This past Tuesday was "be kind to lawyers day." Here's how my day started. I got a call from the family of a man who suffers from a variety of mental illnesses. He struggles, and is doing reasonably well with medication. This is his story. A few days before, he got a flyer in the mail advertising a "giveaway" at a car dealership -- one of those that has a key taped to it, and says you won one of three prizes. He took the flyer in to see what he had "won." What happened next is shocking.
In order to even find out what he "won" he had to sit through a sales presentation. Despite his telling the salesman that he did not want to buy a vehicle, he was convinced to give him the key to his current car, supposedly to find out what the exact mileage was. The salesman did not give the key back to him. Over the next few hours, he is given a high-pressure sales talk. They show him a big fancy expensive 4-door pickup truck. He repeatedly says he does not want to buy it. But the salesman takes the license plate off his current car and puts it on the truck. He still says no -- he can't afford it. He doesn't have a job, and only gets social security. They convince him to call his wife. He does. She says no too. He is due to take his medication, and starts to shake. He is getting very stressed, and although he is able to take his meds (without food, as he normally does), he just wants to leave. So, in that state, he signs over his trade-in, and "agrees" to buy the $16,000 truck for $34,000, and goes home. His family called me.
I agreed to try to convince the dealer to unwind the deal, at no charge to my client (pro bono), if it could be done without a law suit. So I faxed a letter to the dealer and the finance company involved. The owner of the dealership called. At first, he was polite, and actually agreed to cancel the deal. So far, so good. Then it became clear that he also wanted my client to recant his story, and to tell the finance company that the story didn't happen that way. We said no. That's when I got called an “ambulance-chaser” and was accused of “slander.” That was also the end of the conversation. I politely suggested that the dealer have his attorney contact me if he still wanted to unwind the deal without a law suit.
Thankfully, the dealer's lawyer had more sense than his client. We unwound the deal. The client got his car back, and the contract was canceled. And then, I got something I have never received from a car dealer in nine years of consumer protection cases: an apology.
Greg Reichenbach, Attorney at Law