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B.C. lawyer loses BMW oil change dispute

The Civil Resolution Tribunal ruled the lawyer did not prove standard of care was breached.
An Okanagan lawyer claimed $5,000 in damages for repairs and engine cleaning at the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal.

A Vernon lawyer has lost his compensation fight for more than $5,000 in work done on his BMW he claims arose when an oil change was done improperly.

Andrew Powell took his 2009 BMW X5 to WBC Holdings Ltd. (WBC), doing business as Great Canadian Oil Change, for an oil change, B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal member Micah Carmody said in a May 9 small claims decision.

Powell alleged that during the Jan. 22, 2022 oil change WBC removed and failed to replace an oil filter cap insert that directs oil through the filter.

That, Powell said, resulted in damage to various parts; he claimed $5,000 in damages for repairs and engine cleaning.

WBC, however, responded that repair costs were related to the BMW’s pre-existing issues and not WBC’s oil change. It denied losing any oil filter cap components.

Powell said his check engine light came on Feb. 8, 2022.

He took the BMW to his regular mechanic, Affordable Auto Repair (AAR), and paid a $2,508 invoice, which contained extensive notes. He said that amount was attributable to WBC’s oil change.

Powell says his check engine light came on again a few months later, prompting him to take the vehicle to AAR again. Powell said $2,589 of AAR’s $3,865 May 30, 2022 invoice was attributable to WBC’s oil change.

AAR’s Feb. 9, 2022 invoice includes detailed notes made by a red seal automotive technician, who noted that based on the engine error codes and the information Powell provided that he recently had an oil change.

The technician started by checking the oil filter cap.

“It is undisputed that Mr. Powell’s BMW model has an oil filter cap that normally has a centre cartridge or insert that directs the oil flow,” Carmody said. “Without it, the oil bypasses the filter, resulting in unfiltered engine oil being supplied to the engine.”

As suspected, the technician found the cartridge was missing. The technician noted it can get stuck in the filter when the old one is removed and can be inadvertently discarded along with the filter.

WBC disputed it removed and failed to replace the insert, saying it must have been previously missing.

“It relies on the note on its January 22 oil change invoice that it observed ‘heavy oil leaks beneath oil filter on arrival,’” Carmody said.

Powell said AAR staff told him that every invoice they see from WBC says there was a pre-existing oil leak.

The tribunal called that hearsay evidence and declined to accept it.

An AAR technician testified seeing the same issue that affected Powell’s BMW in the past with other vehicles from different shops, especially those specializing in quick oil changes.

Carmody said Powell did not say when his previous oil change had occurred, did not say how many kilometres he drove the BMW between its last service and WBC’s oil change, or the 17 days between WBC’s oil change and AAR’s first invoice.

While an AAR technician said the problems did not pre-date the oil change in question, it is not apparent whether he was basing that on AAR’s service records, which were not in evidence, or simply on what Powell told him.

“In the circumstances, given there were documented heavy oil leaks beneath the filter before WBC’s oil change, I am unable to conclude on a balance of probabilities that the insert was removed during WBC’s oil change and not at some other time,” the tribunal ruled.

Carmody added AAR’s repairs were equally consistent with a previous leak as with a leak that developed after WBC’s oil change.

“I find Mr. Powell has not proven a breach of the standard of care,” the tribunal member said in dismissing the claim.

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