A Louisiana appellate court has upheld the liability of a Denham Springs dealership for misrepresenting a damaged and repaired car as new.
Allstar Dodge Inc. acted in bad faith by failing to disclose the damage, which occurred during a test drive by another consumer, the state Court of Appeal said. Thus purchaser Malia Morrison was entitled to rescind the deal and collect damages and attorney fees.
Dealership lawyer E. Wade Shows of Baton Rouge said his client believed it had no obligation under Louisiana law to disclose damage amounting to less than 6 percent of a vehicle's value.
'It was not because they were trying to hide anything,' he said.
The court rejected that argument, saying the 6 percent threshold applies only to regulatory action by the state Motor Vehicle Commission, not to consumer suits seeking to rescind purchases.
According to the court, problems began the morning after Morrison took possession of the 1996 Dodge Avenger ES in March 1997, when her boyfriend noticed an extension wrench left inside the motor, a fog light pushed in 6 inches, cracked paint near the blinkers and fender wells hanging loose.
Over the next few months, she encountered additional problems, including a broken alternator belt, smoke and noise coming from under the hood, and failure of the horn and alarm system, the court said.
Allstar acknowledged that the car had been wrecked and repaired before the sale but refused requests to replace it.
Livingston Parish District Judge Bruce Bennett conducted a nonjury trial and awarded Morrison a full refund of $24,025, plus $6,870 in finance charges, $3,628 for insurance, $7,500 in attorney fees, $143 for other expenses and $2,500 for inconvenience.
The appellate court let stand all but the $2,500 for inconvenience, saying there was enough evidence that Morrison wouldn't have bought the car if she'd known it had been wrecked.
Allstar is asking the court to reconsider the ruling and, if that fails, will go to the Louisiana Supreme Court, Shows said.
You can send e-mail to Eric Freedman at [email protected]