Putnam family, car dealer swap fraud claims

By Lawrence Smith | Aug 20, 2009

WINFIELD - Two Putnam County women and an automobile dealership have traded allegations of fraud regarding the purchase of a used car last year.

On July 6, Hurricane Chevrolet filed suit in Putnam Circuit Court alleging Cynthia L. Means, and her daughter, Chanon, committed fraud when they were unable to meet the terms and conditions of financing the purchase of a used Mazda. However, less then 48 hours later, the Means filed their own suit alleging they were the victims of fraud saying Hurricane Chevrolet not only concealed material facts about the car's sticker price, and trade-in value, but also the terms of the financing.

According to court records, Chanon, 22, who lives with Cynthia, 46, on Rosewood Place in Hurricane, visited Hurricane Chevrolet on Oct. 23 with the intention of possibly buying a 2008 Mazda 3.

Chanon was attracted to Hurricane Chevrolet after hearing about its advertised special of a $3,000 trade-in allowance for any vehicle on the dealership's lot regardless of the trade-in vehicle's condition.

The car Chanon was trading in was a 1996 Pontiac, records show.

According to the Means' suit, Hurricane Chevrolet agreed to accept her trade-in, and sell her the Mazda for $18,200. To finalize the deal, she would need a cosigner to secure financing, and make an additional payment of $1,000.

In its suit, Hurricane Chevrolet says it agreed to sell Chanon the Mazda for $20,840 "subject to the terms and conditions of a Spot Delivery Agreement." The agreement, records show, allowed Chanon to take immediate possession of the car pending finalization of financing through a Retail Installment Sale Contract through a third party.

On Oct. 24, Hurricane Chevrolet alleges Capital One Auto Finance tentatively approved the Means for financing. Including the $1,000 down payment, the terms included proof of income, a current month's mortgage statement and three references.

Also, by signing the Spot Delivery Agreement, the Means' agreed that, in the event financing could not be obtained within four days, they would "immediately return the vehicle to the Hurricane Chevrolet or pay in full the amount due on the transaction."

The Means acknowledge the sale price of the Mazda was $20,840, which was "substantially more than the advertised price of the subject vehicle." This, the Means allege, reduced the trade-in value of the Pontiac to $360.

Also, they don't dispute signing the "Spot Delivery Agreement" requiring the return of the Mazda "within 4 days" if financing could not be approved. However, when they left the dealership indicating their first monthly payment of $455.88 was due on Dec. 8, and later delivered the $1,000 down payment two weeks later, the Means thought the deal was final.

Sometime in late November or early December, the Means allege Hurricane Chevrolet called them to say their application for financing was rejected and insisted on the Mazda's return. Hurricane Chevrolet alleges that Capital One declined to finance purchase of the car specifically due to Cynthia's failure to provide a current mortgage statement.

Since they "have delivered all payments due under the contract, and otherwise performed all duties required of them pursuant to the contract," the Means say they "do not desire to cancel the sale and return the subject vehicle." The allege that Hurricane Chevrolet failed to transfer title and license of both the Mazda and Pontiac, charged them $650 for GAP insurance they did not request and "did not accurately disclose the vehicle's mileage on the date of sale as required by law."

In their suit, the Means make claims against Hurricane Chevrolet for breach of contract, unfair and deceptive acts or practices and fraud. They seek unspecified damages, and interest.

Among other things, Hurricane Chevrolet accuses the Means of fraud, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, false pretense and negligent misrepresentation. In addition to unspecified damages, court costs, attorney fees and interest, Hurricane Chevrolet is asking the court to declare the Spot Delivery Agreement as legally enforceable, thus making the sale of the Mazda null and void, and grant them immediate possession of the car.

Hurricane Chevrolet is represented by Johnnie E. Brown with the Charleston law firm of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown and Poe while the Means are represented by Cameron S. McKinney with The Grubb Law Group in Charleston.

Hurricane Chevrolet's case is assigned to Judge Phillip M. Stowers, while the Means' case has been assigned to Judge O.C "Hobby" Spaulding.

Putnam Circuit Court Case Nos. 09-C-201 and 203

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