Suing a Car Dealership in Connecticut
If you bought a car recently and are having problems with it, you may be wondering if you should sue the car dealership that sold it to you. Every case is different, but this post outlines some of the most common claims that consumers make against dealerships. If you would like to speak with a lawyer about suing a car dealership, contact us for a free case review.
Breach of Warranty
Some of the most common claims asserted against car dealerships in Connecticut are claims for breach of warranty. Simply put, a breach of warranty claim arises when a dealership makes a promise about a Vehicle and is unable to keep that promise. The promise may relate to the condition of the Vehicle, the dealer's ability or obligation to make repairs, or even the Vehicle's capabilities in certain instances.
Breach of warranty claims arise most commonly after Vehicle breakdowns or mechanical issues. Shortly after purchasing a car, the owner may notice that the car shakes, rattles, smokes, or doesn't brake as intended. The car may stop working all together. The dealer may refuse to make repairs to the car, or may not be able to make them in a way that makes the car drivable again. If either of these scenarios arise, and the Vehicle was sold with a warranty, such as a 30 day, 1,500 mile warranty or a 60 day, 3,000 mile warranty, the consumer may have claims for breach of express warranty and/or breach of the implied warranty of merchantability.
Truth In Lending Act ("TILA") / Retail Installment Sales Finance Act ("RISFA")
Connecticut laws governing car dealerships are very strict about the kind of information that must be disclosed at the time of sale, especially if you are financing the purchase. One of the most common complaints we hear from people buying cars is that the dealership did not give them a copy of the paperwork that they signed. Under the federal Truth In Lending Act and the Connecticut Retail Installment Sales Finance Act, this is illegal. The dealership must give you a completed copy of the Retail Installment Sales Contract at the time that you sign it.
Dealerships can also violate TILA and RISFA by writing down information on the paperwork that does not match the actual terms of the deal. For example, if a dealership falsely states that you made a $3,000 down payment when you only put $1,5000 down on your car, this would violate TILA and RISFA. Additionally, if a dealership tells you that you must buy an add-on service-- such as GAP insurance-- in order to get a loan on a car, and then does not disclose the cost of that service as a "finance charge" on the paperwork, the dealership would violate TILA and RISFA.
The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act ("CUTPA")
The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (known as "CUTPA") is a broad law that prohibits unfair, deceptive or unscrupulous conduct in transactions, including the sale of motor vehicles. Because CUTPA is so broad, there are a number of ways that a dealership may violate it, including by violating the laws described above. In addition to prohibiting lies or misleading statements by a dealership during the transaction, CUTPA also strictly regulates the ways in which a dealership can advertise a car for sale. If a dealership sells a car for more than the advertised price, for example, it may violate CUTPA. The dealer must also disclose the history of a car if it knows that it was a former rental, fleet or taxi vehicle, for example.
One of the most common CUTPA violations we see is a false Carfax report. Many consumers contact us to say that they were shown a "clean" Carfax report at the time of sale, only to later discover that the Vehicle was in a major accident. Many of these consumers get a second Carfax report and see that the accident history doesn't match what they were shown at the time of sale. Altering a Carfax report or making a fake Carfax report is a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and may also give rise to a claim for fraud.
Connecticut Lemon Law
If you purchased a new car in Connecticut and it is defective, you may have rights under the Connecticut Lemon Law. The Connecticut Lemon Law provides Consumers with a right of recourse if the dealer or manufacturer is unable to repair a new car to meet the terms of the warranty. To be eligible for a lemon law claim, the car must have been subject to a "reasonable number" of repair attempts, OR been out of service for a total of at least 30 days in the first two years or 24,000 miles of operation. For more information on lemon law claims, read this blog post.
Your Legal Rights
If you have questions about your legal rights against a car dealership, you should speak with an attorney who is experienced in suing car dealers and manufacturers. Be sure to keep copies of all of your paperwork and ask for any promises from the dealership in writing. If the dealer refuses to put promises in writing, make a note of any discussions you had with the car dealer, when you had them and who you spoke with.