A federal court in Providence, R.I., has dismissed a lessee's claim stemming from a repossession, finding no evidence that DaimlerChrysler Financial Services worked in tandem with local or federal authorities to have the car towed and placed in storage.
The decision does recognize the right of Eghosa Ogbemudia, who is now in federal prison in Pennsylvania, to pursue in state court a claim that his property was wrongfully taken.
According to the decision, Ogbemudia leased a 1992 Lexus ES 400 in 1995. The contract was assigned to what was then Chrysler Financial Corp.
In July 1996, U.S. Secret Service agents and Providence police arrested Ogbemudia for bank fraud. At that time, authorities arranged to have the Lexus towed from his driveway.
The lawsuit claims the Secret Service notified the leasing company and Chrysler Financial, which obtained the Lexus from the towing company.
Chrysler Financial denied any contact with any government agencies and argued that only the towing company had contacted it. It also claimed to have notified Ogbemudia properly of the default, which Ogbemudia disputed.
The lawsuit sought $28,160 in compensatory damages and more than $8.4 million in punitive damages.
The court found no basis for Ogbemudia's federal claim because there was no evidence that any government agency and Chrysler Financial worked together to deny him his rights, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Lovegreen said.
'Chrysler Financial did not become involved in this matter until well after his arrest and the vehicle was towed to a storage lot. At best, it may be argued that Chrysler Financial benefited from his arrest and the seizure of his vehicle, but that is insufficient to show (government-related) action,' he said.
The decision said Ogbemudia has an adequate remedy under state law, such as suing for damages for conversion of the Lexus. Ogbemudia, who represented himself in the civil case, hasn't done so.
DaimlerChrysler Financial Services declined to discuss the case, saying it is still in litigation.
Federal claims against the Secret Service agent in charge, the leasing company and the towing company were earlier dismissed.