Sadly, we lost a case the other week in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Here are the basic facts: Our client purchased a used car from a local dealership that is known to sell questionable vehicles. The next day, the car started exhibiting engine issues. The dealership attempted a repair. However, when she got the car back, it died again. She took it back for repairs. One month later, she is told the transmission is bad, the car has a blown head gasket, and it won’t pass Pennsylvania Inspection. This is music it our ears. Additionally, since we have sued this dealership and won before, we hopped all over the chance to sue the dealership again. However, this time was different and we can’t believe it.
Pennsylvania law prohibits a dealership from selling a vehicle that won’t pass State Inspections, has a bad transmission, has a blown head gasket, has frame damage, and more, unless the dealership tells the buyer of these issues prior to sale. So, when we saw a mechanic’s report on this car that was created 1 month after the sale, we sued for violation of the Pennsylvania Auto Industry Trade Practices Act. Last time we sued this dealership, we won because the salesman told that client the car would pass Pennsylvania Inspection when it actually wouldn’t. This time, it turned out the dealership learned its lesson and changed its Buyers Agreement (sales contract) in a way we think is WRONG!!!
First, the Buyers Agreement lists all of the various defects a car could have at the time of sale and has boxes for the salesman to check “YES” or “NO.” That level of disclosure is ok because it is what the law requires. What bothers us is a disclosure at the bottom of the Buyers Agreement that basically says, “We do not guarantee that this vehicle will pass inspection and the buyer understands the vehicle may or may not pass inspection after sale.”
If you find a dealership with this language in its Buyers Agreement, RUN AWAY. This is terrible. This language allows a dealership to sell you a vehicle without telling you about potential issues. The dealership is essentially saying, “The law requires us to tell you if this vehicle has a defect, but we didn’t look, so you can’t sue us if it does have a defect after you buy it.” That’s not the intent of the law. The law requires the dealership to disclose defects if the defects are known, OR SHOULD BE KNOWN, at the time of sale. That means the dealership has to actually look at the vehicle before it sells the vehicle or it risks a lawsuit.
Bottom line, before you go buy a used car, do your research. Google the dealership’s name to see what pops up. Look on Facebook to see if others have complained. Ask the dealership questions about the vehicle. Chances are, if you ask, the salesman will lie about the condition of the vehicle in order to sell it to you. That lie may be the basis of your lawsuit. Finally, don’t sign a contract that says a vehicle may or may not pass inspection after you buy it.