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Consumer Law Victories

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2006 – Consumer Victories

Although most cases settle here are two that didn’t. Both were jury trials. The Defendants in both cases refused to settle before trial, thought they would prevail at trial, and ultimately lost. The Firm successfully represented the prevailing Plaintiffs.

Case Synopsis:
Romano v. Galaxie Toyota (a Bob Ciasuili dealership in Eatontown, NJ)
Superior Court of New Jersey
Law Division – Monmouth County
Docket No.: MON-L-2236-04

Facts: In June, 2002, Romano purchased a used 1999 Infiniti I-30 from Galaxie Toyota, Eatontown. The mileage on the vehicle was represented to be 42,305. In March, 2004, the airbag light went on. Romano returned to Galaxie. Galaxie sent Romano to Circle Infiniti. Circle Infiniti inserted the VIN into its warranty computer and it showed that the vehicle on numerous previous repair visits had substantially higher mileage. Circle Infiniti advised Romano of the odometer discrepancies. Romano returned to Galaxie and said she didn’t want the car and wanted her money back. Galaxie promised to investigate. Galaxie investigated and determined that the person who traded in the vehicle to Galaxie had indeed rolled back the odometer. Nonetheless, Galaxie refused to take car back and offered Romano a modest dollar amount to settle or alternatively she could trade the Infiniti in and buy a new Toyota.

Understandably, Romano rejected both offers, sought the firm’s advice and suit promptly followed. Romano sued Galaxie and Galaxie in turn sued the customer who had traded in the car to Galaxie. The matter did not settle pre-trial. Romano was reasonable in her pre-trial offers and these offers were considerably less than the amount the jury eventually awarded. The Defendants refused to settle. At trial Romano, proved the Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) violation. Galaxie was liable under the CFA for misrepresenting the mileage even though it did not know the mileage representation was false when it made it and they had no intent to deceive Romano. This underscores the high degree of protection provided by the CFA to consumers.

The key to the case was what relief should Romano receive on account of the consumer fraud violation. Romano argued that her purchase price was her measure of damages. She was entitled to give the car back, recover her down payment, as well as all her car payments and have the dealership pay off the balance due to the financing bank. Romano also argued that this amount should be trebled under the CFA and after trebling there would be a credit for Romano’s usage of the vehicle (this was conceded as no one gets to ride or drive for free). The Defendants argued that Romano was only entitled to the difference in value between what she paid and what the car was worth with a “clocked odometer” and the higher mileage (which was considerable). The Defendants attempted to use the high mile guide in the published value guides (such as N.A.D.A. or Galves) and argue that Romano’s loss calculated on that basis was less than $2,000.00.

We are very pleased to report that Romano won. The jury accepted our argument in its entirely and awarded the entire purchase price paid ($22,586.00). This sum is subject to trebling ($67,758.00) and the use allowance ($9,360.00) is deducted after trebling and not before (another key victory for Romano and all similarly situated victims of consumer fraud in the future).

On appeal, the revocation of acceptance claim as well as the consumer fraud claim was affirmed. The remedies were modified. Attorneys fees were rewarded.

Case Synopsis:
Byrnes v. Billion BMW Dependable Auto Shippers (DAS)
Superior Court of New Jersey
Law Division – Monmouth County
Docket No.: MON-L-4466-03

Facts: Customer, our client, decided to buy a new BMW from a South Dakota BMW dealership because of attractive pricing advertised on the internet. On October 20, 2002, Plaintiff and Billion BMW entered into a contract for a new 2003 BMW 745LI in the amount of $82,475.17. The vehicle was being shipped from the Billion dealership in South Dakota to New Jersey.

Billion chose DAS Autoshippers to transport the vehicle from South Dakota to New Jersey. The vehicle arrived at the DAS facility in Linden on November 14, 2002. Prior to the shipment, Plaintiff paid the entire purchase price for the vehicle by making a down payment and financing the balance. Plaintiff arrived at the DAS facility on November 16, 2002 to pick up the car. Plaintiff refused to pick up the car because of damage to the vehicle. Plaintiff claimed that DAS employees at the Linden facility joy-rided the car at a test track in the back of the Linden yard and trashed the car. DAS denied doing so. Billion transported the vehicle to Garden State Auto Body for repair. Repairs were made to the vehicle. After the repairs were completed, Plaintiff refused to take possession on the basis the repairs were not adequately done and the car was no longer new.

Billion BMW argued that it properly delivered the car to DAS and it was not responsible for the subsequent damage. DAS said the car was damaged prior to its arrival at is Linden yard. Plaintiff argued under the Uniform Commercial Code that Billion BMW had an obligation to deliver to him a new car, not a damaged and repaired car. Plaintiff also argued that DAS joy-rided the car and damaged it. Plaintiff wanted all his money back. Defendants refused to settle pre-trial. We are pleased to report that our client prevailed at trial and the jury awarded him $93,000.

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