Summary Judgment / Auto Dealership Not An Agent of Financing Company in Auto Repossession Case

Attorney Kelly A. Byron successfully obtained summary judgment in Fairfield Superior Court on behalf of an automobile dealership in an action stemming from a contested auto repossession. The plaintiff brought an action against the automobile dealer and a repossession company following the repossession of her new 2013 Toyota Camry. The plaintiff had been leasing the vehicle from the dealer when she decided she wanted to buy it outright in June 2013. She offered a $10,000 down payment on the vehicle and financed the rest and the auto dealership assigned the financing agreement to the lender.

The plaintiff made timely payments on the vehicle loan for the next six months. In January 2014, the plaintiff claims she called the defendant auto dealer to request a deferment due to financial hardship and was told that she did not qualify for deferment. The plaintiff then proceeded to miss her January and February payments and after receiving a notice of intent to repossess from the lender, made a late payment in March of 2014 but never paid the amounts due for the prior two months. In April 2014, the plaintiff was informed by letter that her vehicle may be repossessed due to failure to make scheduled payments and failure to pay the property taxes owed on the vehicle. The plaintiff claimed she called the defendant dealer and was told that the she had until May 8, 2014 in which to pay the arrears. On May 7, 2014, the vehicle was repossessed by the co-defendant repossession company. The plaintiff claimed that she attempted to tender the full amount due on that day but was told that it was too late. The plaintiff filed a Complaint against the auto dealership and repossession company, bringing multiple counts for Breach of Contract, Negligent and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Bad Faith, and Violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA CGS 42-110a).

Attorney Byron filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to all counts brought against the auto dealership and argued that despite plaintiff’s erroneous belief that she had been corresponding with the defendant dealership, she had in fact been dealing with the auto finance company and not the dealership itself. The evidence showed that the plaintiff never called or spoke to anyone at the auto dealership after the purchase of the vehicle. The plaintiff admitted in her own deposition that she had been making payments to and speaking directly with the financing company only. Further, the plaintiff admitted in her deposition that following the converting of the lease to purchase of the vehicle, she essentially concluded her relationship with the dealership at that time. The auto repossession company also moved for summary judgment citing similar grounds.

In his 24-page decision addressing both Motions for Summary Judgment, Judge Michael P. Kamp refers to Wesley v. Schaller Subaru, Inc., 277 Conn. 526, 554, 893 A.2d 389 (2006), wherein the Connecticut Supreme Court held that “consistent with the decisions of other jurisdictions in a variety of contest that are nearly universal . . that auto dealers are not agents of auto financing company.” The court further found that there was no evidence of bad faith on the part of the dealership in the underlying contract for sale and financing agreement. The court specifically stated “It is not the function of this court (or a jury) to now sit in judgment of a business transaction between [the dealership] and the plaintiff to determine, with the benefit of hindsight, whether the plaintiff made the right decision to purchase her vehicle with a loan that she ultimately could not afford to repay.” The court also noted that the plaintiff did not take issue with the actual terms of the sale or financing agreement but rather claimed, erroneously, that she had been charged twice for the vehicle. The plaintiff’s claims for Negligent and Intentional Infliction of Emotional distress also failed in light of the fact that any of the alleged emotional distress was the result of conduct after the assignment of the financing agreement and therefore was not and could not have been conduct by the dealership. Finally the court found that there was no evidence to support a claim for CUTPA as there was no evidence whatsoever of misrepresentation or unfair trade practices by the dealership and the conduct that would give rise to such a claim only occurred after the dealership had already assigned the financing agreement to the lender.

Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.