Boise, ID asked in Consumer Law for Idaho

Q: I was financed for a car from an established used car place only to find it needs rack & pinion replaced. Can I sue?

I returned to the dealership within a month of driving and complained about the tire locking up when I turn left. They suggested it could be the hub which I paid them to replace and the problem has not only continued but has gotten worse. They told me to just turn traction control off every time I drive and it'll be fine, which I've been doing, but now it sometimes turns back on while I'm driving and I don't know until I'm turning left in traffic. This has almost caused multiple accidents now. I went to an actual mechanic today and they immediately saw what the dealership failed to tell me about, probably for fear of claiming knowledge to it, but the rack and pinion are in great need of replacing, and they insisted it's not really safe to dive. Fixing the issue would be about $1700. I'm furious, especially since I'm paying $200 a month for this $7000 car. I know there are no lemon laws here and they already told me I'm on my own. Is there some way to hold them responsible? I feel robbe

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1 Lawyer Answer
Kevin M Rogers
Kevin M Rogers
  • Boise, ID
  • Licensed in Idaho

A: Dear Robbed,

Please correct me if I misstate the facts you've listed.

First, you purchased a vehicle from a dealer? Was the car new or used?

Second, if it was used, did it have a "AS IS" sign on the windshield?

Third, if it was used AND it had an "As IS" sign on the windshield, then, absent "puffery" or "misstatement of fact" you are 100% responsible.

"Puffery," when a salesman tells the customer that "this car drives like a champ!"

"Misstatement of fact" when the salesman tells the customer, "we've been through every part of the transmission and drivetrain and it drives perfectly!"

The differences are subtle, but important. There is NOTHING in my book of "unforgiveables" that is more frustrating and maddening, is to purchase a used car and then as soon as I drive it off the lot, problems begin popping up! Automobile purchasing is truly a BUYER BEWARE situation. "AS IS" was passed in Idaho and elsewhere to absolve autodealerships from liability for car problems that they hadn't counted on when THEY bought it. All the dealer had to do is NOT represent falsely that it didn't have a problem when they themselves knew damn good and well it had and then misrepresent it to the customer. The paradigm example from 30 years ago law school, was the dealer who sold the car and said, "this baby will get 30 mpg!" The customer bought it and drove it and calculated the miles 2-3 times and each time it only got 28 mpg. So the customer sued the dealer for the misrepresentation. The dealer countered saying, "AS IS." The court held that "AS IS" is only a defense to honest dealing and could not be used to protect against stupidity!

What I would do if I were advising you, I would look through all the paperwork to find a statement which might overcome the "AS IS." If I can't find one in the paperwork, then rack your brains to figure out as best you can from memory, exactly the words used by the salesman as he pointed out to you the virtues of this automobile. IF your recollection would make a case to sue them, then fine, sue them for misrepresentation. You also said that you took the vehicle back to the same dealer and they put it up on the racks and told you that all you had to do is "turn the AWD off" when you drive it? This is the equivalent of malpractice by a doctor. If you then took it to a "real mechanic," and he told you that the rack and pinion is shot, then you have "COUNT 2 - MISDIAGNOSIS OR POOR WORKMANSHIP OR BAD FIX, whatever you want to call it. PLUS, from my own personal experience, a problem so basic would have been known by the dealer from the moment they purchased it, so I believe there is fraud here perhaps.

Finally, just because you CAN SUE, doesn't mean you should sue. MOST lawyers I know would charge you upwards of $2,500 to $5000 to do a case like this against the dealership. I realize that you had hoped to find a lawyer that would take this on a "contingency," but the facts are not SO CUT AND DRIED, that I personally would take it on a contingency. Sorry my friend. Good luck to you!

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