What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Connecticut
This concerns damage to my 5-mo old Toyota SUV from leakage from a new, "sealed" bottle of Olympic Deck Cleaner. The manufacturer (PPG) is willing to pay for damage based on an incompletely transcribed repair estimate. The revised (complete) estimate is 3 times greater than the original.
I got a 2 1/2 gal bottle of Olympic Deck Cleaner at Lowes. The bottle dimensions are 22" tall by 9" wide by 5 1/2" deep (i.e., high center of gravity). The Olympic District Rep was in the store at the time. He checked the bottle to make sure the cap was screwed on tight, and put it in my shopping cart. He did not warn me that the product contained sodium hypochlorite and sodium hydroxide and should be kept upright. Because there was nothing in my car that would keep it from falling over when I made turns, and I was afraid it would fall onto the light bulbs I had also bought, I laid it down on the rubber cargo mat. Minutes later, while exiting Lowes parking lot, I smelled bleach and saw that the bottle was leaking. I drove back to Lowes, righted the bottle, and summoned the District Rep, who came out with water and towels, hosed down the cargo mat, and soaked the carpet where it had spilled. The strong bleach fumes did not go away, though I left the car with open windows and doors for the next few days.
Upon investigation, I discovered severe rust on car parts below the carpet where the solution had spilled. I notified the District Rep and sent him photos of the rust damage, and he advised me to contact PPG to open a case. I did so, and PPG tech support told me to get a repair estimate. A second tech rep at PPG told me that the bottles leak because the caps are "breathable," to prevent explosions. She said PPG is currently discussing ways of training Lowes employees to tell purchasers about the importance of keeping the bottle upright, because it is not sealed tightly. I suggested a warning in a large banner on the front of the bottle, and she agreed that was a good idea.
PPG's willingness to request an estimate suggested to me that I was not the first person to suffer damage from a similar spill.
I submitted an estimate from a Toyota dealer to PPG, and then was asked to get a second estimate from another facility. The second estimate was 3 times greater than the first. The second estimator said the first estimator had not written up all the damage. I went back to the first estimator (Toyota), and spoke with the General Mgr and estimator, who revised his estimate to include all the damage, along with a cover letter admitting his error in not writing up the full damage he had observed initially, due to a transcription omission from his notes.
PPG agreed to pay the amount of the first estimate, which covers less than 1/3 of the damage, and wants me so sign off on a liability release. They say the damage is my fault, because on the back of the bottle, halfway down the 2-column instructions, in tiny type under Storage and Disposal, it says to keep the container upright, and I did not.
The Toyota dealer will not accept responsibility for the initial incomplete estimate, and refuses to cover the balance of the full repair beyond what PPG pays.
I have not reported this incident to my insurance company, because I don't want to risk a premium increase.
My options seem to be to 1) accept PPGs offer and pay the rest out of pocket, 2) inform my insurance company, 3) take PPG to small claims court (Total Amount was less than $5,000), or 4) file a small claims action action against Lynch Toyota.
1) Could the insurance company subrogate under these circumstances, so I would not be held responsible for a deductible nor get my premium raised? The premium increase would likely amount to more than my share of the cost of repairing the car.
2) If I file against PPG in small claims court, would PPG win because of the tiny warning on the back of the bottle to store the container upright, even with no mention of transporting it, and even absent cautionary advice from the Olympic District Rep who checked the bottle top and put the container in my shopping cart?
3) Does Lynch Toyota have any responsibility for the bad estimate? I believe that PPG would have paid the full amount if the initial estimate had been written to include all the observed damage (documented in the photos I earlier submitted to PPG)?