Romano v. Galaxie Toyota (a Bob Ciasuili dealership in Eatontown, NJ)

Case Synopsis:
Romano v. Galaxie Toyota (a Bob Ciasuili dealership in Eatontown, NJ)
Superior Court of New Jersey
Law Division – Monmouth County
Docket No.: MON-L-2236-04

Facts: In June, 2002, Romano purchased a used 1999 Infiniti I-30 from Galaxie Toyota, Eatontown. The mileage on the vehicle was represented to be 42,305. In March, 2004, the airbag light went on. Romano returned to Galaxie. Galaxie sent Romano to Circle Infiniti. Circle Infiniti inserted the VIN into its warranty computer and it showed that the vehicle on numerous previous repair visits had substantially higher mileage. Circle Infiniti advised Romano of the odometer discrepancies. Romano returned to Galaxie and said she didn't want the car and wanted her money back. Galaxie promised to investigate. Galaxie investigated and determined that the person who traded in the vehicle to Galaxie had indeed rolled back the odometer. Nonetheless, Galaxie refused to take car back and offered Romano a modest dollar amount to settle or alternatively she could trade the Infiniti in and buy a new Toyota.

Understandably, Romano rejected both offers, sought the firm's advice and suit promptly followed. Romano sued Galaxie and Galaxie in turn sued the customer who had traded in the car to Galaxie. The matter did not settle pre-trial. Romano was reasonable in her pre-trial offers and these offers were considerably less than the amount the jury eventually awarded. The Defendants refused to settle. At trial Romano, proved the Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) violation. Galaxie was liable under the CFA for misrepresenting the mileage even though it did not know the mileage representation was false when it made it and they had no intent to deceive Romano. This underscores the high degree of protection provided by the CFA to consumers.

The key to the case was what relief should Romano receive on account of the consumer fraud violation. Romano argued that her purchase price was her measure of damages. She was entitled to give the car back, recover her down payment, as well as all her car payments and have the dealership pay off the balance due to the financing bank. Romano also argued that this amount should be trebled under the CFA and after trebling there would be a credit for Romano's usage of the vehicle (this was conceded as no one gets to ride or drive for free). The Defendants argued that Romano was only entitled to the difference in value between what she paid and what the car was worth with a “clocked odometer” and the higher mileage (which was considerable). The Defendants attempted to use the high mile guide in the published value guides (such as N.A.D.A. or Galves) and argue that Romano's loss calculated on that basis was less than $2,000.00.

We are very pleased to report that Romano won. The jury accepted our argument in its entirely and awarded the entire purchase price paid ($22,586.00). This sum is subject to trebling ($67,758.00) and the use allowance ($9,360.00) is deducted after trebling and not before (another key victory for Romano and all similarly situated victims of consumer fraud in the future).

On appeal, the revocation of acceptance claim as well as the consumer fraud claim was affirmed. The remedies were modified. Attorneys fees were rewarded.

Ronald L. Lueddeke

Ronald L. Lueddeke is the founder and Director of the Lueddeke Law Firm. He has been practicing law in New Jersey for more than 45 years and he has gained immense knowledge of and experience with the broad range of legal problems and issues that arise as a New Jersey resident and consumer. Upon information and belief, Mr. Lueddeke has more reported consumer fraud decisions in New Jersey than any other individual attorney. Prior to opening his practice in 1992, Mr. Lueddeke spent approximately five years as in-house general counsel to the Sansone Auto Group, which was a mega auto group with franchises in New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania. Mr. Lueddeke also lectures at consumer fraud and Lemon Law litigation seminars sponsored by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education.