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A repair technician was hired to repair a microwave (MW), but instead he broke the oven attached to said MW, and then said that he cannot repair either appliance unless I make the back of both appliances accessible by making certain alteration that involve carpentry and possibly electrical work.

According to the contract, I am responsible to make the items being repaired accessible. However, I was not appraised that there were any access problems beforehand, and solving those problems is not worth repairing the MW. However now that he broke the oven I have no choice: the same access is necessary to fix the oven.

Given the choice between leaving MW dead or paying for the access I would leave the MW dead.

Given the choice between leaving both MW and oven dead or paying for the access I have no choice but to pay for the access.

Is the technician responsible for reimbursing for the work necessary to create the access?

His position is that I would have to pay for the access to repair MW anyway. My point is that if he didn't break the oven I wouldn't do that. In fact, I would be very happy at this point to have the things as they were before he showed up: the dead MW on top of functioning oven.

Which one of us is right? If I would sue him to restore the appliances to their pre-attempted-repair condition, would I prevail?

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  • What makes you think that you were supposed to be "appraised" about any access problems beforehand? It may be that you were just obliged to solve any such problems once the repairs had started, and any doubts were on you to raise/resolve in advance.
    – Greendrake
    Sep 29, 2022 at 6:05
  • Where does this take place? Laws vary from place to place on these issues?
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 29, 2022 at 16:24
  • @ohwilleke, CA, USA.
    – Michael
    Sep 29, 2022 at 20:37

2 Answers 2

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Was the technician negligent?

Just because he broke the oven, doesn't mean that he negligently broke the oven. In breaking the oven, he would have to have done something that a reasonable technician would not have done.

Even if he was negligent, is the liability for his negligence excluded by the contract you signed when you hired him? And, if so, is such a limitation allowed under local law? In many parts of the USA, the answer is yes.

In either circumstance, the technician is liable for nothing.

Notwithstanding, assuming the technician is liable, there is little doubt they are liable for the cost of the repair. They are unlikely to be liable for the cost of providing access as, by the contract, you are responsible for providing this.

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  • I doubt the last sentence. The responsibility for providing access existed only if the MW repairs would go ahead, not if the technician became liable for fixing whatever they had broken. Now, fixing the oven includes the work for providing access. That this work would be on the OP if the MW (vs oven) was to be fixed is irrelevant.
    – Greendrake
    Sep 29, 2022 at 4:46
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Is a repair technician responsible for the issues he created?

Yes. This conclusion is premised on contract law principles such as "bearing the risk of mistake". See Restatement (Second) of Contracts at §§ 154, 227.

The technician notified you about the lack of access to the back of the microwave. But he should have notified you prior to starting the repair work, more so since he admits that this access is crucial for him to repair the appliance. It seems doubtful that (1) you as customer were expected to know beforehand what procuring that access entails, and (2) he as the specialist was diligent enough with regard to the preliminary steps for performing this repair.

By obviating that notice and proceeding with the repair work, the technician's conduct forfeits his entitlement that you ensure access to the appliance he broke. At this point, the coincidence that it is the same access referred to in the contract becomes incidental. In terms of Restatement at §227(1), the event was within the technician's control and the circumstances indicate that he has assumed the risk. Any of these two conditions suffices to preclude the principle of "reduc[ing] the obligee's risk of forfeiture", and your description reflects that in this case both conditions took place.

The technician could have put the contract on hold (or even voided it) by virtue of Restatement at §§ 152-154(a) on grounds that you did not provide the requisite access. He waived that option, and his decision [to proceed anyway] backfired. Now he cannot legally avoid the consequences of that decision.

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