Nichols v. Cimbura

(Unpublished, No. A15-0861)

Minnesota Court of Appeals, Feb. 8, 2016


In Nichols v. Cimbura, the Minnesota Court of Appeals discussed the issue of whether an at-fault driver is responsible for paying the cost of repairs and dimunition in fair market value sustained by the plaintiff/appellant’s vehicle.

Mr. Lawrence Charles Nichols was involved in a motor vehicle collision with Ms. Erin Lynn Cimbura on January 18, 2014.  Ms. Cimbura admitted fault for the collision and her insurer paid Mr. Nichols $11,456.00 for the repairs to his vehicle.  After the repairs were completed, Mr. Nichols presented a claim to Ms. Cimbura’s insurer for the diminished value of his vehicle.  Mr. Nichols hired an expert who opined that his vehicle had suffered a dimunition in value of $4,938.97 because of its involvement in the collision.  The expert attributed the dimunition in value to “the general perception of the public that a collision history is a ‘defect’ that diminishes the value and quality of a vehicle.”

Mr. Nichols sued Ms. Cimbura in conciliation court, but the case was dismissed with prejudice.  Mr. Nichols then removed the case to district court, where both parties filed cross motions for summary judgment.  The district court granted summary judgment to Ms. Cimbura, and Mr. Nichols appealed.

The appellate court cites to the Restatement of Torts 928 (1939), which states that a person who sustains damage to property shall be entitled to either the difference between the value before the harm and the value after the harm, or the reasonable cost of repair.  The court refers to this as the “option rule.”  The court then finds that Mr. Nichols elected the cost of repairs as his measure of damages.  The court notes that the Restatement of Torts supports Mr. Nichols’ claim that he should also be compensated for the diminished value of his car, but finds that his summary judgment motion lacked any evidence of the car’s condition prior to the motor vehicle collision.  The court finds that the district court properly denied Mr. Nichols’ motion for summary judgment.  The court also held that Ms. Cimbura was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because of Mr. Nichols’ failure to provide evidence of any remaining diminution in value to his car following the repairs.

The takeaway from this case is that diminution of value cases are difficult to bring, especially after repairs are completed; there is a high burden of proof on the person bringing the claim.  The court in this case holds open the possibility that a person could recover both the cost of repairs to their vehicle, and the diminution of value beyond the cost of repairs.  However, the burden of proof is on the person bringing the claim to prove the value of the car before the collision, the value before repairs, and the diminished value following the repairs.  The court does not offer a detailed explanation of why Mr. Nichols’ expert report in this case was insufficient.


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