L. Green Counsel for Applicant

          VARHONDA E. BURRELL Counsel for Respondent

          Before BROWN, GARRETT, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          STEPHENS, J.

         Defendant, Hixson Autoplex of Monroe, LLC, filed a writ application in this court following the denial of its motion for summary judgment by the Monroe City Court, Parish of Ouachita, State of Louisiana, in a lawsuit for damages brought by Janella Davis. The writ was granted to docket. For the following reasons, we grant the writ, reverse the trial court and grant defendant's motion for summary judgment, dismissing Davis's suit with prejudice.


         Davis filed a petition for damages on July 21, 2016, alleging that Hixson Autoplex of Monroe, LLC ("Hixson"), failed to properly diagnose problems with her 2006 BMW 5 Series (the "vehicle") and its failure to do so resulted in further damage to the vehicle. In response, Hixson filed a dilatory exception of vagueness which resulted in the parties entering into a consent judgment toclarify that the sole act of negligence alleged by Davis is "failure to diagnose the problem of the vehicle." Hixson subsequently filed an answer denying the allegations and a motion for summary judgment asserting Davis would not be able to meet her burden at trial. That motion was denied and Hixson sought a supervisory writ, which this court granted to docket.[1]

         The vehicle was purchased by Davis in 2014 for $13, 670.00 and had a history of repairs prior to Davis purchasing it. On June 21 or 22 of 2015, Davis noticed a temperature warning light appear while driving the vehicle, and she had it towed to Hixson. John Wheat, a certified master technician employed by Hixson, inspected the vehicle and found there was a leak at the coolant pump and the radiator cap was faulty. With Davis's approval, Wheat replaced the coolant pump, thermostat, radiator cap, vent pipe, and hose clamp for a total cost of $1, 550.00 to Davis.

         The vehicle continued to give the same temperature warning, causing Davis to have it towed and inspected twice more, on July 6 and 9, 2015. On July 6, Davis was told the problem was resolved by adding another clamp on a hose, and on July 9, she was told the problem was an air pocket because they did not see where coolant was leaking. On July 10, 2015, the engine light came on. Hixson was unable to inspect the vehicle the following day because it was a Saturday. The engine light subsequently went off.

         Then on July 16, 2015, the engine light came back on, and the vehicle began vibrating. Davis drove it to Hixson where an inspection revealed that on one occasion the vehicle exhibited a permanent fault caused by a misfire with cylinder cutout. Davis was told the problem was unrelated to the prior coolant problem and was probably caused by a faulty ignition coil. No work by Hixson was performed at this time.

         The next day, the coolant light came on, and Davis's husband returned the vehicle to Hixson. Hixson was unable to detect a leak, so it placed dye in the car in an attempt to determine where the coolant was going. By the time Davis's husband got home, he observed no coolant remained in the vehicle.

         On July 20, 2015, Davis's husband added coolant to the vehicle at which time white smoke appeared; they had the vehicle towed back to Hixson. Wheat inspected the vehicle and determined that due to the continued problems with the coolant system, the next step to address the issue was to completely disassemble and inspect the entire coolant system. Hixson estimated it would cost approximately $1, 500.00 to have the entire coolant system disassembled for diagnosis. Davis claims Hixson informed her at this time that it believed the vehicle may have a cracked head from when it initially came to Hixson and it was the engine that needed to be broken down for diagnosis, not the coolant system. Either way, Davis did not authorize the work by Hixson and none was performed.

         Davis subsequently took the vehicle to another repairmen, Sedric Bosley, who disassembled the engine and discovered the engine block was cracked which required the engine to be replaced. Davis purchased a used engine for $2, 850.00 which Bosley installed. She paid an ...

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