Lithia Toyota in Medford, Ore., must pay $100,000 in punitive damages for "egregious" behavior that included intimidation, trickery and deceit in a debt collection case stemming from the sale of a used 1993 Toyota 4Runner, a divided state Court of Appeals has ruled.
A jury awarded the vehicle buyer only $500 in actual damage. But in light of the store's actions, its $100,000 punitive damage verdict wasn't excessive, the court held in a 5-4 decision. The dissenters approved only $25,000 in punitive damages.
A lawyer for the dealership, Matthew Sutton of Medford, said his client disagrees with the decision and is considering an appeal.
Shawn Yovan, a former used-car salesman, bought the 4Runner in 2000 for $13,799, and a third-party lender acquired the sales contract, according to the court. His credit application claimed a higher-than-actual income, itemized accessories the car didn't have and misstated the actual mileage by about 25,500 miles. The store was unaware of the odometer rollback at the time of sale.
After failing to resolve a dispute with Yovan over the 4Runner's reduced value, the store demanded that he either pay the loan balance minus $1,000 or surrender the vehicle in exchange for return of the trade-in and deposit.