When buying anything, from a toothbrush to a luxury car, consumers are entitled to expect that their purchases are of satisfactory quality. The point was made by the case of a woman whose high-end sports car sprang a catastrophic leak.
About 15 months after the woman purchased the car from a dealership for £122,000, she discovered that its footwell had filled with rainwater. The flood caused extensive damage to the car's electrical components and wiring. The woman launched proceedings against the dealership under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, asserting that the car was not of satisfactory quality when she bought it.
The dealership vehemently denied liability. It pointed out that there was no previous recorded incident of a car of the same model suffering a similar flood. It contended that the most probable cause of the incident was that a blocked drainage channel had not been cleared when the car was serviced by a third party several months after the woman purchased it.
In upholding her claim, however, a judge found that the particular car suffered from an inherent defect. The ruling meant that she was entitled to return the car to the dealership and to a refund of £117,000, that sum representing the purchase price less a discount to reflect her use of the car. The dealership was further ordered to pay her £1,334 in damages.
The dealership's appeal against that outcome focused on the judge's finding that it was more likely than not that the drainage channel had been cleared during the service. That finding, the dealership contended, was based entirely on inference, flawed reasoning and, to some extent, speculation.
Ruling on the matter, the Court of Appeal noted that the dealership's interpretation of events leading up to the flood was plausible. However, there was evidence that rationally supported the judge's key finding of fact and the dealership had fallen well short of establishing that his conclusion was plainly wrong. The appeal was dismissed.