Judge ridicules £100,000 cost of car legal battle

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Greater love has no man than he who lays down the contents of his wallet for his dream motor. But even the most devout petrolhead would have been forced to agree with Lord Justice Ward when he described one man's feud with a dealership over his "red hot" sports car as "completely cuckoo".

The marathon legal battle between Darren Egan and Millhouse Audi in Bath finally reached the Court of Appeal in London. So far legal bills in the case, which revolves around whether or not Mr Egan's silver Audi TT purchased in 2004 for £33,000 has a propensity to steer to the left, have reached £100,000.

The fact that such a vast amount of money could have purchased the kind of vehicle that would not have looked out of place in the players' car park at Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford appeared lost on the claimants, though not on the judge.

"I'm removing myself from the legality of this dispute and asking myself, 'what's it all about?'" he said.

The 3.2-litre roadster was sold on to another buyer at an early stage in the dispute, which has now rumbled on for three years. Noting that the amount of money in question was only about £6,000, the judge told both sides: "You've all gone completely cuckoo. It's just madness; commercially it's completely crazy."

The super-charged saga began in March 2004 when Mr Egan, 36, of Portishead, Bristol, bought the car from Motor Services (Bath) Ltd – trading as Millhouse Audi. He complained three days later that the car suffered from a "left deviation" at speed. Attempts to rectify the problem, claimed Mr Egan, only made matters worse while changing the tyres had no effect. He eventually returned it a month later claiming it was not fit for sale.

But Millhouse Audi refused to accept there was anything wrong with the top of the range V6 Audi. For two and a half years Mr Egan's dream machine has languished in storage, depreciating steadily in value, as the dispute – and the costs – raged.

After a four-day county court hearing in December last year, where rival experts testified on the condition of the car, Judge Rutherford ruled in favour of the dealership and dismissed Mr Egan's claim under the Sale of Goods Act.

The judge accepted that Mr Egan "perceived the vehicle to have a tendency to veer, or drift to the nearside" but pointed out that it was "camber sensitive" – that the driver could feel the slope in the road through the steering, a design feature meant to give the motorist the feelingof being behind the wheel of a racing car. Others who had driven it thought that it handled "in a perfectly acceptable manner".

After a full day of legal argument yesterday Lord Justice Ward, sitting with Lady Justice Arden and Lady Justice Smith, reserved their decision on Mr Egan's appeal and will give their ruling at an unspecified later date.

Outside court, Mr Egan said: "I am completely appalled by the position I am in. If it had been a £5,000 Fiesta, I would still have expected it to handle correctly."