The Ohio Court of Appeals has refused to grant class-action status in a suit accusing a Dayton used-car dealership that financed a purchase of truth-in-lending and consumer-protection violations.
The fact that the dealership used preprinted, standardized forms is not enough to war-rant class-action status, the three-judge panel ruled unanimously.
Jimmy Arroyo bought a 1987 Nissan Sentra wagon for $1,844 from Wagon Wheel Auto Sales Inc. in December 1998, according to the court. He put $450 down, with the balance to be paid the dealership in weekly installments.
In March 1999 he returned the car to Wagon Wheel because of mechanical problems and stopped making payments.
His suit, filed in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, accused the dealership of failing to disclose information required for installment sales, imposing hidden finance charges, impermissibly accelerating payments and committing other deceptive business practices.
The dealership disputes the allegations, according to its lawyer, Vincent Popp of Dayton. Popp said Arroyo's return of the car has the effect of rescinding the contract, precluding him from suing for alleged consumer protection and truth-in-lending violations.
Without ruling on the merits of the claims, Judge David Sunderland in Dayton denied class-action certification.
The Ohio Court of Appeals upheld that decision, holding that Arroyo failed to show that there were so many customers in the same situation that it would be impractical to bring them all into the case.
'Arroyo failed to produce any evidence of another customer who had purchased a used car from Wagon Wheel and had been given the allegedly objectionable forms,' appeals Judge James Brogan said.
Popp said: 'We feel this is a one-on-one transaction. Hopefully we'll litigate on the issue of one car and one buyer.'
Arroyo's lawyer for the appeal, Randal Knight of Dayton, said the issue is how far a plaintiff must go to show that standardized documents are used in multiple transactions.
The decision allows Arroyo to pursue his personal claims, both sides said.
Knight said that although 'damages are minimal because the vehicle didn't cost very much,' the suit also seeks statutory penalties and attorney fees.