Prior Accidents and Written Contracts

In our Used Car Auto Fraud Practice, we receive a ton of calls from potential clients suffering from the following problem:

“I bought a used car last year.  I went to trade it in this year to get another car, but the new dealership says the car is worth significantly less than I owe on it because it was previously in an accident.  The dealership where I bought the car never told me about the previous accident.  Can I sue them?”

Because of a 2015 Superior Court case here in Pennsylvania, it is much harder to sue a dealership for failing to disclose a prior accident.  In the case of Silver v. Porsche of the Main Line, the Pennsylvania Superior Court said that Mr. Silver was not able to sue the Porsche Dealership because he purchased the vehicle “As-Is” and there wasn’t any language in the final contract regarding a prior accident.  As such, under those circumstances, even if the dealership told you that the vehicle was not in a previous accident, you may not have any recourse.  And that has huge consequences on the consumer.

This Superior Court decision does not relieve dealerships from liability if the vehicle has frame damage.  The Auto Industry Trade Practice Act specifically prohibits a dealership from selling you a vehicle with frame damage.  You can read more about that HERE.

The cases covered by Silver are the cases in which the vehicle was previously in a fender bender and not repaired properly.  The Superior Court implies that even if the dealership tells you the car was not in an accident, if it isn’t in writing, you probably have no legal recourse.  According to the Superior Court, ” contained all of the essential terms for the purchase of the Ferrari, including the parties, the condition of the vehicle, and the total price, including a deduction for the value of two cars Silver was trading-in towards the purchase price.  It also contained an integration clause stating that the contract was the parties’ entire agreement that both ‘cancels and supercedes’ any prior agreements and ‘comprises the complete and exclusive statement of the terms of agreement relating to the subject matters covered hereby.”

What can we learn from this case?  Easy, get it all in writing.  Depending on your specific facts, we may be able to get around Silver and still sue the dealership.  However, better to be safe than sorry.  To do that, get it all in writing.  If the dealership tells you that a vehicle has never been in accident, then you need to ask the dealership to write that on the contract.  If the dealership refuses to add that language to the contract, be VERY suspicious.

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