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My wife filled her car's gas tank at a station that also provides auto repair service.

After driving a few miles, the car's engine started to run poorly, the engine service light turned on, and it had barely enough power to make it to the side of the road.

She called the dealer we bought the car from, and they warned her to not run the car further since it would ruin the engine. A couple days later, they towed the car, found water in the gas line and tank, and repaired it.

When we demanded that the owners of the original gas station compensate us for the tow and repairs, they replied that we were required to return to them for the repairs, not to the dealer.

Does buying gas imply a warranty on it (they mentioned "warranty" in one of their emails)? Were we legally obligated to return to the gas/service station for the repair?

  • Have you had any other interactions with that gas station, other than buying gas? – BlueDogRanch Feb 9 '16 at 19:24
  • I'm 99% sure we've had no other interactions. We've at most bought gas. We've never had the car serviced there. – Joe Doyle Feb 9 '16 at 20:03
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Even without a warranty, if they were negligent in the way that they bought, inspected, stored, and offered you fuel, then they owe you for any damages that happened as a result unless you absolved them of liability in some agreement that you had with them.

What did the email that mentioned "warranty" say?

  • We reviewed the repair invoice from McGrath Honda and have some issues with your request. Here they are, 1) We should have received a phone call from you stating that you were having problems with the fuel in your vehicle. This should have been made before you authorized any to service to be done. 2) .... 3) .... 4) We were open ..., so no reason we could not have been informed. These are very important concerns as you made the decision to proceed on your own. I do not know of any warranty that would be honored this way. – Joe Doyle Feb 9 '16 at 21:38
  • @JoeDoyle I don't believe the path to recovering money with this seller will have anything to do with a warranty, but simply common law negligence. You will need to be able to prove that the water in your fuel system came from that seller. You'll need to argue that the seller violated a standard of care related to the fuel storage and dispensing that would have normally prevented water from being pumped into your car. – user3851 Feb 9 '16 at 21:39
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Unless there is a clause in your contract with the gas station owner that they must be given the first right to attempt any repairs then you do not have to do this.

If your contract was, as is typical, you saw the advertised price, you pumped some into your car, you paid, then no such clause exists.

Notwithstanding any consumer protection statutes that are almost certainly applicable, common law contracts contain a warranty that the goods supplied shall be merchantable (gas with water in it isn't) and fit for any reasonably foreseeable purpose (running a car is a pretty foreseeable use for gas). If they breach this term and damage results, they are obliged to restore you to the position you would have been in but for the damage; i.e. they have to pay the repair bill. Incidentally, they still owe you the gas you paid for.

Rather than taking legal action, why not write a big sign saying "THIS PLACE SELLS GAS WITH WATER IN IT!", putting it on your car and parking it where potential customers can see it. My guess is they will settle pretty quick.

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