Michigan Court Rules Tire Rotation Does Not Include Tightening Lug Nuts

This is a wild case out of Michigan. If you’re a resident, turns out, a Michigan appeals court has decided a tire rotation service does not include tightening the lug nuts.

Not only is that illogical, but it also opens up a whole new arena for safety and legal issues.

The way this information came to light was through Samuel Anaya and Doris Myricks. Back in 2013 the couple took their car to a dealership in Grand Rapids for basic maintenance which included a tire rotation. On the way home, the left front wheel came off because, of course, the mechanic failed to tighten the lug nuts. The Myricks’ proceeded to sue the dealership for negligence.

Their attorney for the trial brought in the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Act (MVSRA) which is a 1974 law that protects car owners against “unfair and deceptive practices” by mechanics in addition to negligence charges. When used, a defendant that violates the MVSRA must pay damages along with the plaintiff’s legal and court fees.

Initially, the court ruled that the dealer and mechanic had violated the MVSRA since the mechanic admitted he forgot to tighten the lug nuts. The jury went ahead and awarded $40,000 in damages and that the dealership cover the $70,000 in attorney and legal fees.

All sounds well. However, that motion was appealed by the dealership. And the appeals court ruled that the MVSRA had NOT been violated. Huh.

While the MVSRA protects drivers from “charge for repairs that are in fact not performed”, the judges decided the next step was to see if the tire rotation was performed. The word “perform” is where things get tricky and technical. Because yes, the rotation was performed. But was it performed correctly? If you want the exact words:

“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.”

So, essentially, the judges ruled that a tire rotation does not include tightening the lug nuts. The only requirement is “remov[ing] the tires and replace them on different axles or sides of the vehicle.” It does not involve using a torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts.

Basically, going forward, Michigan residents have two options. Either appeal the case and hope it heads to the State Supreme Court. Or, have the MVSRA clarified to include such details.