LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Court of Appeals has reinstated a suit involving an allegedly defective, leased 1996 Chevrolet Suburban, saying a lower court judge dismissed the case prematurely.
In September 1996, Keith Brooks signed a one-year, 15,000-mile lease agreement with Williamson Chevrolet-Geo-Cadillac Inc. of East Tawas. Four times in December 1996 and January 1997, he brought the truck to authorized dealers for repairs when it failed to start because of a dead battery. The battery was replaced twice.
Brooks contended the problem with the battery and electrical system continued through the end of the lease period, when he had driven the vehicle more than the 15,000 miles allowed, the court said. For example, he said he had to disconnect the battery cables and reconnect them every time he wanted to use the truck.
He sued the dealership and General Motors in Wayne County Circuit Court, seeking a refund of all the money he had paid under the lease, including interest, plus attorney fees. At the time, Michigan's lemon law did not apply to leases, so it was filed as a breach-of-warranty and consumer protection suit.
The defendants denied any violations and argued that Brooks had failed to prove that there were any problems after the last repair visit.
Judge Michael Talbot dismissed the case without trial.
The Court of Appeals didn't rule on the merits of Brooks' allegations but said he is entitled to an opportunity to prove that his continued use of the truck doesn't bar his bid to revoke the lease and obtain a full refund. One appeals judge also said a jury should resolve the factual dispute over whether the truck continued to have problems after the fourth repair attempt.
Brooks' lawyer, Ronald Bolz of Garden City, said his client now will be able to argue why the case should proceed to trial.
The defense lawyer, Edward Ewald Jr. of Troy, said the case is expected to be transferred to a court in Williamson's area of the state, adding that GM and the dealership likely will ask the new judge to toss out the suit again.
'We didn't breach any warranty and Brooks never suffered any damages,' he said. At most, Brooks was inconvenienced by the need to bring the Suburban in for repairs, but 'during the last nine or 10 months (of the lease), he never came in for service.'