Pay the Piper: Reporter Bankrupted After Being Ordered To Pay Damage To Porsche 917

200px-Porsche_917CJournalist Mark Hales is facing bankruptcy after he blew the engine of a £1.3million replica Porsche 917 during a test drive. Hales says that the owner, veteran Formula One ace David Piper, told him that he would cover any damage. However, Piper denied the oral agreement occurred and a court ordered Hale to pay $76,000 to cover repairs to the car, plus $100,000 in legal costs.


Hales, 62, writes for Octane and Auto Italia magazine and reportedly over-revved the engine causing it to explode. He has said that he has sold everything that he owns to pay his lawyers and now will have to declare bankruptcy. The imposition of the legal fees for Piper reaffirms my long opposition to the “English Rule” where the loser pays for the other party’s lawyers. It is a ruinous rule that deters people from suing corporations and wealth defendants. It also makes it less likely to be able to secure contingency counsel in such cases.

In this case, the dispute turned on a brief conversation that occurred on the track at Cadwell Park, Lincolnshire in April 2009. Piper was driving a Ferrari owned by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and Hales borrowed his Porsche. Hales says that the Porsche 917 is known to have a problem with blown engines and he says it was Piper who raised the concern of the engine blowing. Hales says that he told him that he could not be responsible and that Piper agreed by saying “okay.” That was not enough for the court.

Hales was found to have driven “below the standard of care required of him”.

I take three lessons from this case. First, as noted by Samuel Goldwyn “oral contracts are not worth the paper they are written on.” Second, the English Rule is a continuing hazard to ordinary citizens in using the court system. Third, do not play with the toys of millionaires without something in writing.

Source: The Sun

43 thoughts on “Pay the Piper: Reporter Bankrupted After Being Ordered To Pay Damage To Porsche 917

  1. I take three lessons from this case. First, as noted by Samuel Goldwyn “oral contracts are not worth the paper they are written on.” Second, the English Rule is a continuing hazard to ordinary citizens in using the court system. Third, do not play with the toys of millionaires without something in writing.

    There it is.

  2. Mespo,

    You are correct about the deceptive trade practice act…. I forgot that one…. I will also defer to your expertise in Virginia… Regarding the lemon law… I should have said, generally, it does not apply to used vehicles….. Thank you for the clarification ….. You’re a mentor indeed…

  3. if over revving the engine is that easy and commonly results in a blown engine, why wasn’t a rev limiter installed?

  4. pete,

    Because it wouldn’t have been a replica 917 if he had. Nick Mason is a true gear head car guy. He’d never blaspheme like that. Part of the attraction is the warts and all.😉

  5. The guy should just claim bankruptcy under our current bankruptcy laws which leave creditors almost without recourse. As an aside, not only do my hubby and I own 2 condos outright with no mortgage, plus a couple pieces of rural land and a city lot with no mortgage, I also drive an old 1988 Toyota Camry with 196K miles on it. I bought it 4 years ago for $850 and have only had to put routine maintenance into it. I drive cautiously, like a little old lady. As I read this article, I feel like my hubby and I are laughing all the way to the bank.

  6. Gene

    with all the rods and restos i’ve built or had a hand in building i’ve never understood why people will keep some things factory and alter others.

    like explaining to an 80y/o man why you can’t have modern electronics with a 37 la salle six volt pos. ground. square peg meet round hole.

  7. pete,

    As a fellow car guy, I’m with you. I’d much rather have an old car that I like the style of with modern electronics and wiring and usually suspension. In some cases, I’m not even picky about the power plant being original. For example, if I owned a ’63 Jaguar XKE, it would be basically all new except the body. Those guys who insist on matching VINs and all original equipment are a puzzle to me. Then again, I collect books, not cars. If you have a sizeable collection like Nick Mason does, I can kind of see the rationale behind it, but I’m not the kind of car guy who would buy something so I could look at it. I want to drive it.

  8. That reminds me of the old joke about Jaguars. Their sales slogan should be “Buy Two!” so you’ll have one to drive when the other is in the shop. They’ve improved their quality a lot since Ford owned them, but they did have a lot of room to improve too.😉

    • “Their sales slogan should be “Buy Two!” so you’ll have one to drive when the other is in the shop.”

      Gene,

      The joke was true. The way I heard it was when the introduced the “E” Type, with a V-12 engine and dual carbs, it was almost impossible to keep the engine in tune, causing almost monthly visits to a mechanic. Back then I had the skills to tune a V8, but somewhere in the 80’s the engineering when way beyond me.

      I love driving and cars, obviously, growing up in the business. My father, my Maternal Grandfather and Uncles were demon drivers. My big Brother inherited the family tradition and upped it by being a street drag racer in the 50’s (think “Rebel Without a Cause”) and when I got my license in 1961 my first night out was spent drag racing my ’57 DeSoto. I did that for about four years, but a few really hair-raising experiences taught me fear. Also too, because I didn’t buy my first new car until the Gremlin, driving used cars over 85 mph didn’t seem a good idea after a while. At this point my driving feats are limited to driving long distances and maintaining a speed 9 mph above any speed limit. Defensive driving is smart driving and I practice it.

      Down here near Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Palm Beach one commonly sees many exotic cars like Rolls, Bentley’s, Porsches, Maserati’s, Corvette’s, Lamborghini’s and such. With the exception of the English duo, the others are ill-suited to driving on the street since they are so over-powered. On the highways they’re usually driven slower than normal because the police watch them closely. I personally don’t think the owners buy them for they’re driving capabilities, but for the cachet they lend. I had an epiphany one night driving my 1954 Caddy Eldorado around my neighborhood with the top down and the music blasting. I realized that since I couldn’t see myself actually driving the car, my experience was solely limited to the inside and essentially who cared what it looked like. My favorite out of the many I owned was a powder blue, 1954 Oldsmobile Starfire Convertible. It was exceptionally fast off the line and for the 4 months I had it, it was love. Unfortunately, one night as I was leaving school the engine caught fire and the car burned up, though I had made a hasty escape.

      http://www.mecum.com/auctions/lot_detail.cfm?LOT_ID=HA0412-124546

  9. 1. Oh golly gosh. An auto journalist that is actually going to have to pay for the damage they do to other’s cars. Heck that is novel.
    You cannot begin imagine all the thrashed test cars that so called journos heavily abuse every month which are then dolled up and put on the used car market as near new cars or demos or factory excecutive driven cars and some poor unsuspecting person ends up buying it. I hope he suffers.
    (If I had a 917 I would not allow an auto journalist to touch it.)

    2. ” The imposition of the legal fees for Piper reaffirms my long opposition to the “English Rule” where the loser pays for the other party’s lawyers. It is a ruinous rule that deters people from suing corporations and wealth defendants. It also makes it less likely to be able to secure contingency counsel in such cases.”

    Oh – you must be a lawyer then……..

    Sorry but I agree with P SMITH’s post on this one.

  10. Gene

    heard the same joke about owning two with the old amf harleys.

    lucas 3 position light switch. off-flicker-dim

    • Gene,

      Gorgeous!! I once tried to talk my father into buying me a super-charged (blown) 1948 Caddy Convertible, with a Hurst shifter. He refused telliing me I’d probably kill myself and no doubt that was wisdom.

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