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C. Dov Sacks v. Dja Automotive D/B/A Kia of West Chester

January 18, 2013

C. DOV SACKS
v.
DJA AUTOMOTIVE D/B/A KIA OF WEST CHESTER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Now before me are a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant DJA Automotive d/b/a Kia of West Chester (Dkt. No. 9), plaintiff C. Dov Sacks's opposition (Dkt. No. 11), defendant's reply (Dkt. No. 12), defendant's supplemental memorandum of law (Dkt. No. 24) and plaintiff's supplemental response (Dkt. No. 27). I will deny defendant's motion for summary judgment for the reasons that follow.

Also before me are plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint (Dkt. No. 18), defendant's response thereto (Dkt. No. 19), and plaintiff's reply (Dkt. No. 21). As is further set forth below, I will grant plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint.

BACKGROUND

This matter arises out of plaintiff's January 7, 2009 purchase of a pre-owned 2004 Kia Optima EX V6 from defendant. Plaintiff contends that he was "persuaded to purchase this Optima vehicle[ ] 2004 model[,] rather than a 2006 model with higher mileage[,] in reliance on the representation that the Optima had low mileage of approximately 33,609 miles." Dkt. No. 11 at ECF p. 11. A CarFax vehicle history report that plaintiff purchased for the Optima on June 29, 2011, however, noted that the Optima had signs of mileage inconsistency or a potential odometer rollback. Dkt. No. 1 at ECF p. 23-27. As a result, plaintiff's complaint asserts claims against defendant under the Federal Motor Vehicle and Cost Saving Act (the Odometer Act), 49 U.S.C. § 32701 et seq., the Pennsylvania Odometer Law, 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 7134, the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL), 73 Pa. Cons.Stat. Ann. § 201--1, et. seq., and a claim for breach of warranty pursuant to Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 13 Pa.C.S. § 2313. See Dkt. No. 1. Also, in plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint, he seeks to add a claim for fraud. See Dkt. No. 18.

According to a January 21, 2009 warranty history inquiry for the Optima, the vehicle's production date was September 4, 2003 and its retail and warranty start date was February 10, 2005. Dkt. No. 9-4 at ECF p. 40. The warranty report notes a "retail mileage" of 55 miles. Id. Eugene Bivens, the Optima's first owner, entered into a contract to purchase the Optima with Value Kia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 10, 2005. Dkt. No. 24-1 at ECF p. 5. The retail installment contract lists the Optima's mileage at purchase as 55,787 miles, not 55 miles. Id. Eugene Bivens's trade-in for the Optima was a 2004 Nissan Maxima with 55,787 miles. Id. at ECF p. 10. When Value Kia prepared an application to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a Pennsylvania title -- an MV-1 form -- for the Optima on February 10, 2005, Value Kia listed the Optima's mileage as 55,787 miles. Id. at ECF p. 6. Defendant contends that Value Kia "listed the [Optima's] mileage incorrectly on the retail installment contract and MV-1." Dkt. No. 24 at ECF p. 6.

The Optima had repairs performed under warranty four times between April 28, 2005 and July 25, 2006. Dkt. No. 9-4 at ECF p. 39. When the Optima was serviced under warranty on April 28, 2005, its mileage was listed as 2,770 miles. Id. A secure power of attorney signed by Eugene Bivens on June 16, 2005 notes a mileage of 4,196 miles for the Optima. Dkt. No. 24-1 at ECF p. 13. A September 20, 2005 odometer statement prepared for the Optima by Value Kia also lists the mileage as 4,196 miles. Id. at ECF p. 14-15.

On January 30, 2006, Value Kia prepared an odometer disclosure listing the mileage at 10,117 miles. Id. at ECF p. 16. On the same day, Elizabeth Muavero entered into a contract to purchase the Optima that also listed the mileage at 10,117 miles. Id. at ECF p. 17. Service records for the Optima show its mileage as 11,571 miles on February 28, 2006, 13,011 miles on March 28, 2006, and 15,173 miles on May 9, 2006. Id. at ECF p. 22-26. Repair orders submitted for Muavero on May 19, 2006 and July 11, 2006 listed the Optima as having 15,294 and 18,379 miles, respectively. Id. at ECF p. 29-30. Muavero signed an odometer disclosure statement for the Optima on July 25, 2006 noting an odometer reading of 18,995 miles. Id. at ECF p. 31. The Pennsylvania title issued to Muavero on May 1, 2006, however, listed the Optima as having 55,009 miles. Id. at ECF p. 27.

On August 8, 2006, Ruby Shedrick executed a Buyers Order that stated that the Optima had 19,007 miles. Id. at ECF p. 32. A Borrowed Vehicle Agreement executed on the same day also listed a mileage of 19,007 miles. Id. at ECF p. 33. A certified assignment of title between Metro Auto Sales d/b/a/ Value Kia and Ruby Shedrick dated August 6, 2006, however, appears to indicate a mileage of 59,007 miles. Dkt. No. 27-9 at ECF p. 2.

On October 9, 2008, the Commonwealth of Virginia issued a title for the Optima to Flagship Credit Corporation. Dkt. No. 24-1 at ECF p. 34. The Virginia title listed the Optima's mileage as 33,598 miles. Id.

On December 5, 2008, defendant purchased the Optima at the Manheim Auto Auction and an odometer disclosure statement prepared by Flagship Credit Corporation certified that the actual mileage of the Optima was 33,600 miles. Dkt. No. 9-5 at ECF p. 1. On December 26, 2008, in order to obtain a Pennsylvania title for the vehicle, defendant submitted to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania an MV-1 form listing the Optima's mileage as 33,600 miles. Dkt. No. 9-5 at ECF p. 5. Defendant did not mark an odometer discrepancy box on the form. Id. Defendant's title clerk testified that PennDOT initially rejected the MV-1. Dkt. No. 27-12 at 24:4-25:4.

On January 7, 2009, plaintiff visited defendant's car dealership after contacting Karen Wotasek Halloran, a saleswoman at defendant's dealership, about a 2006 Kia Optima with 51,000 miles. Dkt. No. 27-2 at 11:19-12:14. Prior to plaintiff's visit to the dealership, he also viewed an internet advertisement for the Optima listing its mileage as 33,609 miles. Dkt. No. 27-1 at ECF p. 12. Plaintiff testified that when "[he] was looking at the Kia website [he] did note that [the Optima] was Carfax certified on the website. . . . But [he] did not ask for [a CarFax report] and had never seen one" when he purchased the vehicle. Dkt. No. 27-2 at 28:10-17.

In contrast to plaintiff's testimony, Halloran testified that she pulled a CarFax report on the Optima on January 7, 2009.*fn1 At her deposition, she recalled that the CarFax report included an odometer discrepancy warning and she noted that I did explain to [plaintiff] the odometer discrepancy that was on there because a brand new car cannot be sold with 55,000 miles on it. So I explained that to him that it was a clerical error most likely. CarFax is not accurate all the time. It was an easy fix and that was it.

Dkt. No. 27-3 at 16:6-13. Halloran's files did not contain a copy of the CarFax and she explained at her deposition that "[t]ypically, they are given to the consumer when they purchase the vehicle." Dkt. No. 27-3 at 17.

When plaintiff went to the dealership on January 7, 2009, he test drove the Optima and looked at its odometer. Dkt. No. 27-2 at 13:4-6; 23:20-22. Plaintiff purchased the Optima and drove it home that day. Id. at 24:14-16. He purchased the car as a certified pre-owned vehicle, meaning that it had a comprehensive inspection prior to purchase. Dkt. No. 25-5 at 83:18-84:21. According to defendant, the certification process did not, however, include verification of whether the vehicle's mileage was accurate. Id. at 84:22-23.

When plaintiff purchased the Optima, defendant provided him with an odometer disclosure statement on which defendant "state[d] that the odometer mileage listed on the [Optima] now reads 33609 (no tenths) miles and to the best of [defendant's] knowledge that it reflects the actual mileage of the" Optima. Dkt. No. 27-22. The document included a notation that "Federal law (and State law, if applicable) requires that you state the mileage upon transfer of ownership. Failure to complete or providing a false statement may result in fines and/or imprisonment." Id. Defendant did not check the box that asked it to certify "THAT THE ODOMETER READING IS NOT THE ACTUAL MILEAGE. WARNING! ODOMETER DISCREPANCY." Id. (emphasis in original). Plaintiff, as buyer, and defendant, as transferor, each signed the odometer disclosure statement at the time of purchase. Id.

When asked how defendant's signatory to the odometer disclosure statement "satisf[ied] himself that he could certify to [33,609 miles] as being the correct odometer reading on" the Optima, defendant's corporate designee testified that he "trusted what we do. We wouldn't be selling it if it wasn't. It's right on the odometer. That's what the title said." Dkt. No. 27-5 at 82:1-9. Asked whether he would "have conducted any investigation before [he] signed" an odometer disclosure statement, defendant's general sales manager Thomas Walsh responded "[b]efore I had signed it would I have conducted an investigation? Probably not, no." Dkt. No. 27-4 at 41:20-23.

On February 26, 2009 and March 4, 2009, PennDOT sent defendant letters explaining that the title application for the Optima could not be processed because of a mileage discrepancy. Dkt. Nos. 27-13 and 27-14. On October 22, 2009, defendant submitted another form MV-1 to PennDOT for the Optima stating that the odometer reading for the vehicle was 33,600 miles. Dkt. No. 27-16. This time, defendant checked a box indicating that the mileage figure "IS NOT THE ACTUAL MILEAGE/WARNING: ODOMETER DISCREPANCY." Id. (emphasis in original).

Plaintiff claims that after he bought the Optima, he did not receive its registration or other paperwork in the mail. Dkt. No. 27-2 at 24:17-18. He explained that "in April my temporary registration expired." Id. at 25:8-9. He contacted defendant and was told defendant would "get [him] another temporary registration because the title's not ready yet." Id. at 25:11-13. In August he was told "there was a clerical problem, a typo . . . with the registration and Kia had never seen this before, it was a freak thing, and they're doing everything they could and its very frustrating for them and bear with us." Id. at 25:17-24. He was told that the typo related to the mileage for the Optima. Id. at 26:3-4.

On January 13, 2010, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued a title to defendant showing 33,600 miles as the mileage for the Optima. Dkt. No. 9-5 at ECF p. 30.

On June 29, 2011, plaintiff obtained a CarFax report for the Optima. Dkt. No. 1 at ECF p. 23-27. The CarFax report noted that there was a January 30, 2006 record from the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Department reflecting that the vehicle odometer read 56,009 miles, a higher mileage figure than reflected in subsequent entries. Id. at ECF p. 25. In conjunction with an October 9, 2008 entry related to the issuance of the Virginia title, the report suggests that "because there are signs of potential odometer rollback," any prospective purchaser should "verify the mileage with the seller." Id. In conjunction with a January 23, 2010 record related to a service visit at Kia of West Chester, the report notes an "inconsistent odometer reading" and explains that "it's tough to tell whether this is a sign of an odometer rollback or just clerical error. Your best move is to get a mechanic or the seller to confirm the mileage." Id. at ECF p. 26. With respect to odometer rollback, the report explains that "[i]f a more recent odometer reading is less than an older reading, then the odometer may have been tampered with and 'rolled back.' CARFAX analyzes the mileage history and the sources of this information to indicate a potential odometer rollback." Id. at ECF p. 27. With respect to mileage inconsistency, the report explains that "if a more recent odometer reading is less than an older reading but CARFAX is ...


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