Tenn. Chrysler store wins dismissal of suit for 'finance' fraud

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A federal judge has thrown out a suit accusing a Johnson City, Tenn., dealership of fraud and false advertising for a TV spot that offered to help customers who have “bad credit, slow credit or no credit” and stated, “Our goal is 100% financing.”

The commercial didn’t promise that the store would successfully find financing for all prospective purchasers, U.S. District Judge James Jones held.

In June 2013, according to the decision, Patricia Parker and Charles Shephard watched a TV commercial for Carl Gregory Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram and called the dealership. They spoke to a salesman, who told them to complete an application online, which they did. Then they drove to the dealership to buy a new vehicle.

However, they failed to qualify for financing because of poor credit scores and because they were underwater on their trade-in. They rejected a suggestion to buy a used vehicle instead, the decision said.

They complained to a manager that the commercial was untrue because it said that everyone would be approved. They also asserted that their credit had been further damaged by the store’s repeated credit pulls. The dealership gave them a gasoline card as compensation for driving to the store from their home in Virginia.

Parker and Shephard sued, representing themselves.

A federal magistrate-judge recommended that the case be dismissed. Jones, in his decision, accepted that recommendation.

He agreed with the dealership that the commercial did not guarantee financing, but merely promised the store would do its best to obtain customers financing. He also said the plaintiffs didn’t show that they had suffered any damages. Quoting the magistrate-judge, Jones said: “They did not have a new vehicle when they viewed the advertisement and spoke with the salesperson by telephone, and they do not have a new vehicle after the alleged fraud.”

And although plaintiffs claimed that multiple pulls damaged their credit rating, the dealership presented uncontradicted evidence that it had performed only one credit check on each plaintiff, Jones said in the decision.

A lawyer for the dealership did not return phone calls seeking comment.

You can reach Eric Freedman at freedma5@msu.edu.

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