Man Posts Secret Video of Car Repair - Then Gets Sued

Missouri dealership says online video misrepresented time spent on repairs.

BySusanna Kim
April 02, 2014, 3:00 PM
PHOTO: Brad Sowers’s car dealership in Missouri is suing a customer for defamation after a dashcam video was posted online.
Brad Sowers’s car dealership in Missouri is suing a customer for defamation after a dashcam video was posted online.
Courtesy Brad Sowers

April 2, 2014— -- A car dealership in Missouri is suing a customer who is alleged to have secretly recorded repairs and posted the video online.

Jim Butler Chevrolet of Fenton, Mo., about 19 miles southwest of St. Louis, claimed in its lawsuit that it charged for 5.5 hours of labor but Dwayne Cooney's video claims the time was much less.

Cooney brought in his 2007 Chevrolet Malibu on Friday, Jan. 31, for a few repairs, according to the lawsuit filed last month in St. Louis County Court that said Cooney agreed to two hours of diagnosis time at $129.95 an hour.

Cooney, 42, told the dealership he needed three repairs -- for the tire sensors, key fob and the air bag light, according to the lawsuit.

In mid-February, Cooney published a 17-minute video from his dashcam onto YouTube, called "Dash Cam Video: Dealer Charges 2 Hours to Move Fuse," describing about 45 minutes of work, the lawsuit claims.

Cooney claimed in the video, which has received thousands of views, "The airbag problem was a fuse was displaced and all he had to do was move the fuse. I was billed 2.5 hours for the airbag repair," according to the suit.

"We were shocked when this video showed up online and he refused to acknowledge the prior three hours of work in his 17 minutes," said Brad Sowers, co-owner and general manager of Jim Butler Chevrolet. "As a small family-run business, we’ve got to protect ourselves. This is part of the Internet world. People can say whatever they want until proven false in the court of law."

The dealership is suing for more than $25,000 in damages.

Read More: 'GMA' Investigates: Are Used Car Dealers Selling Cars With Open Recalls?

Cooney said he has cameras installed at his home and in his cars for safety, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We have them in all our vehicles, and they record 24 hours a day for the protection of our family and our vehicles,” he told the newspaper.

Cooney and his attorney have not responded to a request for comment from

On Saturday, Feb. 1, the dealership called Cooney to inform him it would not be able to diagnose his car that day, apologizing and offering a free rental car, which Cooney accepted, the suit stated. On Monday, a technician at the dealership began diagnosis of the problem, working 3.22 hours, the dealership claimed in its suit. The technician called Cooney that day to let him know he would need another two hours, to which Cooney agreed, according to the suit.

“The task was complex because no diagnostic codes were revealed by the GM tech equipment,” the court filing said.

Three days later, technicians finally made the necessary repairs and fixed the issues, tallying more than five hours of work on the vehicle, the complaint said -- though the dealer only charged Cooney for 4.5 hours: $602.32 instead of $668.38 for five hours.

After negotiating with the dealership, Cooney agreed to a further-reduced bill of $553.61, which included parts and tax, the suit stated.

“I never disputed that they worked on it on any previous day,” Cooney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The question is, if you did, what did you do?”

Cooney told the Post-Dispatch that the dealership offered to drop the suit if he deleted the video and paid $8,000 of the dealer’s legal expenses, but he has refused.

“We offered on several occasions to settle this for a simple apology and a partial refund. Jim Butler insists on suing a former loyal customer,” Cooney told the newspaper.

Computer records show how long the technicians worked on the car and that the dealership tried to meet with Cooney "many times" to no avail, Sowers said. The dealership wants an injunction to remove the video.

With the help of the non-profit group, Public Citizen, Cooney's homeowner's insurance company hired a lawyer to represent him, blocking a temporary restraining order to unpublish the video.

"If the defendant has made a false statement of fact about the plaintiff with negligence or actual malice, the plaintiff gets an award of damages, perhaps even punitive damages, but it cannot get an order requiring that the allegedly defamatory material be taken down in the interim," wrote Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney whom Cooney contacted, in a blog post.

Cooney, who has not yet filed a legal response, has been summoned to a hearing next Monday.

In the meantime, the dealership has created its own website,, with an open letter to customers explaining its side of the story.

Sowers, who bought part of the dealership from his father-in-law 10 years ago, said the video has not affected business. But he said he is concerned about future effects of the video living online.

The company sells about 300 cars a month and services about 80 cars a day, Sowers said.

"We may screw up, and if we do we solve the problem, and that’s why our customers like us," he said.

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