I tried another slimy car dealer case against a Cobb County used car dealer before Judge Schuster this week. Judge Schuster and his staff were very pleasant to work with and allowed us to try out case. He asked sound and thoughtful questions on the legal issues.
My clients were a disabled American veteran (he had PTSD but his physical disability arose after his service in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan) and a Gold Star Widow couple who have been together ten years. They purchased a used car from Adonai Auto Broker in Marietta, Ga. They chose a Dodge Magnum because they wanted a car like a station wagon but there son really liked how the car looked. They had a limited budget because he only draws disability. They test drove the car and were informed the car was mechanically sound. They paid $6,287.00 for the car which was sold “as is”. That day the low oil pressure light came on and when they got home a puddle of oil was under the car. They asked the dealer to cancel the deal and refund their money.
The car had been sold to the dealer at auction with an announced “as is-engine” defect. Manheim reported that the car had low oil pressure and the check engine light was on. The dealer testified he never did any work on the car, that the consumers never asked about the car and all he told the consumers about the car was that he checked the fluids. He stated there were no issues with the car and the check engine light was never on. The clients found that the car had JB Weld on the bottom of the engine. The dealer stated that if he knows of a problem with the car he will tel the consumer. He agreed that if a consumer asks a question they are entitled to a truthful answer and that if a salesman answers the questions then the consumer should be entitled to rely on the answers.
He presented emission test for the car. One failed and one passed. But the emission were for a six cylinder car and this car was an eight cylinder car. We argued the emission were fraudulent. We also argued that since the first test failed(even for wrong car), that the check engine light had to have been on because the first test said the cause of failure was OBD.
The defendant argued that the plaintiff had not done enough to protect themselves. My client was a heavy machinery mechanic in the army. But his disability prevented him from getting under the car. The client had a friend who was a mechanic but the shop was two hours away.
The defendant argued that they jury should only award the cost of repair. We asked for $11,000 as actual out of pocket loss but pointed out that the plaintiffs had resolutely paid their payments to their independent finance company and only driven the car 260 miles in 27 months. The car was an expensive yard ornament. I asked the jury to award damages for loss of use, annoyance, inconvenience and humiliation.
The jury got the case and asked the following question:
Is there a maximum we can award on each count? Will the counts all add up?
In 1.5 hours the jury returned a verdict of $40,000 on all claims,
The jury also found the defendant intentionally violated the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act which means the actual damages are trebled.
The jury was charged on punitive damages. The defendant failed to apologize. He argued that the damages awarded were punishment enough. I asked for $25,000. The jury returned a verdict for $25,000.
The attorney’s fees issue was reserved to the Court. The court awarded $22,400.00 which approximates $350 per hour for my time.