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Here’s what can go wrong if you give away a salvage vehicle


June 24, 2021   by Greg Meckbach


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A couple who thought they received a written-off camper trailer as a gift are entitled to some compensation for repairs they made before the registered owner came to retrieve the vehicle, a Newfoundland and Labrador court has ruled.

Sherry Drake is the registered owner of a 32-foot camper trailer. A man with whom Drake was in a relationship, identified in the court ruling as “Derek,” is said to have decided to give Drake’s trailer to Brian and Tina Power. That vehicle was damaged by water leaks.

Drake received $26,000 from her insurer, which considered the camper trailer a writeoff and left it to Drake to dispose of the trailer. The settlement amount is what Drake and her insurer agreed it would cost to repair the leaky camper.

After the relationship between Drake and “Derek” ended, Drake wanted the trailer back from the Powers. Meanwhile the Powers claim they spent a considerable amount of time and money repairing the trailer. But Drake never actually transferred ownership over to the Powers.

Drake and the Powers could not come to an agreement as to exactly how much Drake should pay the Powers for work they had done on the camper. So the Powers sued Drake in the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Ultimately, the court awarded the Powers $4,100 in Power v. Drake, released June 23.

The bulk of the award is for the estimated 255 hours of labour that the Powers probably spent on repairing the trailer, as Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Harold Porter ruled. The Powers did not submit receipts to the court for materials.

“It is clear that the [Powers] did not undertake the repair of the leaky trailer for remuneration,” wrote Justice Porter. “They thought that the defendant had given them the trailer, and so they were working on the repair of the trailer in hopes of using it themselves.”

When Drake told the Powers that she was taking the trailer back, the Powers wanted to be compensated for the work that they had done on it. “This is a reasonable thing to expect,” wrote Justice Porter. “To find otherwise, to deny the claim by the [Powers], would result in [Drake] being unjustly enriched by the efforts of the [Powers].”

Much of the dispute was over exactly how much Drake should pay the Powers.

Ultimately Justice Porter found that the Powers probably spent 255 hours of their own time repairing the trailer and that $20 per hour was a reasonable fee. He discounted 55 hours to account for his finding that the Powers should have had the ownership transferred to them before they started the work. That left a calculation of 200 hours at $20 per hour. Therefore, Justice Porter awarded the Powers $4,000 for the labour plus $100 for the court fee.

“The entire cause of action could have been avoided had the plaintiffs insisted on the transfer of the title of the trailer being completed before they started to repair the trailer,” Justice Porter wrote. “In fairness to the [Powers], they were acting in good faith, and so they should not be overly penalized for their hastiness in proceeding as they did. The fact remains that they proceeded at their peril.

“In hindsight, the [Powers] would have been better off insisting on the change in registration of the trailer before undertaking the repairs of the trailer.”

Feature image via iStock.com/CasarsaGuru


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