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Car Dealer Must Pay Punitive Damages

A defendant car seller’s false repre­sentation that a vehicle conformed to a particular description and quality as being a “numbers matching” vehicle, which he sold to plaintiff for $45,000, when the vehicle was not a “numbers matching” vehicle and thus only worth $35,000 at the time of the sale, was a breach of an express warranty and a Montgomery County Circuit Court orders defendants to pay plaintiff $45,000, representing the rescission of contract price; $15,000 in punitive damages; $50,000 in attorney’s fees and $1,200 in costs.

The court finds defendant’s fraudu­lent conduct was proven by clear and convincing evidence. The court further finds that the false representation made by defendant was material to the contract in question and that the same induced plaintiff relying thereon to purchase the vehicle in question for the $45,000 price paid. The court finds that this conduct on the part of the individ­ual defendant is imputed to defendant corporation by way of respondeat supe­rior.

The court further finds that the later discovery by plaintiff of the misrepre­sentation as made by defendant in his own personal capacity and as an agent of the corporation was reasonable and thus evidence supports plaintiff ’s posi­tion that defendants’ plea to the stat­ute of limitations is not supported by the evidence and is denied.

The court finds that defendant’s con­duct was done knowingly, willfully and/ or wantonly, with actual malice and conscious and reckless disregard of the rights of plaintiff, and that conduct is imputed to the corporate defendant. Plaintiff gave defendants timely notifi­cation of its revocation of acceptance of delivery of the vehicle.

The court concludes plaintiff is enti­tled to either an equitable rescission of the sale in question, or at its sole op­tion, the right to keep the vehicle at its value as fixed and testified to by plain­tiff ’s expert of $35,000.

The court finds the billings of plain­tiff ’s counsel in this cause through June 23, 2016, to be fair, reasonable and nec­essary, given all of the facts, complex­ity in proving fraud, and given all of the procedures that were required in this litigation. The court notes counsel has over 40 years of litigation practice experience and that his rate of $300 per hour is actually $100 per hour less than what he has charged for similar hourly work over the past six years.

The court, however, disallows and de­nies plaintiff ’s prayer for damages for expenses other than court costs, ser­vice of process fees (including private process serving fees) and court report­ing/video deposition fees.

Should plaintiff decide to not retain the subject vehicle, defendants shall not be allowed to retrieve the vehicle until they have paid all judgments owed to plaintiff per this order.

Duncan Automotive Inc. v. Service Center & Auto Sales Inc. (Carson) No. 121CL14000933-00, June 23, 2016; Montgomery County Cir.Ct.; Harry F. Bosen Jr. for plaintiff. VLW 016-8-081, 7 pp.