40. The average trade-in value shown in the September, 1975 Guide for this type of 1972 Chevrolet is $1950.00.
41. The maximum high-mileage deduction for a 1972 Chevrolet such as the one in question is 40% of $1950 or $780.00.
42. The Defendant had the 1972 Chevrolet serviced monthly and maintained it in excellent mechanical condition.
43. The high mileage deduction for the Defendant's 1972 Chevrolet would have been $750.00.
44. The actual damage sustained by the Plaintiff is the sum of the low-mileage credit, $150.00, which it allowed and the high-mileage debit or deduction which would have been assessed, $750.00, if the actual mileage on the 1972 Chevrolet had been known to the Plaintiff, or a total of actual damage of $900.00.
45. The net loss sustained by the Plaintiff was $900.00.
On September 9, 1975, Thomas A. Wright drove his 1972 Chevrolet Estate Stationwagon onto the premises of Rider Oldsmobile to investigate the possibility of trading it for a new automobile. After a brief period of discussion and negotiation with Plaintiff's agent, Charles Rider II, Wright agreed to purchase a 1976 Oldsmobile station-wagon. In figuring the amount of the trade-in which Wright would be allowed toward the purchase price of the new car, Rider determined the value of the 1972 Chevrolet as if it had been driven about 35,000 miles, the figure shown on the odometer. Consequently, in addition to receiving an allowance for the car's excellent appearance and tires, Wright was credited $150.00 for its "low mileage". In fact, the Chevrolet had been driven more than 135,000 miles.
Rider Oldsmobile subsequently discovered the fact that the actual mileage driven on the 1972 Chevrolet exceeded the odometer reading by 100,000 miles and contacted Wright. Efforts to resolve the dispute were unsuccessful and this lawsuit ensued.
Wright knew that the mileage shown on the odometer was 100,000 miles less than the number of miles the 1972 Chevrolet had actually travelled. However, with intent to defraud, he remained mute while the Plaintiff's agent calculated the automobile's trade-in value as if it had been driven only 35,690 miles. Given the declaration of purpose for the promulgation of Subchapter IV of the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972 as found in § 1981,
one would expect that such conduct violates the Odometer Requirements contained therein. It does not. In an incredible demonstration of inept draftsmanship, the framers of Subchapter IV have failed to provide for the situation presented by this case.
The disclosure requirements with respect to mileage are contained in 15 U.S.C. § 1988
and the regulations promulgated thereunder at 49 C.F.R. § 580.4.
The only two provisions under which Wright could be found liable are §§ 580.4(a) and 580.4(c). Since the Odometer Mileage Statement on file in this case, Exhibit P-3, contains the correct odometer reading at the time of transfer, the date of transfer, the transferor's name and address and the identity of the vehicle, Wright did not violate § 580.4(a).
At first blush, it may appear that he did violate § 580.4(c) by failing to ". . . include a statement that the actual mileage is unknown" when he knew that the odometer reading differed from the number of miles the vehicle had actually traveled. However, to hold him liable for failing to make such a statement under this set of facts would be an absurdity. Wright did know the actual mileage the 1972 Chevrolet had traveled and could not forthrightly state that the actual mileage was unknown to him. Forcing him to state that the actual mileage was "unknown", as appears to be the thrust of § 580.4(c), would require him to violate § 1988(b), which makes it unlawful "to knowingly give (sic) a false statement to the transferee in making any disclosure required by such rules." Consequently, the Court cannot adhere to the strictly literal and fundamentally non-sensical interpretation of § 580.4(c) which would hold Wright liable for failing to make a statement that the actual mileage was "unknown" to him when, in fact, he did know the actual mileage.
Through no fault of the Plaintiff or its counsel, Wright evades liability in this case by the fortuity of his having engaged in conduct which, although covered by the spirit of the statute, is not covered by the plain meaning of its words. Nothing in the statute or related regulations requires a statement of the actual mileage by an individual, such as Wright, who knows that it differs from the odometer reading and who knows what it is. The Court has no doubt that the statute and regulations were intended to cover this situation. However, only by stretching and contorting the words of the Act and the regulations can this end be achieved. This is not a proper judicial role. Legislators ought to be able to draft statutes with clarity and care.
As a result of this quirk in the statute, the Plaintiff is not entitled to any damages. However, the Court is in a position to evaluate the loss sustained by Rider Oldsmobile in this transaction. The Court deems it appropriate to make that finding while the matter is fresh so that in the event of a reversal, another trial can be obviated.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Official Used Car Guide is an accepted document within the automobile industry for the valuation of used cars. According to the September, 1975 edition of the NADA Guide, which was in force at the time of the transaction between Wright and Rider, the high-mileage deduction for a 1972 Chevrolet Estate Stationwagon which has been driven 100,000 miles is $500.00. The Guide contains no high-mileage deduction tables for automobiles driven in excess of 100,000 miles. However, it does state that the "deduction for high-mileage should not exceed 40% of average trade-in value". The average trade-in value shown in the September, 1975 NADA Guide for Wright's 1972 Chevrolet is $1950.00. Therefore, the maximum deduction for high-mileage which would have been charged against Wright's 1972 Chevrolet was $780.00. Because Wright maintained the automobile in excellent condition, both mechanically and outwardly, the Court is of the view that the maximum high-mileage deduction would not have been assessed and that a figure of $750.00 would have been reached. Consequently, adding the $750.00 debit to the $150.00 credit that was actually allowed, the Court concludes that Rider Oldsmobile's actual damages are $900.00. We also conclude that the difference between the fair market value of the car with its actual mileage and the fair market value of the car with a mileage of 100,000 less than its actual mileage is $900.00.
III. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW.
1. Defendant Thomas A. Wright knew the actual mileage on the 1972 Chevrolet automobile which the Defendant transferred to Rider Oldsmobile, Inc. and with the intent to defraud Rider Oldsmobile, Inc., failed to disclose it to the Plaintiff.
2. The Odometer Mileage Statement completed as a part of this transaction complies with § 408 of the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972, 15 U.S.C. § 1988.
3. Defendant did not violate § 408 of the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972, 15 U.S.C. § 1988, by failing to make written or oral disclosure of the actual mileage on the 1972 Chevrolet when he knew the actual mileage and knew that the odometer reading was different from that figure.
An appropriate order will issue.