Student faces lawsuit for car repairs

On the corner of D Street and Bonita Avenue, in front of Warehouse Pizza, Mike Boguslawski of KCBS Channel 2 News' "Bogey's Corner," was taking consumer complaints. On Friday, Bogey, a consumer reporter, talked with the community for his show which aired at 4, 5, and 6 p.m. Freshman Traci Caswell had contacted producers of the show prior to Bogey's appearance in La Verne. Bogey assured her that he would help her with her lawsuit dealing with Sunland Tire Company. / photo by Natalie Fowle
On the corner of D Street and Bonita Avenue, in front of Warehouse Pizza, Mike Boguslawski of KCBS Channel 2 News’ “Bogey’s Corner,” was taking consumer complaints. On Friday, Bogey, a consumer reporter, talked with the community for his show which aired at 4, 5, and 6 p.m. Freshman Traci Caswell had contacted producers of the show prior to Bogey’s appearance in La Verne. Bogey assured her that he would help her with her lawsuit dealing with Sunland Tire Company. / photo by Natalie Fowle

by Damien Alarcon
Editor in Chief

A local mechanic shop has filed a lawsuit against a University of La Verne student who claims that the company overpriced materials, did not properly install items and possibly sabotaged her vehicle, among other things.

Sunland Tire Company, also known as La Verne Tire and Service, located across the street from the University of La Verne’s main campus on 2019 Bonita Avenue, filed the lawsuit against freshman Traci Caswell after she sent a letter demanding a refund for the work the company did to her 1969 Volkswagen Bug.

Caswell was served with a copy of the suit on April 11. The plaintiff is suing her for $1,000, which the company says she still owes for repairs to the car. She, in turn, is countersuing Sunland for $3,026.49, the same amount she demanded.

Caswell and district manager John Kast appeared in court yesterday at the Pomona Municipal Courthouse to settle the matter in small claim’s court. The two parties discussed in front of a judge for approximately 30 minutes. A judgment will be sent to Kast and Caswell through the mail since the judge could not make a decision.

Caswell took her vehicle to the shop on Sept. 22 of last year after her engine was not receiving gas, thus causing hesitation. She took the car in to Sunland Tire, which is across the street of the Stu-Han Residence Hall where the mechanics told her that she needed a new engine.

She was hesitant with purchasing a new engine since she said she and her father, Kenneth Hawthorne, restored a new engine in the vehicle last June.

Trusting what the mechanics told her, Caswell, with the help of her parents, placed a down payment of $1,000 toward the new engine after getting a verbal estimate from the company employees of “no more than $1,500 to fix it,” Caswell said.

The company gave Caswell an invoice dated on Oct. 3 with an amount of $1,458.85 charged to her, excluding the $1,000 down payment.

Since she could not afford the amount due, nor could she get a loan from her credit union, Caswell signed a promissory note to the company charging her 24 percent interest and weekly payments of $75.

There were several items on the invoice that she said were not authorized to be placed in her car or was never put into her car.

“There was stuff on the bill that didn’t belong there, that we don’t even know about. We asked the manager and he doesn’t even know,” said Caswell.

In a letter to the State Department of Consumer Affairs, Caswell’s parents said that original parts on the engine were replaced with cheap replacements and were discarded without authorization.

After installing the new engine, the vehicle was enduring more problems dealing with the carburetor, electrical wiring and the engine.

Caswell said that the car was breaking down on a regular basis. Each time she took the car back to the shop, she would encounter another problem once the vehicle was released back to her.

According to the letter, “Traci felt forced and ultimately authorized La Verne Auto to make these repairs since they would not release the car to her to bring home-stating that they would be liable if she had an accident.”

Caswell paid for the restoration of new wheel cylinders and brake lines, which priced at a total of $250.

After the additional work, Caswell took her vehicle to mechanic Bill Clemans, who owns a shop in Glendora, to go through the receipts and examined the work.

According to a document sent by Clemans, he wrote a poor evaluation of Sunland Tire’s work. He listed many things that he said were wrong with the car such as the pulley setting which was set 40 degrees above normal, which led to overheating, and a broken engine block, which led to oil leaks. Caswell said that Clemans told her that the new engine that was replaced by Sunland was not new, but merely rebuilt.

After receiving the report from Clemans, Caswell took the car back to Sunland, who sent the vehicle to Lloyd Mosher of Lloyd Mosher Enterprises, an Upland-based company. Mosher also documented a list of problems of the engine involving leaks, poor installation, overheating and wrong engine timing.

Neither Sunland manager John Sobiesiak nor Kast were willing to refund the money to Caswell.

Mosher said that “parts were literally falling off the engine.”

Sunland employees took the vehicle to Mosher, who specializes in Porshes and Volkswagens, after installing the engine and being unable to start the car.

“I could not believe the condition the car was in,” said Mosher. “There were obvious problems with the engine. It was a comedy of errors.”

Based on what he saw of Sunland’s work on the engine, Mosher said he believes that Sunland does not have employees qualified or able to fix Volkswagen Bugs.

When questioned about the lawsuit and the vehicle, Sobiesiak refused to comment.

“I could not believe they were suing me. After all the problems I had with them, they are suing me for something that was their fault,” said Caswell. “I was very upset.”

Caswell said she believes that the employees of Sunland are trying to take advantage of her because she is a woman, who is not very familiar with engine repair.

In a statement made by Kast written to Mike Boguslawski, who is a consumer reporter/advocate of CBS-Channel 2 News’ “Bogey’s Corner,” he said that Caswell’s vehicle was a “salvage titled car.”

Caswell said she has certificates and receipts to prove that everything in her vehicle was new. Caswell informed “Bogey’s Corner” to help her in getting back her money.

“For a salvaged car, you have to have the brakes and lights inspected and cleared before you can drive it on the road or have it registered. I did all of that a long time ago,” said Caswell. “Now they are telling me that my idea of restoration is paint, new interior and a new stereo system.”

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