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Title: Is dealer liable for damage caused by snapped chain?

Date: 30 March 2011


I recently took my Yamaha FZ6 N for an intermediate service at my local Honda dealership. On completion of the service I was advised that the chain and sprocket set were showing signs of wear. When picking up my bike I was verbally advised that the chain and sprocket would need replacing within the next 4000 miles. The service log also states the fact that the chain was showing signs of wear but it does not state that they recommended it be replaced within the 4000 miles.
However one week after the service and approximately 120 miles later the chain snapped and caused £3500 worth of damage. Ouch! The crank & engine casing took the biggest damage due to the chain wrapping around it. There is also damage to the rear sub frame, rear fender, chain defender and rear cowling.
I now have an FZ6 on 2005 plate that was approximately worth in £2000 (before the chain snapped) with a repair bill of £4200 with labour included. So really my bike is a write off and only worth breaking down for parts.
Do you think that the Honda dealership that carried out the service has any liability towards recovering some of the costs?
Martin Wells, by e-mail
Your first port of call should be the dealership. Explain what happened and why you think they have an obligation to repair the bike. Hopefully they will come to some arrangement.
From a legal standpoint, in order for liability to attach to the dealership you would need to show that they fell short of the standard required of competent motor engineers and that this failure ultimately caused the damage to your bike.
The main question is why the chain actually snapped? Was it due to wear and tear or was it due to some other factor (road debris, defect in the chain etc.)? If you could show that it was as a result of wear then you would need to show that the mechanic at the dealership should have been aware that this was imminent and that in not picking it up he was negligent. In this case, the mechanic had inspected the chain and noted the wear but found it not to be enough to cause immediate concern. Expert engineering evidence would assist but that will cost you. In the absence of supportive expert evidence, it is likely that the Court would find that the engineer was sufficiently diligent, and it would likely be further evidence to suggest that the chain snapped as a result of some unknown factor.
Given the value of your loss this is not a matter in which to involve solicitors. In claims of this nature the court will not award costs should you succeed, and on a private fee paying basis the cost of legal fees would soon outstrip your loss. Should you choose to take legal action you can bring a claim in the Small Claims Court where you can represent yourself (to start a claim see Any award for the other side’s costs should you not be successful in your claim would be limited to £80.

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