Justices split, vacate transfer in class action against car dealership

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A divided Indiana Supreme Court decided not to take an appeal after originally granting transfer to a class action brought by angry customers against a Northern Indiana car dealership.

Indiana Supreme Court justices granted transfer to Gasbi, LLC d/b/a Michiana Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat v. Tatiyana Sanders, et. al, 19S-PL-431 on July 25 when they agreed to hear whether a Mishawaka car dealership was wrongly denied its motion to dismiss a class-action complaint filed against it by several customers.

Tatiyana Sanders and other customers allege they were each charged a document preparation fee that was neither disclosed nor negotiated by Michiana Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Fiat when they purchased vehicles from the dealership. The customers argued that the document fee exceeded actual expenses incurred for preparation of the documents, and that other Michiana customers who purchased cars in the two years prior also had been unfairly charged.

Specifically, the buyers alleged Michiana’s fee was an “unfair, abusive, or deceptive act, omission, or practice in connection with a consumer transaction” in violation of the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. But the customers cited a statutory provision from the Indiana Motor Vehicle Dealer Services Act, Indiana Code section 9-32-13-7.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in the customers’ favor, finding that their general allegations of uncured and incurable acts were adequate to withstand a motion to dismiss. Appellate Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the panel that the customers’ complaint should not be dismissed as long as it stated a set of allegations on which it could be granted relief, “no matter how unartfully pleaded.”

The case was presented to the Supreme Court for consideration on Sept. 5, and on Friday a divided high court vacated transfer.

“After further review, including consideration of the points presented by counsel at oral argument and discussion among the Justices in conference after the oral argument, the Court has determined that it should not assume jurisdiction over this appeal and that the Court of Appeals opinion reported as Gasbi, LLC v. Sanders, 120 N.E.3d 614 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019), should be reinstated as Court of Appeals precedent,” Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote in a Friday order.

Justices Steven David and Mark Massa dissented from the majority’s decision to vacate transfer.

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