A Small Victory for Consumers?

Robert Edwards Aug. 28, 2015

About two weeks ago I filed the final brief in a case now pending in front of the Minnesota Court of Appeals entitled Nichols v. Cimbura. In that case the defendant had T-boned Mr. Nichols' almost new vehicle at relatively high speeds, causing a little over $11,000 worth of damage. Although the body shop was able to do a wonderful job with the repairs, even after those excellent repairs Mr. Nichols discovered that his vehicle was now worth about $5000 less than it would have been had it never been involved in the collision, due to the fact that the crash caused frame damage as well as damage to some of the safety components of the vehicle. As we all know, a vehicle that has been severely damaged in a collision is usually worth substantially less than the same vehicle which had never been involved in a collision.

Mr. Nichols approached the insurance company for the at fault driver (American Family) and asked them to compensate him for that diminished value. They refused to pay him anything, arguing that because he had elected to get his vehicle repaired he had forfeited the right to recover the diminished value. I thought that was wrong and I encouraged Mr. Nichols to sue the other driver in Anoka County District Court. He did so, but to my amazement the trial judge agreed with the insurance company and awarded Mr. Nichols nothing for that diminished value. As a result I agreed to represent Mr. Nichols in an appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals on a pro bono basis, i.e., I'm working for free.

We expect oral argument in front of the Minnesota Court of Appeals before Christmas, and will hopefully have a decision in early 2016. Somewhat surprisingly, this precise issue has never been addressed by an appellate court in Minnesota. However, I am confident that Mr. Nichols' position is sound and that the Minnesota Court of Appeals will agree and issue a ruling which will be favorable to Minnesota consumers.

Watch this space for further developments.