A Minnesota Ford store that was unable to find financing for a customer who wanted to buy his off-lease Explorer isn't liable for the customer's inability to get a loan, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled.Tousley Ford in
White Bear Lake also isn't liable for allegedly damaging the customer's credit score by making multiple credit inquiries to potential lenders, the appeals court said.
The dealership never promised the customer it would obtain financing, the court said. It only promised to help the customer obtain it.
The decision upheld a Ramsey County District Court nonjury verdict in favor of Tousley.
17 late payments
When Lee McCoy's 36-month lease expired on his 2002 Explorer, he wanted to exercise his option to buy it for $16,716 rather than turn it in and pay $15,103 for excess mileage and wear.
When McCoy asked Tousley for help in securing financing, his credit score was 423, down from 587 at the start of the lease, according to the court. At trial, the finance manager testified that the low credit score was caused by a combination of at least 17 late payments and McCoy's other outstanding debt, not by credit inquiries for a loan.
The dealership had submitted loan applications to Ford Motor Credit Co., which had financed the lease, and at least five subprime lenders. All refused financing.
Cavalry Portfolio Services purchased the account from Ford Credit and sued McCoy for more than $18,000.
McCoy in turn sued Tousley for about the same amount.
The appellate ruling
In rejecting the claim, the appeals court said the dealership had fulfilled its promise to help McCoy find a willing lender.
Tousley "made no clear and definite promise to obtain financing" but helped McCoy "evaluate his options" and submitted the loan applications to multiple lenders, Judge Lawrence Stauber said on behalf of the unanimous three-member panel.
The court also said it would have been unreasonable for McCoy to have relied on a purported promise to obtain financing.
McCoy represented himself on appeal. Dealership attorney William Fleming of the Law Office of Michael C. Fleming in White Bear Lake said he couldn't comment on the decision because McCoy still has time to ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the case.