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Epley v. John Gibson Auto Sales

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

November 9, 2016



          Tabatha Branch, for appellant.

          W. Darrel Blount, for appellee.

          RITA W. GRUBER, Judge

         On September 25, 2013, John Gibson Auto Sales (Gibson) filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Garland County against Angel Epley for allegedly breaching the terms of a May 2013 motor-vehicle sales contract and refusing to return the vehicle, a 2001 GMC Sierra. Gibson sought replevin and judgment in an amount to be determined after recovery of the vehicle. Ms. Epley answered that the case arose from Gibson's negligence, misrepresentation, breaches of warranty and contract, and statutory violations. She counterclaimed and sought damages for breach of warranty, misrepresentation, violation of the Arkansas Consumer Protection Act, and fraud. She tendered the vehicle to Gibson in November 2014, and Gibson picked it up.

         The trial court conducted a bench trial in October 2015, took the case under advisement, and issued a written order on November 6, 2015. The order stated as follows:

1. John Gibson Auto Sales sold the vehicle to Defendant Epley in an "as is" condition but, by a preponderance of the evidence, Epley was told by Gibson's agent that she could return the vehicle within three days if she was not satisfied with it and her money would be returned.
2. Epley returned the vehicle, but [Gibson] refused to honor its promise to take the vehicle back and return her money, therefore Gibson's claim for a deficiency judgement is dismissed with prejudice.
3. Epley's continued use of the vehicle without paying [Gibson] serves as a complete setoff against any refund of moneys paid by her for the vehicle.
4. Epley has failed to prove any other damages attributable to Gibson's failure to honor the rescission, therefore her counterclaim for damages [is] dismissed with prejudice.

         Ms. Epley appeals, raising three points. She contends that the trial court erred in dismissing her claim for violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, dismissing her claim for fraud to induce the contract, and failing to award punitive damages. We affirm.

         At trial, Ms. Epley testified to the following events. She went to Gibson and told the salesman, "Chris, " that she "already had a truck" she "was getting from another car lot" but wanted something more reliable. Chris showed her the GMC, describing it as "a little rough on the outside" but "good and reliable" and safe for transporting her child. She signed an "as is" buyer's order and paid $600 down. Chris told her to bring the vehicle back if she did not like it and he would give her money back. She brought the vehicle back the first day after noticing that the transmission was slipping or the accelerator was sticking. She was given a loaner for "maybe a week" while the GMC was being repaired. She purchased headlights, a wiring harness, tires, rims, and a stereo for the GMC.[1] She testified, "I was working for Mary Kay and I could not host a party. . . . The vehicle stopped on me several times." She said that she put 1, 500 to 2, 000 miles on the vehicle and did not know why its GPS would show 18, 000 miles for the time period that she had it.

         Tony Esaw testified that he had owned the GMC for two years before Gibson sold it to Ms. Epley. He stated that he had paid for repairs to the front end, drive axle, gear box, front hubs, and brake rotors; he had damaged the vehicle; and he had put new tires on it. It had a bad motor and 110, 000 miles on the odometer when he surrendered it to Gibson, and he told Gibson that the vehicle should have been scrapped and used for parts.

         Ramona Hamilton, Gibson's record keeper, testified that Gibson did not offer any additional warranties, that any additional terms would be listed on a buyer's order, that salesmen were not authorized to inform customers that they could return a vehicle they did not like and get their money back, and that she did not know what the salesman had said regarding the GMC. She testified that Gibson occasionally used other vendors to do maintenance on a vehicle if a customer discovered a problem and that, in this particular case, another shop had made and guaranteed repairs to the GMC before it left the lot. She testified that Ms. Epley never made payments on the $10, ...

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