A recent Connecticut Superior Court decision has provided a few important lessons for Connecticut’s classic car owners, and an opportunity for Connecticut Sports Law to briefly become Connecticut Sports Car Law.
In Cassella v. Lenches, the owner of a pristine, low-mile, 1971 Corvette Stingray LT-1, brought suit against the operator of a car that collided with his classic Corvette. The defendant admitted that she was negligent, but the damages were disputed. The defendant’s insurance company took the position that it was responsible for the repair and repainting of the damaged body panels. The plaintiff, however, contended that the entire car needed to be repainted.
To help prove his case, the plaintiff introduced the testimony of a Corvette expert. The expert testified that he could not match the Corvette’s 25 year-old paint job on the damaged body panels, therefore the entire car needed to be repainted. In addition, the expert testified that the Corvette’s pre-accident value of $60,000 to $70,000 had decreased by approximately $10,000 because it history was now tarnished with an accident.
Based almost entirely on the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness, the Court awarded the plaintiff $25,985.35 to repair the Corvette, $10,000 for depreciation, and $16,179.10 in interest. The parties subsequently reached a settlement of $45,000, based upon the court’s clerical error in computing damages and the parties’ desire to eliminate any appeals.
This case, although not a complicated legal matter, does provide a few lessons for classic car owners:
1. Maintain any appraisals and other indicators of your car’s value. In Cassella v. Lenches, the Court noted that the car had never been appraised, judged by any Corvette association (such as the National Corvette Restorers Society), received any awards or certificates (such as Bloomington Gold), and the plaintiff did not maintain specialty insurance. None of these factors prevented the plaintiff from recovery, thanks to the testimony of his expert witness. But if your car has won awards, been appraised, or certified by specialty car clubs, maintain these records as they may help establish, if not enhance, the value of the car should it be damaged in an accident.
2. Consider the value of depreciation. A typical car may not lose much value if damaged, and then repaired to its previous condition. The plaintiff’s Corvette in Cassella v. Lenches lost value because the accident clouded its history, which is an important element of a classic car’s value. Those involved in the classic car hobby know that a car is only original once.
3. Have your classic car inspected by an experienced body shop. Connecticut’s anti-steering laws allows you to have your car repaired at a facility of your choosing. With a classic car, the need for a specialized shop is heightened. The repair of a classic car must take into consideration the value of the car and the effect of the repairs on the originality of the car. A shop familiar with your particular year an model of car may be best suited to handle the repair.