John Wheeler is a 42 year old disabled man who is the sole caretaker for his severely disabled, wheel-chair bound father. In the summer of 2008, he and his father purchased a used van from a used car dealer. They specifically described to the dealer his father’s health problems, including the need to be able to load the wheelchair and the fact that it had to have adequate heat and air and be reliable. They bought the van recommended by the dealer, along with a three month warranty. Within two weeks of purchase, the van had been back in the dealer’s repair shop for two full days, leaving them without transportation. After the second problem, which was a failed air conditioning system, they were told that they were not entitled to any further work under the warranty, other than problems with the transmission. Mr. Wheeler continued to have problems with the van and contacted Kentucky Legal Aid (KLA) to see if we could either force the necessary repairs or get them out of the contract and get back their down payment.
As requested by KLA’s attorney, Mr. Wheeler had the van inspected by a certified mechanic who provided a list of repairs he believed necessary to make the van safe and reliable. The attorney then attempted to settle the matter by contacting the dealer, requesting that the list of repairs be covered under the warranty. The dealer’s reply was a phone call from their office manager that none of the repairs were covered by the warranty and would not be made.
After further review of the warranty it did not appear that any of the repairs were excluded, a second attempt to settle the action was initiated. The dealer’s reply was another phone call from the same office manager, basically attempting to say the same thing. This time she also attempted to instruct on the “law” of warranties. Mr. Wheeler’s attorney inquired as to whether the dealer had an attorney and was informed they did. We requested that they have their attorney review the warranty and reply to us. They indicated they would, but no reply ever came. While we awaited the reply, the van developed a transmission problem. Since the dealer had indicated that the transmission was covered, Mr. Wheeler was instructed to report it to the dealer & request repair. He was told that, since he hired a lawyer, they would fix nothing.
At this point, we sent a letter detailing our attempts to settle the matter, our offers to allow the dealer to correct the deficiencies and avoid breaching the warranty contract and their refusal to do so, and officially revoked the contract, indicating that no further payments would be made. The dealer’s response was to immediately repossess the van. At first they refused to return the client & his father’s personal belongings (including the portable wheelchair), but decided to do so after receiving a phone call from Mr. Wheeler’s attorney.
KLA finally filed suit alleging a wide variety of consumer protection violations including wrongful repossession since the payment was not past due. Once they were served with the lawsuit, the dealer finally consulted their attorney, who immediately arranged to settle the matter by accepting revocation of the contract and returning everything the client had invested in the van, including his co-pays for the first two repairs to the van, his down payment and his monthly payments. Once the client had received his funds, we dismissed the suit. The client was able to use those funds to make the down payment on a newer, more reliable vehicle.
[Clients’ names have been changed to protect confidentiality]