Unfortunately, if you’re an American, you live in a very litigious society. A large number of people want to sue others at the drop of a hat. A lot of lawyers who get paid to sue on someone’s behalf, spend millions advertising to entice us to sue someone. Attorneys in this category are essentially full-time lawsuit sales people. It’s become so prevalent in our culture that some people threaten to sue over the most ridiculous things, like the two people in Florida who sued a fast food chain for not making a burger the way they wanted.
According to Abovethelaw.com over 15 million civil suits are filed each year in the United States. “Americans spend more on civil litigation than any other industrialized nation; twice as much as spent on new cars.” If you’ve seen the average price of a new car these days, that really puts this in perspective.
In the famous words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
While what has become the “norm” when it comes to automobiles is a customer suing a car company, there’s a growing trend of the opposite occurring. As we’ll see below there’s a significant increase in car companies deciding the customer isn’t always right and in some cases, they’re taking that idea all the way to court. While that’s a strange way to do business, it’s simply a sad by-product of American culture these days.
15 Used Car Review
Online review sites have become an industry all their own. With some companies paying for reviews, some offering rewards for reviews and many just outright asking for good ones the entire online review world is a little suspect. Unfortunately, some people find themselves in a situation where they feel all they can do to defend themselves and others is to write a bad online review on a site like Yelp.
ABC Eyewitness News got wind of such an occurrence and reported this “Zaki Ibrahim bought a used car for his wife through a local auto dealer. He says he quickly realized the car had some serious problems he didn't know about. When he took the issues back to the dealer, Ibrahim says he was ignored.
"I didn't expect to basically be given the cold shoulder or be shunned," Ibrahim said, so he took to Yelp to express his frustration with the way he was treated.
The Buena Park-based company, Zeibak Auto Trading, sent him a cease-and-desist letter so Ibrahim took the Yelp post down. A month later, Zeibak Auto Trading filed a lawsuit against him in federal court, but a judge later threw out the case.
Last week, another court summons, this time, in state court. The complaint, which seeks $75,000 in damages, accuses Ibrahim and his family of defamation and trade libel.”
14 Saleen suit
When you think of the word Saleen, images of hopped up Mustangs come to mind. But, for one of their customers, images of a courtroom appear instead. Motherboard.com has the scoop “Saleen Automotive, a company known for its customized versions of sports cars, is trying to take an online detractor to court for posting thousands of comments accusing it of being a scam.
Reddit user FredTesla, whose real name is Frederic Lambert, is a moderator on the subreddit forum r/TeslaMotors. On Reddit, his own website, and other forums like InvestorsHub, he has posted more than 1,000 comments under various aliases, according to Saleen's investigation cited in the affidavit, accusing the company of deliberately scamming customers. He posted on Reddit earlier this week that due to these comments, he was served a "motion to institute proceedings for interlocutory and permanent injunction" from Saleen at his home in Canada.
"I never thought I'd be lucky enough to one day have my reddit comments delivered at my house in a nice binder, but that's what happened today!" he wrote. "In short, they claim that my posting on various websites and blogs were defamatory and impacted negatively Steve Saleen's reputation AND 'impacted the trading volume and price of Saleen Automotive's stock.'"
13 Ford Body Slams Cena
For anyone wondering about the clause Ford Motor Company includes when you buy one of their GT supercars – you know the one that says you cannot resell the car for two years – well, they’re serious. WWE superstar John Cena found out just how serious. According to the Washington Post here’s how it went down “Ford Motor Company is suing the actor and WWE superstar John Cena. The breach of contract lawsuit filed in federal district court in Michigan alleges that Cena, for many years one of the wrestling network’s biggest stars, resold a limited-edition Ford GT, that buyers must agree to keep for two years.
Cena, 40, paid about $460,000 for the 650 hp sports car in liquid blue, which was delivered to him around the end of September, the complaint said. Cena had agreed to the company’s conditions about the car’s purchase in an online application, as well as a notarized release that he signed to purchase it, according to the suit.
By the end of October, Cena had sold the car without the company’s knowledge, along with some other assets “for cash to take care of expenses,” the suit alleges. After the company confronted him about it, Cena admitted to the sale and promised to “make it right,” but, per the suit, he allegedly never did.’”
12 When dealers attack
One of the biggest disputes in auto repair is actual time versus billed time. Most professional technicians bid jobs based on factory repair manual times. A good technician often beats that time. From a customer’s point of view, that’s not always cool. In the case of Dwayne Cooney, it’s so not cool he videotaped it and uploaded the video for all to see.
From ABC news, “Cooney claimed in the video, which has received thousands of views, ‘The airbag problem was a fuse was displaced and all he had to do was move the fuse. I was billed 2.5 hours for the airbag repair,’ according to the suit.
‘We were shocked when this video showed up online and he refused to acknowledge the prior three hours of work,’ said Brad Sowers, co-owner and general manager of Jim Butler Chevrolet. ‘As a small family-run business, we’ve got to protect ourselves. This is part of the Internet world. People can say whatever they want until proven false in the court of law.’
The dealership is suing for more than $25,000 in damages.
Cooney said he has cameras installed for safety, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
‘We have them in all our vehicles, and they record 24 hours a day for the protection of our family and our vehicles,’ he told the newspaper.”
11 The Focus of a lawsuit
If you thought the Yelp case was an outlier, think again. While many feel that posting online reviews should be protected by American’s constitutional freedom of speech, many businesses view it as libel. ABC Action 9 details our next entry, “A Sanford man called Action 9 after he said a car dealership threatened to sue him for posting a bad review online. Steven Dinsmore claims he only told the truth and didn't think he could be sued for sharing his opinion.
Action 9's Todd Ulrich tracked down the dealer for answers and found many companies are going after consumers who complain online.
Dinsmore wanted his Ford Focus appraised and went to Evolution Auto. But once there, Dinsmore said he got a sales pitch then felt the appraisal was way too low.“I read the appraisal and it wasn't right," said Dinsmore. "It was like they were lowballing me.”
So Dinsmore wrote a critical review online, claiming he was pressured to buy and another dealer had appraised his car for $1,500 more than Evolution did. A few weeks later, a letter arrived from Evolution's attorney.“I couldn't believe it. I was so shocked,” said Dinsmore.
The three-page attorney letter ended with the promise to ensure the inaccurate post is removed and all damages recovered.”
10 Holden Dealer Sues Elderly
Don’t just assume this is strictly an American problem, however. For those living in Australia, the notion of being sued for complaining about customer service or products is alive and well. It doesn’t matter what color, creed, or age you are, no one is safe from litigious repercussions.
Take this elderly couple from a small town in Queensland for example. After purchasing a Holden Colorado (Holden is essentially General Motors down under for those keeping score at home), Mr. & Mrs. Knox determined the vehicle was, in their opinion, a lemon. So, they took the truck and parked it near Tait Motors where they purchased it and put signs out exclaiming they had “Lemons For Sale.” As you can imagine, this didn’t thrill the folks at Tait Motors who took a rather strong dislike to the Knox family and allegedly had a rather large legal firm express their dislike directly to the Knox’s by way of a hefty lawsuit.
While this required far more effort on the part of Mr. Knox than just the cursory angry Yelp review, the results of finding himself and his wife in the legal crosshairs of an outback legal debacle are apparently pretty much the same.
9 Luxury Suit
While posting negative online reviews can seemingly open customer up to law suits, apparently asking questions on a legal forum can do the same. When Joanne Painter decided to purchase a Mercedes, she might have wanted that little nugget of info. Dailymail.com details it like so: “Ms. Painter brought proceedings in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. She was awarded $1,230 in compensation. She later sold the car online for $19,000 as she didn't want to keep 'paying out for the problems that just kept going on'.
In the post on the LawAnswers forum, Ms. Painter said: 'From day one there has been problems with this lemon car'.
'We are not rich and are still paying off this car.'
Mr. Lorbek claimed Ms. Painter was incorrect to claim the car was worth only $19,000.
According to the writ Mr. Lorbek plans to show the market price for the car was more than $100,000.’
Mr. Lorbek said the statements cost his Port Melbourne company $1million.”
While this sounds like it’s possibly a wild one-off, the dealership allegedly filed suit against another customer, Peter King. “In November, Mr. Lorbek alleged reviews posted to social media by Peter King were defamatory. Mr. King posted that Mr. Lorbek and his brother David sold a car while being dishonest and untrustworthy.”
8 Governor's Suit
Even elected officials aren’t immune to law suits from car companies, it seems. The suit is coming from a group of foreign investors against Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe. To make it even stranger, a co-defendant named in the suit is none other than Hillary Clinton’s brother Anthony Rodham. According to WTOP news in Washington D.C. “The investors filed a lawsuit in Fairfax County last week against GreenTech Automotive, McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton’s brother Anthony Rodham, company CEO Charles Wang, and various related companies. The lawsuit accuses McAuliffe, Rodham and Wang of milking political connections and lying to investors to perpetuate a $120 million scam. The investors are asking for at least $17.9 million in repayment.
The Virginia lawsuit comes after Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood sued GreenTech in state court in Jackson earlier this month. Hood, a Democrat, is demanding the company repay $5 million plus interest on money the state and Tunica County borrowed to buy land and construct a car factory plus $2 million in punitive damages.
Pitched nearly a decade ago as a revolutionary company that would use foreign investments to build a successful new line of energy-efficient cars that would create jobs in the impoverished Mississippi Delta, GreenTech has failed to live up to those promises and has been a magnet for controversy.”
7 Sued by your own car insurance
This one probably won’t come as a surprise, but this entry comes from the car insurance companies – you know, the ones you pay to keep you from having to shell out tons of cash after an accident. Not only are many car insurance companies heavily vested in filing suits against drivers, the drivers they sue can sometimes be their own customers. Since some states allow lawsuits to be filed for up to 2-4 years after the accident, it often comes as a total shock to the defendant. Thankfully, not every state allows for this. According to Beierlaw.com “If you’re being sued by an insurance company in the event of an automobile accident, don’t panic. Lawsuits are stressful and frightening, but there is a good chance it may not be as bad as you think.
“Just because someone has threatened to sue you for your part in an auto accident doesn’t mean they can actually do it, so don’t panic yet.
If you live in one of these no-fault states, you likely can’t be sued for an accident even if you caused it: Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah.”
Regardless, it’s best to be mindful this can occur, no matter where you live.
6 GM sues dealers
While many think of a car companies customers as simply being private individuals, in the case of manufacturers, their dealers are their customers. And, with that in mind, check out this blurb from Autonews.com: “General Motors is suing Grossinger Auto Group, a Chicago-area dealership group, alleging it breached an exclusive-use agreement in the sale of its Chevrolet and Cadillac dealership assets to AutoCanada Inc. GM is demanding $4.5 million for brand- related losses.
Grossinger entered into an exclusive-use agreement with GM regarding its Chevrolet and Cadillac stores in 2008, the suit says, which required that, for a 25-year exclusivity period, Grossinger would "actively and continuously conduct dealership operations for the existing model lines at the dealership premises."
AutoCanada, of Edmonton, Alberta, agreed to buy nine of Grossinger's 10 dealerships on Oct. 20. The suit alleges that GM representatives communicated with Grossinger on multiple occasions that not transferring the obligations under the exclusive-use agreement to AutoCanada would constitute a breach of the contract. Upon the closing of the sale to AutoCanada that was announced March 22, Grossinger is no longer in business.
A GM spokesman would not comment on the suit. Attempts to reach Bass Sox Mercer, a Florida law firm that assisted AutoCanada in the transaction, and Akerman law firm, which assisted Grossinger, went unanswered.”
5 Rental Tire
When Tracey Brown of Dallas Texas rented a car in Scotland, she turned it in like normal and no one with the rental agency cared to inspect it prior to Ms. Brown going on her merry way. Imagine her surprise when she found they’d billed her credit card for a tire she allegedly damaged. When she disputed it with her credit card company, the rental agency took it up a notch and informed her they were suing her. Thankfully, this one has a happy ending after Ms. Brown contacted a consumer advocacy site.
Here’s the reply to her quandary from Elliot.org “The lawsuit threat is probably a bluff. I’ve talked to enough car rental claims specialists to know that in all likelihood, the letter from Hertz was a form response to losing its dispute with American Express.
If push had come to shove, I don’t think Hertz would have sued you. Still, it’s worth taking the car rental company’s claim seriously. Not just because it might have turned the claim over to a collections agency, possibly hurting your credit scores, but also because I’m sure that if you had damaged the tire, you would have wanted to pay for it.”
In the end, the group contacted the rental agency on Ms. Brown’s behalf and helped negotiate a middle ground for all involved.
4 Goodyear v Sears
When a tire company sells truckloads of tires to a major retailer, it just seems like good business. But, when the tire company follows it up with a lawsuit, their customer-the major retailer-doesn’t quite agree. Case in point as detailed by rubbernews.com “According to the complaint filed Oct. 27, Goodyear and Sears signed an agreement in 2009 for Goodyear to manufacture co-branded tires to be sold exclusively by Sears. The tires would make use of the Goodyear name, as well as Goodyear’s Fuel Max and Fuel Max Technology trademarks and Sear’s Weatherhandler trademark.
On Jan. 5, 2014, Goodyear said, Sears submitted a forecast to Goodyear that Sears would buy more than 330,000 co-branded tires during the year.
However, on June 18, Sears informed Goodyear it had hired a new tire supplier and would accept no more tires from Goodyear, according to the complaint. This left Goodyear with 219,994 co-branded tires that Sears forbade Goodyear to sell, the tire maker said.
“Sears’ refusal to purchase the remaining inventory of co-branded tires constitutes a breach of contract and a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” Goodyear said in its complaint.
The tire maker seeks damages equal to the agreed-upon price of the co-branded tires. Goodyear estimates these damages as more than $18.9 million.”
At that price, they better be good for more than one year.
3 Ferrari Dealer Buys Car, Sues Customer Who Sold it to them
A Ferrari dealer in Connecticut is allegedly in the business of buying used Ferraris from private owners, then flipping them at auctions and through other means for a profit. After selling his 2007 Ferrari 599 to the dealership, one man discovered how much he could have sold the car for and took to the internet to complain about it. As we read above, that’s asking for a quick trip to lawsuit lane when it comes to dealing with litigious dealers.
Here’s what the New York Post had to say about it: “The customer, Lee Stahl, allegedly went onto the FerrariChat.com website and laid out his complaints against Connecticut-based Miller Motorcars, which he thought had cheated him. Stahl claimed the company solicited him in February to sell his 2007 Ferrari 599 to the dealership for $30,000 more than he paid.
A salesman, Dan Mota, allegedly said a buyer was eager to purchase the car at the markup, according to Stahl’s online screed. Stahl offloaded the red Ferrari for $205,000, he told The Post. But weeks later, he learned that the same model Ferrari in black with 3,000 fewer miles on the odometer sold at a Florida auction for $684,000.”
This is clearly a case of buyer-no-seller beware.
2 BMW Countersuit
In another case of the car manufacturer suing its own dealers, BMW got into the action when they allegedly decided they’d had enough of what they viewed as gross underperformance when it comes to selling Beemers in south Florida. The AutoNews reports has the following details, “BMW responded Dec. 1, denying that its program changes are illegal and, in its counterclaim, arguing that Braman Motors Inc. has failed to carry out its "most fundamental contractual obligations" as a BMW dealership for the last several years. The two stores in question are Braman Motors BMW of Miami and Braman Motorcars BMW of West Palm Beach, Fla.
"Braman has performed poorly; in fact, it has ranked among the worst performing dealers for BMW NA in the entire Southeast United States," BMW argues in its filing. "This has been particularly troubling to BMW NA, given that the Miami metropolitan area, which Braman services, is one of the largest luxury automotive markets in the nation. As a result of Braman's poor performance, BMW NA has lost hundreds of sales to its competitors annually in the Miami area."
Allegedly, the folks at BMW HQ feel the source of the issue is one of price, allegedly accusing the dealerships of marking the cars up far higher than local competitors, causing potential customers to simply shop elsewhere.
1 Jenna Jameson sued
Even famous X-Rated film star Jenna Jameson can’t seem to escape the wrath of an angry car company out to sue a customer. The Toronto Sun reports that “Former porn star Jenna Jameson has been sued by a car hire company over allegations she refused to hand back a vehicle. The blue movie legend has been hit with a $100,000 US lawsuit from bosses at Maserati Financial Services, who claim she has been leasing a Maserati Quattroporte S since 2010 but stopped paying the $2,299 monthly fee in January.
In legal documents obtained by TMZ.com, the company bosses claim to have attempted to unsuccessfully repossess the car. Last month, Jameson was charged with driving under the influence (DUI) following her arrest in May.
Now, it’s easy to imagine that anyone who can afford to lease a Maserati for $2,299 a month can also afford a fairly high-priced attorney to defend them when they get sued for not paying that exorbitant monthly car fee. But, all the money in the world can’t stop the courts. And, based on all these entries, it seems that not only can money not stop it, it seems to be the underlying motivation to the rising number car company related of lawsuits.
Sources: The Washington Post, AutoNews, ABC News