The Ohio Court of Appeals has refused to enforce a default judgment of more than $140,000 that an out-of-state customer won in Missouri against an Ohio company that services Jaguars.
The court said Joseph Durkin, who paid Gran Turismo Jaguar of Perry Village more than $20,000 for repairs he claims were unsatisfactory, shouldn't have sued the company in his home state of Missouri.
Although Gran Turismo advertised in national magazines, all of the work was done in Ohio, and Missouri did not have authority over the claim, the Ohio appeals court said. Instead, Durkin should have sued in Ohio.
According to the court, Durkin saw a Gran Turismo ad in May 1994, contacted the company and received an estimate for rebuilding the engine of his 1987 XGS convertible and other services. He shipped the car to Ohio with a $6,000 down payment.
Suit filed in Missouri
Over the next year, Gran Turismo suggested additional repairs to the ignition and fuel injection systems. Durkin agreed and paid another $14,000. But when he traveled to Ohio to get the car, he was unhappy with the quality of work and claimed the car had been damaged.
Gran Turismo refused to perform some of the additional work Durkin demanded, including fixing the air conditioning system, and shipped the car back to him in Missouri.
Durkin sued Gran Turismo and its vice president, Lou Fidanza, in Missouri for breach of contract, fraud, negligence and violation of the Ohio consumer protection law. Gran Turismo and Fidanza did not respond to the lawsuit. Durkin was awarded a default judgment of $140,629, including triple damages and attorney fees.
But when Durkin tried to enforce the judgment and collect the award in Ohio's Lake County Court of Common Pleas, the case was dismissed.
The appeals court upheld that decision, holding the Missouri judgment invalid because neither Gran Turismo nor Fidanza was subject to litigation in Missouri.
No Missouri connection
There was no evidence that they had 'any substantial connection to Missouri,' appeals Judge Judith Christley said. 'There was no indication they owned or leased property in Missouri or conducted any business operations there. In addition, Gran Turismo did not actively advertise its automotive services in a Missouri-based publication.'
Gran Turismo's lawyer, Stanley Stein of Cleveland, said his clients would have disputed the merits of Durkin's allegations if the case had been filed in the proper court.
Fidanza said Gran Turismo, which had been a new-car dealership from 1970 to 1976, lost $50,000 on the Durkin project. 'We had $70,000 invested in it,' he said, but Gran Turismo was paid only $20,000. The car had almost 200,000 miles on the odometer when it arrived with a damaged and cracked engine block, he noted.
'He sued for fraud on the engine,' he said. 'We replaced the block at no extra charge. He never said the new block was bad.'
Fidanza also said there was no warranty on the work.
Durkin's lawyer, Frank Sallee of Kansas City, Mo., said his client is considering how to proceed. 'Our options are to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court or to abandon the Missouri judgment and file another suit at the Ohio trial court level.'