Springfield attorney’s car wash experience a prime example of complex liability issues

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 5:34 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A Springfield attorney says he’s considering legal action against a local car wash after his car got damaged while getting cleaned.

The car wash says the fault lies in the driver who was in front of him at the time of the accident, not the the business itself and the matter may have to get litigated to determine a solution.

“Not only did my car not get cleaned it actually got wrecked in the car wash,” said Clayton Ballard, who’s been a longtime customer at the Blue Iguana Car Wash on East Sunshine.

Ballard, an attorney for a local business, had his car inside the automatic car wash tunnel when an SUV in front of him went off the track that guides the cars through the various cycles.

“I have no idea if it was something she did or if it was the car wash that caused it,” Ballard recounted. “The car behind me was also forced into my rear bumper. They finally shut things down. They instructed the driver in front of me to back up and she backed into my car (again) which was the second time my car had been damaged.”

An estimate determined $2,200 worth of damage which Ballard says is not what angered him.

It’s the fact that the car wash refuses to accept any responsibility for helping him get his car fixed.

“They haven’t even given me my money back for the car wash,” he said with a laugh. “They told me they would.”

We contacted Blue Iguana’s attorney asking for a response to Ballard’s situation and were told our request would be passed along to the owner. We received no follow-up.

Ballard though did file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and got this reply from Blue Iguana:

“The customer was involved in a 3-car accident. Inside a car wash tunnel when there’s an accident the front driver is at fault. What happens is the attendant instructs the driver of the vehicle to keep their hands off the wheel, feet off the brakes/pedals and the wipers off, as well as place their car in neutral. The front driver didn’t adhere to those instructions and ran her vehicle off the conveyor damaging a piece of our equipment as well as causing the accident that transpired. The Assistant Manager who called this customer attempted to provide him with the customer’s contact information so they could exchange insurance information, but he wouldn’t listen and instead stated that he was an attorney and would be hiring an attorney, which ended our conversation. Insurance companies should be battling this and not this customer. The front driver is and was at fault. Mr. Ballard would need to contact that driver to have their insurance company pay for the damages. The front driver was in care and control of her vehicle, it was only when she refused to follow instructions given to her at the entrance that the accident occurred, our equipment was working properly, no other damage had happened to any other customer throughout the day.”

“Why should this be my responsibility to run down all this information myself?” Ballard responded. “In my opinion they’re liable for damages on their property. They should be responsible for my car and if they think the other driver is at fault they can go after her.”

“It’s not just one of those black-and-white areas and I think that’s what causes some consternation,” said Jacob Lewis, a local attorney who specializes in liability law. A member of the law firm Strong, Garner and Bauer, Lewis says that people should know that just because an event happens at a business doesn’t necessarily make the business owner responsible.

Not knowing the particular facts of the car wash case he spoke in general about liability cases and when businesses are usually held responsible.

“It really depends on the facts of each scenario,” he explained. “Does the product have a defect? Was it correctly assembled and installed? Was there something defective about the actual property that the owner had knowledge about but didn’t fix it? Were the employees of the business negligent? Those are potential categories you would look at. It comes down to the circumstances.”

Ballard says he didn’t get the other driver’s information because a Blue Iguana employee interviewed them both immediately after the incident and he assumed the business would handle the details. After he brought up the possibility of litigation the car wash has not returned his calls or supplied any information.

“It’s also troubling to me that they’re stating the other driver is at fault,” he added. “That’s a legal conclusion. That’s not really on them to make.”

That blame game and lack of facilitating an outcome for the customers involved is why Ballard is considering legal action.

And as to why he’s going public with it?

“This probably happens to other people,” he answered. “And I feel the customer is at a disadvantage because the businesses try to dictate the rules. It doesn’t feel right because even if they gave me her insurance information that’s something they should be taking care of. They should be taking care of their customers and filing a claim for me. So I would say buyer beware. Know what you’re getting into. If something doesn’t feel right don’t accept it.”

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