Judgment against car dealership upheld for customer in fraudulent sale

A Fort Wayne car dealership lost its appeal of a small-claims case against a woman who won a judgment arguing the dealership fraudulently sold her a car and forged her signature on transaction documents related to the sale.

When Jessica Roach found a vehicle for sale on CarGurus.com that she wanted to purchase, she went to the Fort Wayne dealership to take a look. The 2011 Buick LaCrosse she was interested in had been advertised online for $9,457 and was located at Yes Automotive Inc.

Roach signed a retail installment contract for a 2011 Buick LaCrosse and took a vehicle home. When her daughter subsequently totaled the purchased car, Roach requested copies of the transaction documents from the dealership.

Discrepancies about how much the vehicle cost on the bill of sale and the title application drew Roach’s attention. Those documents listed the sale price at $12,060.70, rather than the selling price she had seen advertised online. When Roach inquired about the increase, the dealership stated she did purchase the car for the advertised price, but with bank fees included.  It then refused to pay her the difference.

Roach sued, alleging the dealership overcharged her, did not fully disclose charges and engaged in fraudulent conduct. She also accused the dealership of forging her signature on the bill of sale and title documents, which she claimed the dealership had never reviewed with her and that she did not sign.

The dealership argued it had walked through all the transaction documents with Roach at the time of the purchase and that it did not forge her signature. Dealership owner Brad Hoffer further argued that the dealership’s sales representatives were not affiliated with the billing department and were unauthorized to advise customers on financial matters.

The small claims court agreed with Roach and entered judgment in her favor of $3,639.41, covering the overcharge, three months of interest on the overcharge and attorney’s fees. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that decision Wednesday in a memorandum decision, YES! Automotive, Inc., and Brad Hoffer v. Jessica Roach (mem. dec.), 19A-SC-601, finding enough evidence supported the finding that the dealership committed fraud.

“Furthermore, there is evidence that the documents that do show a price of $12,060.70 — the Bill of Sale and Application for Certificate of Title — were forged and not reviewed with Roach. A reasonable inference from this evidence is that Roach was never given those documents when she purchased the car. All of this evidence supports the small claims court’s conclusion that the Dealership committed fraud,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in a memorandum decision.

Additionally, the appellate court found the dealership did not provide a cogent argument as to why it was not liable for the sales representations of its employees. With no cited legal authority to support the argument, the appellate court therefore concluded the argument waived on appeal.

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