Motorist loses court claim against garage
A motorist whose Audi car broke down days after he purchased diesel at a garage, lost his claim for €6,486 in damages against Kinsella's Fuel Services Ltd of Corlican, Killurin and Campus Oil Ltd at Wexford District Civil Court.
Con Byrne of Scar, Duncormick sued the garage and the oil supplier claiming that allegedly contaminated diesel bought in Killeens Service Station in May 2013 caused damage to the fuel system of his Audi 84 but after hearing all the evidence Judge Aeneas McCarthy dismissed the action.
Mr. Byrne said he brought the car to an Audi garage in Waterford where it was discovered that the damage had been caused by contaminated fuel. He was given a sample of the diesel which looked like Lilt. He presented the sample to Sarah Butler of Kinsella's for testing.
He said he had been a weekly customer of Killeens Service Station for the previous 10 or 15 years and at the time it was the only garage he ever purchased diesel in but following the incident he no longer goes there.
Martin Whittle, the workshop foreman in Audi Waterford said he took a fuel sample from the car which was given to JHG Analytical Services for testing and was found to contain water to the level of 769 parts per million. In his opinion, the car would have run for considerable amount of time before the contaminated fuel reached the engine and caused the damage.
Gerry Meaney, solicitor on behalf of Kinsella's said the result of the sample analysed by JHG was totally at variance with a sample tested by Independent Laboratories which showed 100 parts water per million which is half the permitted maximum
John Goff, the managing director of JHG said the sample he received looked very contaminated. He analysed it himself. There was a high concentration of water at three times the maximum limit. It was potentially corrosive fuel of an unacceptable quality.
Asked about the vastly differing findings of Independent Laboratories which analysed a second sample on behalf of Kinsella's, he replied: 'I would say are we talking about the same sample at all.'
He agreed with Mr. Meaney that the sample he analysed was so contaminated that it was likely that other cars would have been affected.
Asked by Ed King for Campus Oil how two labs could come up with such varying results, he said he was 'flumoxed'.
John Moher, a motor assessment engineer who gave evidence on behalf of Killeens Service Station said in his opinion if the car had the level of water indicated by JHG, it would have broken down much earlier and there would have been complaints from other customers.
The court was told that the claimant bought the diesel on May 11 2013 and the car broke down on May 19.
He said if the car had the level of water indicated by JHG, it would have stopped within a 100 metres of the service station. It was not possible that he drove for eight days.
Sarah Butler, one of the proprietors of Killeens Service Station said Con Byrne came to tell her his car had broken down because of contaminated diesel and gave her a sample of the fuel.
She said the service station bought the diesel on May 8 and Mr. Byrne bought it on May 11. 'We would sell 8,000 litres on a Saturday. It was strange that no-one else had a complaint,' she said
'This is our reputation. If we don't have a good reputation for our product, then we don't have a business. I'm 19 years in the business. We're there seven days a week.'
She said there was one other customer who complained some weeks after this and that situation resolved itself.In reply to David Loughlin,BL for Mr. Byrne, she said the fuel was in question on that occasion and the case was passed back to the insurance company.
She agreed that the fuel in Mr. Byrne's tank was from her service station but said if there had been that level of water in the diesel they would have received more complaints.
Cormac Ward, a retail manager for Campus Oil said he took possession of the sample from Mr. Byrne's car and also took a sample direct from the pump. Campus had dealt with Kinsella's for eight years but stopped supplying them about 18 months ago as Kinsella's did not renew the contract.
Gareth Curran from Independent Laboratories said he could not comprehend how JHG had managed to get such a high reading without testing neat agricultural diesel.In reply to Ed King, he said if both samples were tested correctly, they could not be the same sample.In reply to David Loughlin, he said the sample he received was in a plastic bottle. Mr. Loughlin said the Audi garage which supplied the sample to Mr. Byrne uses glass bottles.
Judge McCarthy said the discrepancies between the two samples were so great that there were only two conclusions- a sample was incorrectly analysed by one or other of the labs but he ruled out the possibility that two experienced chemists would have made such blunders or they were two different samples. He said he was dismissing the claim on the balance of probability. He made no order on costs.