CHARLESTON – An Alum Creek couple is suing a Boone County used car dealer, saying they were fooled into buying a lemon of a van.

Anthony and Rachel Adkins filed a lawsuit March 24 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Jody Johnson, doing business as Johnson's Used Cars based in Madison.

The plaintiffs say they called the dealership on Jan. 24, 2009 to ask about getting a new family car. The plaintiffs claim they had purchased a 1999 Plymouth Voyager from Johnson just two years ago and were looking for an update.

Johnson told them he had a 2001 Pontiac Montana that was "one of the best running vehicles I've ever had on the lot," according to the complaint.

The couple headed down to the dealership and took the van for a 30-mile test drive. Anthony, who works in car maintenance, checked out the van and could find no apparent problems.

During the sales negotiation, Johnson allegedly told the couple that he put new spark plugs and wires on the van as soon as he acquired it.

The Pontiac van had 120,269 miles on it. The plaintiffs agreed to buy the vehicle for $4,995. They traded in their Voyager for $2,495 and paid Johnson the difference.

About two miles from the dealership, the engine started missing, the complaint says. When they got the van home, Anthony called Johnson and told him about the problem. Johnson told him to bring the van in on Jan. 26 because it sounded like it needed a new fuel filter, according to the complaint.

Johnson allegedly told Anthony that his mechanic had apparently forgotten to put on a new fuel filter.

The plaintiffs took the van to Madison and had the filter replaced, the complaint says. The van ran fine from the dealership to Kanawha City, where Rachel works. But on her way home to Alum Creek, the van's engine started missing again, the complaint says.

The plaintiffs say they called Johnson and told him about the problems and informed him they were going to take the van to a Nitro dealership for an independent diagnosis on Jan. 29. That diagnosis allegedly revealed a history of engine misfires.

They took the van to Johnson's dealership on Feb. 2 because he said he needed to replace the crankshaft position sensor. While Anthony was at the dealership, he says a mechanic told him: "I told Jody not to sell this vehicle until I got to go through it."

According to the complaint, throughout the rest of February the van got worse – stalls out, motor misses, difficult starting, transmission shifts "violently."

On Feb. 12, the plaintiffs say Johnson came to Rachel's place of business for the purposes of picking up the van to fix it. Instead of taking it back to Madison, the plaintiffs claim Johnson drove the van 55 miles running errands around Charleston. Then, Johnson allegedly brought back the van and said there was nothing wrong with it.

That evening, the van was difficult to start and stalled at a red light, the complaint says. The plaintiffs took the van to another garage where mechanics said the transmission was failing.

Johnson told the plaintiffs he would replace the computer that controlled the transmission, the complaint says. Johnson picked up the van on March 3 and kept it until March 10, saying that he replaced the battery.

The plaintiffs say they've left the van parked since then and have revoked acceptance of the van and have asked for a refund.

They add that they believe the van wasn't properly registered with the state, even though Johnson claimed he would take care of it.

They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Sara Bird is representing the plaintiffs. The case is before Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-516

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