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Michigan Court Rules Mechanics Aren’t Responsible for Leaving off Lugnuts After Tire Rotation

Tire rotation, as defined by the always-reliable Wikipedia, is as follows: “the practice of moving the wheels and tires of an automobile from one position to another, to ensure even tire wear.”

We don’t have any problem with this definition and we’re sure that most master mechanics wouldn’t either. However, in this definition, there is nothing to be said about lugnuts anywhere. I guess that it’s just something that is to be assumed. It’s just kind of part of the job. However, one Michigan court decided to take the other side of the argument.

From a story ran on Jalopnik, we learn that said court doesn’t include the tightening of the lug nuts in a tire rotation.

Now, a natural first reaction would be to think that this is some sort of sensationalism. After all, with the way that stories are presented all the way around the Internet, there’s no way that this could logically be true. In order to explain just how true it really is, we have to dig into the details.

The original story tells us that a customer decided to have some regular maintenance done on one of their vehicles. Upon driving out of the place where the maintenance was done, one of the wheels would fly off. As a result of not properly securing the lugnuts, major injury would occur.

Naturally, the vehicle owner would take it to court and win the case. Any judge in their right mind would probably rule on the vehicle owner’s side. However, appeals court wouldn’t have the same outcome. Instead, it looks like the judge responsible for the appeal ruled in favor of the shop. Apparently tightening down the lugnuts is a luxury they didn’t feel the need to provide.

As someone who has briefly studied law and considers themselves to have common sense, I came to one reasonable response to this. The only logical step in the middle here would be to determine that there’s no way to prove that the lugnuts weren’t tampered with after leaving. That could be an argument that might fly in court. However, that wasn’t the case. Instead, the court determined that fastening the wheels down wasn’t part of a tire rotation.

The exact quote in the matter would read something like “We conclude, under the plain language of MCL257.1307a, that defendants “performed” a tire rotation, albeit negligently…There is no support for the trial court’s determination that a tire rotation is not “performed” if a service person fails to sufficiently tighten the lug nuts on one tire.”

In law, every single word matters. As it turns out, the court had a big breakdown of what the word “perform” indicates. Naturally, when the court came to a conclusion, we think that maybe the best course here would have been to use logic over an overly legal interpretation of what happened. Instead, we find a ruling that has the vast majority questioning the judge’s sanity.

Welcome to 2019, ladies and gentlemen.

We kind of wish that this was satire.