Ohio Engine Replacement Dispute Ends In Tragedy

May 15, 2011

Can a disputed auto repair be worth the loss of two lives? Of course not, but that was the outcome of a conflict in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday, when a disgruntled customer shot and killed a 60-year-old manager and grandmother of nine, and then turned the gun on herself, according to a report in The Columbus Dispatch.

The 53-year-old customer had pursued the repair shop since July when her engine was replaced with a rebuilt unit. The report said that she felt that the $3000 repair was done shoddily, led to the subsequent failure of the transmission and the unraveling of her personal life. According to the victim's daughter, these allegations were to be the subject of a lawsuit that will never occur.

The two parties had attempted to resolve the issue and agreed to a mediation which was held in January. As a result, the auto repair facility agreed to reimburse "actual damages" according to state records cited by The Columbus Dispatch. The offer was rejected by the car owner, who stated in an e-mail to the attorney general's office that she had lost her job as an intern at the state's Office of Management and Budget in April due to transportation issues. She also told the AG's office in an e-mail that she was attending counseling and was under a doctor's care.

The shop manager's daughter said that her mother was a loving person who had opened her home to her nephew whom she had been raising for ten years since her sister died and would frequently be found cheering her grandchildren on at sporting events.

No degree of preparation short of a restraining order may have helped in this case, but the tragedy points out the potential for violence when a confrontational situation escalates. In the post What To Do When An Auto Repair Goes Wrong it is pointed out that the emotion should be taken out of the remediation process. Both parties have to be committed to taking that out of the dealings.

The car owner has to appreciate the complexity of the automotive machine and be willing to accept good faith attempts at resolution. The repair facility must recognize the emotional and personal economic impact that the loss of a individual’s or family’s transportation poses to that car owner and make every effort to find some reasonable resolution.

Violence is never an acceptable resolution to any dispute much less one over 4000 pounds of plastic, sheet metal, and steel. As this very tragic incident shows the outcome can affect families and individuals in irrevocable ways.    

[Columbus Post-Dispatch, The Car Connection]

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