A California appeals court has ruled that a Los Angeles-area dealership didn't violate state law by failing to tell a buyer that his new Hummer had been vandalized in an eco-terrorism attack and repaired.
The Court of Appeal rejected the plaintiff's attempt to rescind the purchase of a $69,587 2003 Hummer H2 and to collect damages under consumer protection and other laws.
The vehicle was among 72 Hummer and Chevrolet SUVs destroyed or damaged in a 2003 eco-terrorism attack at Clippinger Chevrolet-Hummer in West Covina, Calif.
About five months after buying his Hummer, Tarek Bourgi learned from a Clippinger technician that the store had repainted the hood and right side and replaced the right rear passenger window with a nonmanufacturer product. Bourgi then sued on claims of concealment, unjust enrichment, false advertising and violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
At the first trial, Bourgi won a jury verdict in his favor, but the award was overturned on appeal. At a second trial, this time nonjury, the judge ruled against Bourgi, saying Clippinger had adequately repaired the Hummer and had no legal duty to disclose the minor repairs. Bourgi appealed, but the three-member appellate panel unanimously agreed with the retrial judge.
The appellate panel said state law requires dealers to disclose any "material damage" to a new vehicle only if the cost exceeds 3 percent of the sticker price; the Hummer's repair cost fell below that threshold. Moreover, the dealership adequately repaired the Hummer "to restore it to its new vehicle pre-damaged condition," the panel said, adding that the nonmanufacturer glass met GM quality standards.
Clippinger lawyer Justin Gold of Encino said that Bourgi "never saw any defect in the car" during his first five months and 15,000 to 20,000 miles of ownership. Then "all of a sudden," Gold said, "it became a big deal."
Gold said the vehicle code allows every dealer to make such minor repairs without disclosing them to prospective purchasers.
Bourgi's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
William Jensen Cottrell, a graduate student who claimed to be affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front, was convicted of arson and conspiracy and sentenced to federal prison for attacks on Clippinger and Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Lincoln-Mercury stores. The attacks included spray-painting and Molotov cocktails. The arson charges were thrown out on appeal.
Cottrell was released Aug. 16, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate locator database.