Better Call Behnken: Man, mechanic at odds after car catches fire outside of shop

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. (WFLA) – Mark Lee has been without his 2000 Dodge van for 43 days. It sits at Gary’s Complete Auto Repair in Zephyrhills, completely charred after catching fire at the shop. The mechanic takes no responsibility.

“I don’t see how I’m liable for it,” Lee said. “I just drove it in there for an estimate.”vanfire2

Lee explains that he called to check on the van on Dec. 22, the same day he dropped it off, and was told it was fixed.

He said he was concerned, because he had not authorized a repair, but was happy it was fixed. He walked to the shop to pay for the $238 repair to fix a sensor.

Then, this happened:

“I get on his street, and I see my van coming down the road at me, and then it pulls over right next to the ditch near his parking lot, and I see fire dripping out underneath the engine, between the front tires,” Lee said.

Then, the inside of the van caught fire. The owner of the shop, he said, tells him he will have to file a claim with his insurance company. Lee can’t do that, because he does not have full coverage on the old van.

Plus, he blames the mechanic and questions whether the repair cause the fire.

Ken Southwick, owner of the shop he runs with his brothers, tells 8 On Your Side that he never repaired the car and that Lee is confused. He said the fire happened during a test drive and that his brother, who was driving, barely made it out of the car.

Southwick explains that his shop’s insurance policy only covers incidents inside the shop or during repair, not mechanical issues that happen to the car during a test drive.

He said he feels badly for Lee, who relies on the van to transport his elderly, disabled mother. He said he performed some repairs on another car Lee has for free, in order to help get him back on the road. However, that car is still not drivable either, and Lee is without transportation.

Southwick said he would be willing to repair the van for free now, but would require Lee pay for the part, that he estimates would cost about $1,000.

“I can’t afford to do that,” Lee said. “I brought a van in for an estimate and now I have no van. I can’t afford to buy a new vehicle after this guy burns my vehicle to the ground.”


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