C&O class action trial delayed

by Chris Dickerson |
Jul. 20, 2006, 6:40am

CHARLESTON – A class action trial in Kanawha Circuit Court over Daewoo automobiles has been delayed.

On July 12, the state Supreme Court of Appeals denied a petition to stop the class action trial. C&O Motors had asked the Court for a writ of prohibition to keep the trial from starting. The Justices turned the dealer down, 3-2.

The decision gave Kanawha Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib a green light to conduct the trial of auto dealer C&O Motors starting July 17.

But a criminal matter forced Zakaib to bump the case. After going back and forth on a date to resume, the trial now is scheduled to begin Sept. 11.

C&O and its attorneys pushed for a January start date. But attorneys from the Charleston firm of Bell & Bands, who filed the class action on behalf of Darryl Smith, pushed for an earlier date.

"We objected strenuously as this is a 2002 case and now, the class representative, who is active duty U.S. Army, has cancer and health concerns," attorney Harry Bell said. "He doesn't want to give up and wants to fight this through to the end.

"The frustrating thing is we had spent about four days right before and had deposed so many people, including C&O salesmen. We had spent a huge amount of time, issuing subpoenas. And now, the case is continued, so you have to do the whole thing over again. Unfortunately, it adds more costs. With us, it's frustrating.

"And we're crossing our fingers that Darryl will be OK."

At trial, Bell & Bands attorneys will aim to convince jurors that C&O Motors sold Daewoos in 2002 though the dealer knew Daewoo would go bankrupt. Buyers suffered damages by paying more than they would have paid if C&O Motors had told the truth about Daewoo, according to the suit.

Attorney Harry Bell sued C&O Motors in 2002 on behalf of Smith. Bell moved to certify Smith as representative of at least 1,000 Daewoo buyers. C&O responded that it sold 91 Daewoos. The dealer argued that it honored warranty claims on every one.

Jurors will consider claims of 81 buyers. The Postal Service could not locate seven buyers, and three buyers "opted out" to preserve their claims as individuals.

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