How do i get my boat back from a mechanic thats charging more that an agreed price?
2 attorney answers
The answer depends on where you use your boat and where the mechanic worked on it. There is one analysis if you use your boat on navigable waters (examples: Caloosahatchee River, Pine Island Sound, San Carlos Bay, Matlacha Pass, etc.) and the mechanic worked on your boat at a marina on those waters; there is another analysis of you use your boat exclusively on landlocked lakes that do not connect to navigable waters and you trailered your boat to the mechanic’s land-based repair shop. Things can get really cloudy if you use your boat on navigable waters but, for this repair, trailered your boat to the mechanic’s land-based repair shop. In any event, the mechanic has a possessory lien that allows him to hold onto your boat until you pay him.
The bottom line in any analysis is to pay the mechanic and get your boat back before outrageous storage fees start accumulating. Then, after you have paid and gotten your boat back, sue the mechanic, perhaps in small claims court if the dollar amount involved is $8,000 or less. You can sue for breach of contract or for deceptive trade practices.
You would be well advised to consult with an attorney. If you use your boat on navigable waters, I suggest you choose an attorney who is thoroughly knowledgeable and experienced in maritime law, one who can give you specific legal advice based on the particular facts and circumstances of your case. You can find such an attorney through the Florida Bar. Go to https://www.floridabar.org/directories/find-mbr/. Use the drop-down menus to select “Admiralty and Maritime” in the Board Certifications and Practice Areas menus. You could also check with the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute (http://www.seali.com/page-1084527?&tab=2) or the Maritime Law Association of the United States (http://mlaus.org/member-directory/); just fill in the city and state. Finally, you can also use the "Find a Lawyer" link at the top of this web page.
Adding navigable waters to your case can give it the "genuinely salty flavor" that invokes maritime law that displaces and preempts the application of land-based law. Maritime law is substantially different from land-based law. The standard of care is different; the burdens of proof are different; even the amount of time you have to file the case is different. Be very careful in your choice of attorneys to ask specifically how well versed they are in Maritime law.
This answer is general information for discussion purposes only; do not construe it as legal advice. The applicability of the legal principles discussed will differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented in this answer without consulting an attorney about your particular situation. I am not your lawyer, you are not my client, and no attorney-client relationship is established. Do not construe anything in this answer as creating an attorney-client relationship. Again, this answer is only general information for discussion purposes.
Mr. Richard has your answer. The amount at issue is always key. If the amounts are small, it is generally best to 'pay the ransom' and not do business with that mechanic again. As the saying goes -- "Tell your friends." Note that I do not recommend a smear campaign. People who overcharge or use the tactic you are describing generally are not in the market very long. Reputation gets around. But litigation is not worth the aggravation unless the amount is large -- and -- if your written agreement (there should be one, not just texts) provides for attorney fees, remember that it is not impossible for both sides to lose, often at a level that greatly exceeds the original dispute. If you do not have a written agreement, you do not get attorney fees under maritime law. (You Might under Florida statutes.)
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