A Tarrant County Jury rendered a verdict in favor of a consumer and against the used car dealer who sold him a truck. The consumer, my client, had found the truck on the car dealer’s website. The online ad stated the truck came with a 90 day 3000 mile powertrain warranty. The client, who lived in Oklahoma, called the salesman listed on the ad, asked a few questions about the truck, and verified that the truck came with a warranty. The salesman agreed that a warranty came with the truck and my client drove down to Mansfield to look at the truck. Client bought the truck. The bill of sale had a disclaimer of warranty limitation in a paragraph just above the line where client signed. It also stated “THIS ORDER IS NOT BINDING UNTIL ACCEPTED BY DEALER.” Dealer did not sign it. I regarded this document as the biggest problem in the case but it turned out to be the key document in winning the case. Car dealer did not give client the required “Monroney sticker,” the document which states whether the truck is sold “as is.”
After 41 days and 1200 miles, the engine blew. Client called the dealership to make a claim on the warranty and was told there was no warranty. When the Client read off the promise from his copy of the ad, he was then told “we don’t honor that.” Client sent a letter requesting the warranty be honored. No response was sent to the letter. Client hired me, a second demand letter was sent. Car dealer claimed that the repairs made by Client to the fuel system caused the engine to fail. Suit was filed and was reached for trial July 18, 2013.
The lawsuit was brought under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act provision alleging that the car dealer engaged in a false, misleading or deceptive trade practice by representing that the truck had characteristics or involved rights that it did not have. Jury found that the car dealer had made such a false representation.
Car dealer tried to convince jury that Client was bound by fine print on the bill of sale, that Client’s repairs caused the engine problem and that Client knew he did not have a warranty when he left the car lot.
Client testified that the only document he received at the sale was the bill of sale; that he left thinking he had a warranty. Client was familiar with mechanics and denied that repairs to fuel system could cause engine failure.
Client’s expert mechanic’s deposition had been taken and this was read at trial. The mechanic also testified that there was no way a fuel system repair could lead to engine breakdown, that the truck showed no signs of abuse, that there could have been no warning to the engine failing, it would have been instantaneous and could not have been prevented.
Since the warranty claim had been denied, Client had no choice but to have engine replaced, at a cost of $5343.00. Client just wanted to have that cost reimbursed and to have his attorney fees paid. Jury rendered verdict for total relief.
In voir dire, jury selection, most jurors had expressed their opinions that you should be held to the fine print, that you were responsible for the fine print on contracts and documents you signed. So, I argued in closing arguments that if you were going to hold Client to the fine print of the bill of sale warranty disclaimer, you must also hold the dealer to the same standard. The bill of sale was the dealer’s document; he knew the requirements; if he wanted the protection of the disclaimer, he should have complied with the terms and signed it. Jury found that a convincing argument and rendered their verdict accordingly.