Lawsuits continue to be filed against California automobile dealers at an alarming rate. Plaintiff attorneys utilize federal and California consumer-protection statutes (Automobile Sales Finance Act, Unfair Competition Law, Consumer Legal Remedies Act, etc.), in addition to traditional notions of fraud and breach of contract to pursue these claims. Increasingly, such claims are being filed as consumer class action lawsuits, which can substantially increase the expense of defending or settling the suit.
Not surprisingly, these lawsuits are a burden on a dealership in terms of attorneys’ fees and costs, lost employee time, stress to personnel involved, and represent an unwanted distraction from the conduct of dealership business. Many of these lawsuits are a result of sales and F&I department practices that are uncovered by plaintiff attorneys when they closely review their client’s sale or lease transaction. For this reason, dealerships need to be sure that their transaction processes and documents are in compliance with the detailed requirements of both federal and California law. Most of the time, the claims pursued by plaintiff’s attorneys on a class action basis are not what originated the initial dispute between the dealership and the customer. However, such claims, which many times are based upon sales and F&I department practices that dealership personnel follow without knowing that they violate the law, are what plaintiff’s attorneys diligently search for because they expand the scope of recovery for both damages and attorneys’ fees.
Manning, Leaver, Bruder & Berberich (“Manning Leaver”), is legal counsel to California New Car Dealers Association as well as other dealer associations and many individual dealers. In representing automobile dealers for over 70 years, we have acquired extensive experience and expertise in defending such claims and advising dealerships on compliance issues. This experience leads us to believe that many lawsuits can be prevented if dealership personnel are properly instructed regarding the preparation of sale and lease transaction documentation and the applicable laws. With this in mind, we have developed a Sales/F&I Review and Training Program (“Program”) which trains dealership personnel, including those in the sales and F&I departments as well as the business office, to avoid legal pitfalls which commonly lead to litigation. This Program includes the following:
- A preliminary review of a sampling of the dealership’s sales and lease files to spot check for non-compliance of forms and other potential sales, leasing and F & I problems.
- The development of a customized seminar agenda, consisting of core topics plus any additional sales, leasing and F & I issues which appear to be unique to your dealership. Additionally, the newly published 2012 CNCDA F&I Compliance Manual, authored by our firm, will be made available in electronic form to the dealership in advance of the seminar. This manual may be printed out for use by seminar attendees.
- A 3-hour seminar presentation to dealership personnel at the dealership location by an experienced Manning Leaver attorney (not a non-attorney consultant) which insures that all discussions are covered by the attorney-client privilege and therefore remain confidential as a matter of a law.
- A consultation period of 30 days following the seminar for dealership personnel to call Manning Leaver to ask general questions regarding sales, leasing and F&I compliance issues without additional charge. Questions relating to specific disputes or lawsuits will be handled according to our normal billing practices.
The cost of the Program is a one time flat charge of $2,500 which covers all of its components, including the preliminarily review of files, development of the seminar agenda, presentation of the seminar, the 30 day consultation period, and travel to and from the dealership location.
If you are interested in this hands-on opportunity to reduce the potential for lawsuits to be filed against your dealership, please contact the following partners: Bob Daniels [[email protected]] or Brent Smith [[email protected]], by email or by phone at (323) 937-4730. We appreciate your consideration of this Program and look forward to hearing from you.
 Any airfare or lodging expenses required will be discussed individually with the dealer.