Posts Tagged law
MADISON, Wis. â€” A judge has ordered Mercedes-Benz USA LLC to payÂ $482,000 in damages and legal fees to a Wisconsin customer who was sold aÂ defective car and not given a refund on time.
Vince Megna, a Milwaukee lawyer who represents the customer, said heÂ believes the judgment is the largest involving a single car under aÂ state “lemon law,” which protect consumers who are sold junk cars.
Mercedes-BenzÂ spokeswoman Donna Boland said the company, a unit of the German carÂ maker Daimler AG, is disappointed the judge overturned an earlierÂ verdict in favor of the company. The spat over the 2005 Mercedes-Benz EÂ 320 has already dragged on more than four years, and the company’sÂ lawyer on Friday asked the court to put the judgment on hold pending anÂ appeal.
While states have a variety of lemon laws, Wisconsin’s isÂ one of the strongest. It allows customers who buy cars that don’t run orÂ can’t be repaired to demand a replacement or refund. Manufacturers haveÂ 30 days to respond and can be ordered to pay double the purchase priceÂ plus legal fees for violating the law.
Bob Silverman, a prominentÂ lemon law attorney in Ambler, Pa. who was not involved in the case,Â agreed it was one of the largest judgments for a car he’s seen and wasÂ an important victory for consumers.
“This one result is veryÂ important to the entire auto industry,” Silverman said. “It teaches themÂ a lesson they ought to comply with the law promptly or they are goingÂ to have to pay in the end.”
Despite the pending judgment, customerÂ Marco Marquez, a 37-year-old businessman from Waukesha, called the caseÂ “a complete nightmare” and said he was still waiting for his moneyÂ back. Once a big fan of Mercedes-Benz who has owned several of its cars,Â he now says he’ll never buy another.
It all started when Marquez,Â who owns Mexican restaurants in Waukesha and Janesville, purchased the EÂ 320 for $56,000 from a Milwaukee dealership in 2005.
AlmostÂ immediately, the car often would not start. The battery was replacedÂ multiple times, but the problem continued. After several repairÂ attempts, the dealership said the problem could not be fixed.
MarquezÂ hired Megna, who sent the company a refund demand in October 2005.Â After a few weeks, an employee tried to talk Marquez into taking aÂ replacement instead. He declined and again asked for a refund. At oneÂ point, the employee said he should fire his lawyer and deal with them onÂ his own.
The company finally agreed to the refund, but failed toÂ provide one within 30 days. On the 31st day, Megna filed the lawsuit onÂ behalf of Marquez seeking double damages and attorneys’ fees.
Mercedes-BenzÂ has acknowledged the car was defective, but for years has accusedÂ Marquez of acting in bad faith.
The company says an employee askedÂ Marquez for information about his auto loan on the 30th day so theÂ refund could be granted, but Marquez failed to follow through. MegnaÂ said Mercedes-Benz had the information it needed for the refund but wasÂ stalling.
A judge ruled in Marquez’s favor in 2007, awardingÂ $202,000 in damages and legal fees. But an appeals court in 2008Â overturned that decision and ordered additional proceedings, saying aÂ jury should decide whether Marquez intentionally prevented the companyÂ from giving the refund on time.
A jury sided with the company lastÂ year, agreeing Marquez acted in bad faith. But in a rare move, WaukeshaÂ County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren overturned the verdict, saying itÂ was not backed up by evidence. He ruled in Marquez’s favor, citing aÂ clear “lack of urgency” by Mercedes-Benz to refund his money.
AÂ series of rulings by Bohren have calculated the damages for Marquez atÂ roughly $168,000 (double the purchase price plus interest), plusÂ $314,000 in costs and legal fees for Megna and other lawyers.
InÂ the meantime, Marquez has continued to drive the vehicle in question,Â which now has 56,000 miles. He said it was back in the shop for repairsÂ twice last year but has been “working fine” lately. Still, he can barelyÂ contain his anger at the company he once admired.
“Frustrated isÂ really an understatement,” he said. “You put that much faith in a carÂ company and you give your hard earned money to that company and then youÂ are basically let down. You drop $50,000 for a car that doesn’t work.”
Copyright Â© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
We all know why big time law firms do pro bono work. It could be for many reasons. All clearly altruistic and humanitarian. â€œGiving back to the communityâ€. Giving associates some legal experience. It could be for reputational effect, or simply, for that warm, fuzzy feeling we all get inside when helping those less fortunate.
Generally speaking, pro bono work makes for good press. But this is not always the case.
Pillsbury Winthrop, a major law firm based out of San Fran, received a good beat-down in the local San Francisco media this week for its pro bono help to a man named Bob Kaufman.
Kaufman is a fan of â€œantique carsâ€, also known as “JUNK CARS”. The aged and rust-full ones we all have come to love. According to court documents, Kaufman â€œis addicted to acquiring vehicles. Over the last two years, he has had an average of seven cars parked on San Francisco streets at any one time.â€
Man, his neighbors must hate this guy.
Kaufman violated a San Francisco parking law requiring that cars be moved every 72 hours. Two of his clunkers were confiscated. He decided to sue the city of San Francisco and the police department for taking his darling cars away. He met a Pillsbury attorney at a legal clinic and the firm took pity on him.
From the Chronicle:
“But now Kaufman has something else â€” Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw, a high-powered international law firm. Although the Pillsbury Web site says the local office focuses on banking, technology and real estate, currently it is helping Kaufman get two junker cars back from a tow yard.
So far, the city is out $71,320 fighting what the city attorneyâ€™s office insists is a frivolous lawsuit.”
So now, poor Pillsbury is hearing it because the “cause” they took up doesn’t justify the spend of the city defending itself.
Two partners are involved in the case: Blaine Green and Thomas Loran. Loran is quoted in the article:
â€œLast time I checked it is not unlawful to park on the street,â€ said Tom Loran, a senior partner. â€œThe city has taken an aggressive approach to a guy they donâ€™t like.â€
Kaufman has taken an aggressive approach himself. This is the sixth lawsuit he appears to have filed against the city. Though this is the first time heâ€™s gotten help from a massive law firm.
Loranâ€™s appearance in the article prompted some hateful comments from Chronicle readers, including this one from â€œoldfart1â€:
the senior partner of the Pillsbury should let the guy park his rusty RV in front of his mansionâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.
A spokesman for the city also attacks Pillsbury in the article:
â€œWhat you have is this white shoe, downtown law firm using scorched-earth tactics to fight for the right to litter the neighborhood,â€ said spokesman Matt Dorsey.
This doesnâ€™t reflect well on Pillsburyâ€™s pro bono efforts, but the coverage could have a positive outcome. Potential corporate clients might be impressed by accounts of the firmâ€™s â€œscorched earth tactics.â€
Either way, the lesson in all of this, is the man should have junked the cars for money. Or purchase a lot to fill up with all his mangled metal.
That way his neighbors wouldn’t have been able to snitch on him.