A month or so ago, we received a call from a potential client. About a year ago, she purchased a vehicle from a local dealership. Prior to the purchase, she asked if the vehicle was previously in an accident, and was told, “no.” It was also a Certified Pre-Owned Car. She went through with the purchase, drove it for about a year, and suddenly suffered a big change in her life. She needed to reduce her monthly car payment and took the car to another dealership to trade it in. That dealership offered her $7,000.00 less than she owed on it because the CarFax clearly showed a previous accident. Where does this leave our potential client?
The answer is a hard one. From one prospective, a previous accident does not automatically disqualify a vehicle from being certified as a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle. If the accident was cosmetic, and repaired, then the vehicle is considered good to go. However, if the previous accident caused frame or structural damage, then 100% you have a serious auto fraud claim on your hands. There is no manufacturer Certified Pre-Owned program that would certify a vehicle with frame damage.
For our potential client, there was no frame damage. So, does that mean we didn’t take her case? No so fast. The fact that our client asked ahead of time if the vehicle was previously in an accident was the key for us accepting the case. After talking with the sales manager, it was clear that the dealership knew about the accident because he said the dealership reduced the sales price of the vehicle because of the previous accident. Therefore, when our client asked about the previous accident, the salesman blatantly lied in order to convince her to buy the car. That is considered Unfair Trade Practices under Pennsylvania Law. It isn’t exactly a claim of certifying a car that shouldn’t have been certified. But, it is a claim involving acts or omission of important facts in order to induce a sale.
How often does this happen, you might ask? Turns out, while we were in the middle of drafting the Civil Complaint for this particular client, we received another phone call from another potential client with the EXACT same issue. The problem with his case, was he did not ask about an accident history before purchase. While drafting this blog post, we are waiting to see if his “Certified Pre-Owned” vehicle has frame damage. If so, we will accept that case too.