May 24, 2005
COMPLAINTS REGARDING VEHICLE REPAIRERS
By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked whether (1) the results of investigations of complaints made to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) regarding a repair shop are open to the complainant or the public and (2) DMV can invoke the bond of a repairer that goes out of business, and if so how.
The results of such investigations are open to the complainant and the public once the case is closed, according to DMV staff. Under CGS § 14-63, DMV must attempt to resolve the complaint, through mediation, in a way that is acceptable to the complainant and the repair shop. If this resolution is not achieved, DMV must complete its investigation of the complaint. If DMV finds that there is reason to believe that the shop has violated the laws regarding vehicle repairers, it must proceed to impose sanctions under CGS § 16-64. These sanctions can include the suspension or revocation of the repairer's license, imposition of civil penalties, or an order to provide restitution to the complainant. DMV must hold a hearing before imposing sanctions, and the complainant or repairer can appeal to the courts if aggrieved. The case is closed once the sanctioning process is completed.
If DMV decides not to proceed against the repairer, it must notify the complainant and the repairer in writing. The notice must include a brief statement why DMV chose to take no action. Neither the fact that DMV chose not to proceed against a repairer or this notice is admissible in a civil suit against the repairer.
DMV must also place a notice in its records, which are open to the public, that there is an unresolved complaint against the repairer. This requirement does not apply if DMV finds that even if the complaint were true, there would be no violation of the law. This notice stays on DMV's records until the repairer provides evidence, signed by the complainant or his attorney, that the complaint has been resolved or provides evidence that the courts have issued a final ruling in his favor.
Under CGS § 14-52, repairers must post a $5,000 surety bond with DMV. DMV can invoke this bond if a repairer goes out of business and his customers have claims against him. The customer must file a complaint against the repairer. DMV informs the surety company of the complaint and the company can contest the claim in an administrative hearing. In many cases the company will not contest the claim and will use the bond to pay the claim, according to John Yacavone, DMV's chief legal counsel. Any party that is aggrieved by the administrative decision can appeal to the courts.