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Wheelie bad: Man wins claim after wheel breaks free on drive

Author
Open Justice,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 May 2022, 11:56am
Parker Fuson was heading from Kaikoura to Dunedin when his left rear wheel came loose from the vehicle he'd bought a month earlier. Photo / NZME
Parker Fuson was heading from Kaikoura to Dunedin when his left rear wheel came loose from the vehicle he'd bought a month earlier. Photo / NZME

Wheelie bad: Man wins claim after wheel breaks free on drive

Author
Open Justice,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 May 2022, 11:56am

A man was left shocked as a wheel from his new vehicle came loose, and rolled past him as he negotiated a narrow, winding piece of coastal highway.

A month earlier, Parker Fuson spent $13,990 on a 2006 Mazda Bounty from SGB Motors in Dunedin.

Then, on November 21, as he travelled along State Highway 1 from Kaikoura to Dunedin towing a boat trailer he noticed the vehicle make a "slight wobble".

Fuson told the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal he thought the wobble or bump was "feedback" from the boat trailer.

As he negotiated the frequent and steep ascents and descents of the Kaikoura coast, he felt another wobble.

As he reached a summit he tried to pull over. However, there was no shoulder to safely pull over to so he proceeded.

He felt another wobble as he travelled downhill and saw a few hundred metres away an area he could pull over to.

As he prepared to stop, the wobbling increased and then to his surprise he saw his left wheel had broken free and was travelling along beside him before it struck rocks on the side of the road and then careered back across the highway.

Fuson coasted to a stop, recovered the wheel and found the brake drum had come loose from inside the detached wheel.

Fuson called SGB Motors and described what happened and asked for help with the repair.

In the tribunal, he described director, Shaun Blondell's, response as "unhelpful" as he denied any liability until he could prove the incidents were his responsibility.

That left Fuson to organise and pay for the repair himself, along with staying in the town for two nights.

In the tribunal, Fuson requested compensation for not only the repair of the wheel but also the costs of lost wages and accommodation.

However, Blundell said the company shouldn't have to pay for the cost of the repair.

He said the vehicle was of "acceptable quality" when it was sold to Fuson, taking into account its age and price, as well as its mileage at the time of sale.

He maintained the wheel was tight and fitted properly when it left his yard and suggested it came off as a result of a third party tampering when it was parked in KaikĊura.

Blondell confirmed the vehicle had been in his yard for less than a month before it was put up for sale, and only travelled 20 or 30km before it was sold to Fuson.

Fuson said the original wheel rim was used in the repair and refitted while a new axle was fitted after being damaged as the vehicle came to a stop.

The pair later agreed to meet and Blondell offered to pay $400, or half the costs, however, that was rejected by Fuson.

A second incident happened when Fuson was in the Catlins on December 11 and 12, 2021, and noticed that one nut was missing from each wheel.

On inspection, he noticed a variation in tightness of the nuts on the front and rear wheels.

Fuson applied to reject the vehicle during the hearing due to the issues in Kaikoura and the Catlins but that was dismissed by the tribunal.

The tribunal's assessor confirmed that the wheel nuts across the vehicle were not torqued up and that they were "certainly not evenly torqued".

The assessor found the left rear wheel was not sufficiently tightened when sold and couldn't "be considered as part of the ordinary maintenance requirements for a vehicle that a reasonable consumer would find acceptable, even if used for 2000 kilometres after its purchase".

"A properly torqued wheel ought not to come off as this one did. It follows that, in [assessor's] view, the vehicle was not of acceptable quality for this reason," adjudicator David Jackson said.

"The vehicle has not been as free from minor defects as a reasonable consumer would regard as acceptable, in light of its age, mileage and price."

Fuson had sought full compensation totalling $1822.85, however, Jackson awarded for slightly less, totalling $1598.22 which included accommodation, missed wages, storage fee along with some food and fuel costs.

- Belinda Feek, Open Justice

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