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KANTORCZYK v. NEW STANTON AUTO AUCTION

May 7, 1977

Stanley KANTORCZYK, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW STANTON AUTO AUCTION, INC., a corporation, and W. J. Reynolds, Individually and doing business as Reynolds Cars, Defendants. W. J. REYNOLDS, trading and doing business as Reynolds Cars, Plaintiff, v. NEW STANTON AUTO AUCTION, INC., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARSH

 In May, 1976, Stanley Kantorczyk brought suit against New Stanton Auto Auction, Inc., and against W. J. Reynolds, individually and doing business as Reynolds Cars. Nearly five months later, Reynolds brought suit against New Stanton.

 Both suits were brought pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act, 15 U.S.C. ยง 1989(b), and both actions involve a 1971 Plymouth station wagon which Reynolds purchased at the New Stanton auction and which Reynolds later sold to Kantorczyk. There is no allegation or evidence that the vehicle's odometer ever malfunctioned or that it had been altered or reset. It was alleged, however, that the vehicle had been driven more than 100,000 miles and that therefore the odometer registered 100,000 miles less than the vehicle's actual mileage.

 Kantorczyk seeks awards of $1,500 plus costs and attorney fees against each defendant. Reynolds claims compensatory and punitive damages against New Stanton, or in the alternative an award of $1,500, whichever is greater, plus costs and attorney fees.

 The cases were consolidated for trial. The trial before the court and an advisory jury began on April 18, 1977, and lasted for three days. The jury rendered a special verdict answering five questions submitted by the court (See Appendix).

 After consideration of all the evidence *fn1" the court makes the following findings of fact.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. Stanley Kantorczyk is a resident of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. New Stanton Auto Auction, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, is engaged in the business of conducting an auction as a means of bringing together automobile dealers for the sale of used cars. W. J. Reynolds is engaged in the business of buying and selling automobiles under the business name of Reynolds Cars in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

 2. On May 27, 1975, Reynolds sold a 1971 Plymouth station wagon to Stanley Kantorczyk for $1,495. Prior to the sale, Kantorczyk had visited Reynolds' car lot twice and Reynolds had allowed Kantorczyk to take the station wagon home for a week-end.

 3. At the time of the sale, Reynolds delivered to Kantorczyk an Odometer Mileage Statement certifying inter alia that the odometer reading was 50,006 miles, and leaving blank the provisions on the form for "total accumulative miles (if over 100,000)" and "true mileage unknown" (Exhibit No. 1).

 4. At the time of sale, Reynolds did not know that the actual mileage on the 1971 Plymouth was in excess of the 50,006 miles then shown on the odometer. Specifically, Reynolds did not know that the actual mileage on the Plymouth was 150,006 miles at the time he sold the Plymouth to Kantorczyk.

 5. Reynolds had purchased the 1971 Plymouth for $585 (plus a $10 auction fee) on July 25, 1974 at an auction conducted by defendant New Stanton.

 6. At the time of purchase, Reynolds found the interior of the car to be in excellent condition and the car's body to be in good condition. Reynolds believed the average price for such a car to be about $1,200, and he had been prepared to bid as high as $900 or $1,000 for the car.

 7. New Stanton had received the vehicle from Gary Auto Lease, Inc., of Morristown, New Jersey, which had leased the vehicle to Pennsylvania Electric Company. The Certificate of Title shows an assignment of title for the 1971 Plymouth from Gary Auto Lease, Inc., to New Stanton (Exhibit No. 5).

 8. New Stanton's practice was to collect $10 from the seller and $10 from the buyer for each transaction at the auction. Subsequent to the sale to Reynolds, New Stanton sent a check for $575 to Gary Auto Lease, Inc.

 9. An odometer disclosure statement from Gary Auto Lease, Inc., was in the possession of New Stanton at the time of the auction on July 25, 1974 (See Pretrial Stipulations 9, 10; Civil Action No. 76-1319). Generally the odometer statement and title certificate arrived at New Stanton attached by a paper clip.

 10. The odometer disclosure statement executed by Gary Auto Lease, Inc., on July 9, 1974, stated that the odometer reading on the 1971 Plymouth was 48,036 with true mileage of 148,036. There is no checkmark in the space which is to be checked if the odometer reading is known to differ from the actual mileage. The odometer statement is not signed by either Gary Auto Lease, Inc. or by New Stanton. *fn2"

 11. The Odometer Disclosure Statement executed by Gary Auto Lease, Inc. was not given to Reynolds before or after the sale. The mileage as represented on that statement (148,036) was not revealed by New Stanton at the time of the auction.

 12. New Stanton did deliver to Reynolds a Certificate of Mileage (Exhibit No. 2) dated July 25, 1974 and signed by Dyke Orr, president of New Stanton, certifying "I am the owner of a certain 1971 Plymouth" and stating that "the speedometer showed a total mileage of 48,186 miles."


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