I recently purchased a used car from a dealer in Florida. The car was advertised as having a new timing belt and water pump - two items that are extremely important to this particular make and model, as any slippage or breakage of the timing belt can ruin the entire engine. I have a copy of the vehicle advertisement which clearly states the vehicle has a new timing belt and water pump. The vehicle broke down just days after the purchase. After speaking with the dealer, it was revealed to me that he was not certain that either the timing belt or the water pump had been replaced. Is this a case of auto sale fraud?
Additionally, it turns out that one of the documents he had me sign, something called a "Warranty Disclaimer", is dated 3 days prior to the first time I ever visited his car lot. Everything on the "Warranty Disclaimer" is printed out of a printer, aside from my signature at the bottom. The printed information includes the incorrect date, as well as my name, address, and the VIN number for the vehicle, among other details.
One of the enumerated provisions of the automobile UDAP--that statute specifically dealing with unfair and deceptive acts by automobile dealers--prohibits dealers from making representations about the quality of care, regularity of service, or general condition of the vehicle. I would argue that your situation falls within this provision.
Even if your claim doesn't fall squarely within that provision, it may still fall within the more general Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), which bars, vaguely, deceptive and unfair trade practices by most businesses.
Further, even without these statutes, what has occurred here may meet the elements of common law fraud. To prove that claim, you must, generally, prove that a representation was made about the replacements to the vehicle, that those representations were false, that the representations were an intentional lie (or that they were made with disregard for the facts), that the representations were made to try to induce to you to buy the vehicle at the price offered, and that you, in fact, reasonably relied on the representations and were induced to purchase at the price offered.
The primary benefit with going with a statutory claim is that you would be able to a judgment against the dealer for your attorney fees and costs if you win.
If this does reach litigation, I recommend retaining a lawyer to draft a lawsuit that hits the elements for statutory and common law claims and appropriately requests reimbursement for your fees and costs.
The information provided in this and other answers on Avvo are general in nature and limited to the facts as stated. The information provided in this and other answers on Avvo should not be construed as legal advice on which the reader relies without further consultation with an attorney. No attorney-client relationship is created on Avvo question & answer forums. This attorney is licensed and admitted to practice law in the State of Florida only.
If they made a provably false representation then it's a udap. Dealer saying they do not know may or may not be actionable in FL or some other state. Was it the timing belt and/or water pump? If so, then you likely have something. Find someone good to represent you here: http://www.naca.net
Lemon Law Attorney
Sounds like it to me. Can you do anything about your lemon used car? That depends. There is a used car lemon law in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, but not in Florida. But that doesn't mean you are stuck. You have to look at your sales paperwork. If there is no warranty there, then think about any oral representations that were made and ask if you are the victim of fraud. There is a long technical definition for fraud in each state but basically it is a lie that costs you money. If your purchase was “as is” don’t give up. Practically speaking, “as is” isn’t always legally as is, even though every car dealer wants you to think so. In most states, your legal rights in a used car sale are mostly determined by the paperwork that you sign, what you were told by the dealer, and if the dealer hid anything serious about the vehicle from you. But even in an “as is” sale you might get some legal rights anyway, even if you thought you didn’t. And besides that, if the seller hid something from you and also knew that you would want to know about it before making the deal, then that can be fraud. Also, in some states an oral representation may over-ride a written disclaimer of warranties. Also there’s a federal law that requires all car dealers to post on the window of all used cars they are selling a special “Buyer Guide” form (it’s often called a Used Car Window Sticker) that discloses your warranty rights. Many small lot car dealers don’t comply with the law. If they don’t, then you may end up with a warranty after all and you may even have the right to cancel the sale. The back side of the form has to be completely filled out and many car lots, big and small, fail to do that too and that can also trigger your right to cancel the deal. There’s a link below to see what the Buyer Guide form looks like. Once you have already spent your money, it's not too late to have an independent repair shop inspect it and tell you what they think, but the best time is before you put down your hard earned money. If less than a few thousand dollars is involved, you may want to go to Small Claims Court on your own instead of getting an attorney. To find out what your rights are in your state, you need to talk to Dana Manner or Steve Fahlgren or one of the other dozen Florida Lemon Law attorneys. You can find their contact info at this web site page where there is a Free Online 50 State National List of Lemon Law Lawyers (www.USLemonLawyers.com) and find one near you (lawyers don’t pay to get listed here and most of them are members of the only national association for Consumer Law lawyers, NACA.net). You can also look for one here on Avvo under the Find a Lawyer tab. Or you can call your local attorney's Bar Association and ask for a referral to a Lemon Law attorney near you. But act quickly because for every legal right you have, there is only a limited amount of time to actually file a lawsuit in court or your rights expire (it's called the statute of limitations), so don't waste your time getting to a Lemon Law attorney and finding out what your rights are. If this answer was helpful, please give a “Vote Up” review below. Thanks for asking and Good Luck. Ron Burdge, www.USLemonLawyers.com
What does a Used Car Buyer Guide warranty form look like? Click here and see
What are the 3 kinds of Fraud? Click here to find out
Did a business treat you unfairly? See what your Udap rights are to protect yourself, click here
Free 50 State List of Consumer Law Lawyers? Click Here
This answer is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The law in your state may differ and your best answer will always come from a local attorney that you meet with privately. If you need a Consumer Law attorney, click the link above to find a Consumer Law attorney near you.