In 2003, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma was faced with the issue of whether Oklahoma law permits the recovery of post-repair depreciation of damaged property. In Brennen v. Aston, Jr., the Plaintiff sought recovery for the depreciation of his vehicle after repairs were completed. The Defendant argued that the diminution in value of a vehicle is not recoverable when the vehicle is capable of being repaired. However, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma held otherwise. Under the Oklahoma Uniform Jury Instruction 4.14, the jury is instructed that the Plaintiff should be compensated for “the reasonable cost of repairing the [vehicle], plus depreciation, if any, to the [vehicle]. “Depreciation” means the difference between the market value of the property immediately before being injured and its market value after repairs have been or would be made.”
At trial the Plaintiff’s expert testified that even after the repairs were made to the Plaintiff’s vehicle, the value of the vehicle depreciated from $32,000.00 (before the accident) to $28,500.00 (after the accident and repairs). The jury awarded Brennen $1,750.00 for the depreciation of his vehicle; however, Aston appealed this award, and the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the award stating that the jury instruction (4.14) did not accurately state Oklahoma Law.
The Supreme Court of Oklahoma granted certiorari and held that jury instruction 4.14 correctly states Oklahoma law, and a Plaintiff may recover damages for post-repair depreciation. The Court looked to the position taken by other jurisdictions, finding that almost all jurisdictions allow recovery for the diminution in value of personal property. The Restatement of Torts also states that “damages include compensation for (a) the difference between the value of the chattel before the harm and the value after the harm… with due allowance for any difference between the original value and the value after repairs.”
Therefore, a Plaintiff who seeks recovery of damages is entitled not only to the value of repairs made, but is also entitled to the diminution in value of the vehicle. Many might not realize how much their vehicle has depreciated after an accident until they go to trade in the vehicle and are told that the vehicle is worth substantially less due to the accident. When considering that most dealerships now participate in vehicle history report websites such as CarFax.com, the car accident history is more easily obtainable than in the past.