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Unpaid balance bars woman from being class representative in class-action complaint

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Even though a trial court initially certified a class in a lawsuit, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled in a case of first impression that the lower court can change its mind.

Tequita Ramsey filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the temporary decertification of a class.

Ramsey originally filed a complaint in small claims court after a car she bought from Lightning Corp., d/b/a/ First Class Car Co., developed mechanical problems the same day she drove it off the lot. She had paid $1,400 toward the purchase price of $1,791.40 and agreed to make payments on the remaining $391.40.

When Lightning refused to refund the money, Ramsey filed the complaint then amended that complaint to include a class-action claim. Specifically, she alleged that the $199 document preparation fee the dealer charged on all its sales was a violation of Indiana Code 9-23-3-6.5.

The trial court granted the class certification order but later granted Lightning’s motion to modify that order. Lightning held Ramsey was not an appropriate class representative because the $1,400 she had paid did not include the $199 document preparation fee.

On appeal, Ramsey countered that she has standing to be a class representative because Lightning was suing her for the remaining balance due under the sales agreement.

In Tequita Ramsey v. Lightning Corporation, 49A02-1209-CC-705, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in decertifying the class. The COA stated it could find no logical reason to hold that the trial court may never revoke or rescind such an order.

As to Ramsey’s argument that she is a class representative because she is being sued for the amount that includes the document preparation fee, the appeals court was unconvinced.

“In our view, Ramsey’s argument is only speculative,” Judge John Baker wrote. “Ramsey should not be permitted to breach her contract with Lightning by failing to pay the amounts required under the purchase documents, and then when Lightning sues her for non-payment, be conferred the rights and benefits as if she had satisfied her obligations under the contract.”

 

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