CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Some customers at Charlotte-area Jiffy Lube stores are warning people of the damage done to their cars and the cost they incurred to fix it. WBTV spoke with several customers who say they were forced to sue the local Jiffy Lube franchise owner, Cisa Lubes, in order to try and get them to pay for damage they did to their vehicles.
Kelly Walker told WBTV he took his wife’s Subaru to the Jiffy Lube store on South Boulevard for an oil change. After taking longer than he expected, he noticed problems with the car as soon as he drove it.
“The car immediately started to behave poorly and lugging,” Walker said.
Walker said he drove to a Subaru dealership to have a mechanic look at the car.
“Very quickly the mechanic came back and said they drained the transmission,” Walker said.
“The transmission was empty and the transmission was destroyed.”
Like other people WBTV spoke with, Walker said he contacted the local Jiffy Lube store and corporate customer service representatives. But Cisa Lubes wouldn’t offer a reasonable solution according to Walker. He said the local store manager offered to put in a used transmission at a cost of $2,400. Instead Walker had a Subaru mechanic install a factory refurbished transmission at a cost of $7,500.
Walker said that Jiffy Lube refused to pay the full price of the repairs.
“When it became clear that is all they were going to offer we sued them,” Walker said.
WBTV found three lawsuits in Mecklenburg County where customers sued Cisa Lubes after they claimed employees at the shop did thousands of dollars of damage to their vehicles.
Cisa Lubes owns thirteen Charlotte area Jiffy Lube locations. The company is a branch of the company CISA Mexico, which is a producer and distributor of motor oils and lubricants.
Kay Pagano told WBTV that her son had his oil changed at the Jiffy Lube in Cornelius but months later his car started smoking as he was driving down the road. Records their mechanic provided them show that the drain plug for the oil fell off of the vehicle, cuaing more than &,500 in expenses for them.
Pagano said she contacted Jiffy Lube but they wouldn’t agree to pay for the full price of their repairs.
“We thought for sure we would be compensated something because I couldn’t think of anything else I could have done better,” Pagano said.
Pagano filed a complaint in small claims court against Cisa Lubes. She says the judge decided in favor of Cisa Lubes after they presented an expert witness in court. Pagano didn’t have an attorney and, even though she filed dozens of records outlining the problem, didn’t have an expert witness to testify in court.
Cisa Lubes Chief Operating Officer Joel Walker sent WBTV a statement saying they would prefer not to end up in court with customers.
“From time to time we may disagree with a customer as to the cause of damage to their vehicle or to an appropriate remedy. In these rare circumstances we may seek to have these issues arbitrated by an impartial juror. Even in most of these cases where we disagree as to a reasonable solution it is still our preference to find an outcome that is satisfactory to our customer outside of court, as these cases are not only expensive for us to litigate but take focus from our mission of providing outstanding service to all of our customers each and every day.”
But Walker told WBTV the burden of legal costs is shared by customers. He paid about $10,000 in legal fees.
Walker’s case was originally sent to arbitration but after the arbitrator ruled in his favor Cisa Lubes appealed to district court. Nearly a year after his car was first damaged Cisa Lubes offered to settle the case right before trial. He says they attempted to get him to sign a non-disclosure agreement to prevent him from discussing the case.
“It appears to me it’s an abuse of the legal system in order to get us to take some lesser amount of money through a tactic of trying to run our legal bills up to the point where we’d just give in but we refused to give in,” Walker said.
North Carolina law doesn’t allow Walker to recover legal fees in his case. He believes if it did there would have been a very different, and much quicker outcome.
“There’s a lot of people who can’t afford $10,000 in legal fees to try and fight something like this,” Walker said.