The dealership denied liability and counterclaimed, asserting that the lender “promoted, assisted, directed, processed, authorized and participated in the allegedly inaccurate descriptions of the automobiles and accessories” involved in the transactions.
It also contends Santander unilaterally repossessed the vehicles, “fixed” them, allowed auction houses to sell them for undisclosed amounts and then demanded that Superior make up the difference between the auction prices and the vehicles’ actual value.
Superior contends Santander designed its business model to enable the lender to overcharge dealers for alleged missing options and accessories, prevent dealers from exercising their contractual rights, and preclude dealers from verifying alleged missing options or accessories on the vehicles. This business model leads to fictitious, unverified or inflated demands for damages from the dealers, Superior claims.
Superior’s attorney, John Kaplansky of Bingham Farms, Mich., said the parties initially had “an OK kind of relationship” and that the lender “was helpful in placing financing” for its customers. However, he said, “We feel the bank engaged in essentially what’s in the counterclaim.”
Santander asked U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds to toss out the counterclaim which, as amended, seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
She refused, finding the counterclaim to be specific enough in identifying allegedly fraudulent statements made by Santander’s employees. She also rejected the argument that it would unduly delay the litigation.
The decision leaves the door open for Santander to seek dismissal in the future.
Kaplansky said pretrial discovery will resume.
Santander’s lawyer has not responded to requests for comment.