A Chicago-area Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dealership will be spending more time in court over a claim it committed fraud when it sold a Dodge Charger as new despite repair work to the roof.
The allegation was dismissed in June. But the Appellate Court of Illinois revived it last month after finding a factual issue for trial as to whether Jack Phelan Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram of Countryside (Ill.) wrongly failed to disclose the prior damage when it sold the car to Devin Underwood.
Underwood paid $34,094 for the 2011 Charger in March 2012, according to the court's decision. He alleges that when the car's "special three-coat paint" started peeling off, the dealership refused to repair it under warranty, saying that the prior repainting meant it "is not a warrantable return."
His lawyer, Dmitry Feofanov of Lyndon, Ill., said Underwood paid extra for the special paint.
The suit seeks damages for the diminished value of the car, punitive damages for the store's "unrepentant" attitude and attorney fees, Feofanov said.
The dealership said it received the Charger with a crease in the roof panel on the driver's side. It paid an independent body shop $793 to fix it, an amount representing about 2.25 percent of the car's $35,205 suggested sticker price. The store argued it could legally sell the Charger as new with minor damage and that Illinois state law doesn't require disclosure of a problem if the dealership's actual repair cost is less than 6 percent of the suggested sticker.
But Underwood's expert witness testified that the repair work was "cheap" and "substandard," leaving the Charger as "essentially a used vehicle." The expert estimated that a proper repair to like-new condition would cost $4,814, an amount more than 6 percent of the sticker.
In addition to a claim of fraudulent concealment and misrepresentation, the suit accused the dealership of violating the state Consumer Fraud Act by refusing to arbitrate.
A Cook County judge dismissed the entire case without trial.
But a three-judge panel of the appellate court revived the claim of fraudulent concealment and misrepresentation in a unanimous decision written by Justice Mary Rochford. The court cited conflicting evidence of the reasonable cost of properly repairing the roof, whether the store knew that the body shop's work was inadequate and whether the store was required to disclose the prior damage to Underwood.
The court upheld dismissal of the claim that the store wrongfully refused to participate in arbitration.
The store's lawyer, William Cook of Livonia, Mich., said he could not comment on the case.