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Filed April 23, 2013- Los Angeles County Superior Court
(Note: the Court has not yet determined whether or not the allegations in this complaint are true)

 
LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL R. VACHON, ESQ.
Michael R. Vachon, Esq. (SBN 206447)
17150 Via del Campo, Suite 204
San Diego, California 92127
Tel.: (858) 674-4100
Fax: (858) 674-4222
Attorney for Plaintiff

SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES – CENTRAL DISTRICT
STANLEY MOSK COURTHOUSE

CHARLOTTE HARRIS, an individual,

              Plaintiff,

v.

UNIVERSAL CITY NISSAN, INC., a California corporation; and
DOES 1 through 75,

 
              Defendants.

Case No.: LC100049

COMPLAINT FOR:

1.   CONVERSION;
2.   VIOLATION OF CONSUMERS LEGAL
      REMEDIES ACT (INJUNCTIVE RELIEF ONLY);
3.   BREACH OF CONTRACT; AND
4.   UNFAIR COMPETITION (BUS. & PROF.
      CODE SECTION 17200)

SUMMARY

     1.     This lawsuit arises out of a car dealership’s illegal repossession of a consumer’s automobile. Defendant Universal City Nissan, Inc. repossessed Plaintiff’s 2013 Nissan Versa – even though Plaintiff had not defaulted on any of her obligations under the vehicle purchase contract.
     2.     The wrongful repossession constitutes an actionable conversion and also a breach of contract. Universal City Nissan’s misrepresentation to Plaintiff that it was entitled to repossess the vehicle, and its repossession of the Nissan Versa, also amount to violations of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (Civil Code §1750 et seq.) (the “CLRA”) and the Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq.) (the “UCL”). Plaintiff is entitled to compensatory and punitive damages, as well as an injunction ordering Universal City Nissan to cease its unlawful acts and/or practices.

PARTIES

     3.     Plaintiff Charlotte Harris is an individual residing in Los Angeles, California.
     4.     Defendant Universal City Nissan, Inc. is a California corporation that does business as a car dealership at 3550 Cahuenga Boulevard West, Los Angeles, California.
     5.     Plaintiff does not know the true names and capacities, whether corporate, partnership, associate, individual, or otherwise, of defendants sued herein as Does 1 through 75, inclusive, and thus names them under the provisions of Section 474 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. Defendants Does 1 through 75 are in some manner responsible for the acts set forth herein, and are legally liable to Plaintiff. Plaintiff will set forth the true names of the fictitiously-named defendants together with appropriate charging allegations when ascertained.
     6.     All acts of corporate employees were authorized or ratified by an officer, director, or managing agent of the corporate employer.

FACTS

     7.     Plaintiff alleges as follows, on information and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:
     8.     On or about March 8, 2013, Plaintiff visited Universal City Nissan where she was shown and test drove a 2013 Nissan Versa (hereafter the “Nissan Versa”).
     9.     Plaintiff expressed an interest in purchasing the Nissan Versa. Universal City Nissan ran Plaintiff’s credit. Thereafter, Plaintiff and Universal City Nissan negotiated and agreed to the terms of Plaintiff’s purchase of the Nissan Versa. Specifically, University City Nissan prepared a written contract, that both parties signed, in which Universal City Nissan sold the Nissan Versa to Plaintiff in exchange for Plaintiff’s down payment in the amount of $2,214, plus 72 monthly payments from Plaintiff (beginning April 22, 2013) of $413.24.
     10.     Plaintiff thereafter took possession of the Nissan Versa and drove away.
     11.     The Nissan Versa is a “motor vehicle” under Civil Code Section 2981(k).
     12.     The Nissan Versa’s purchase contract is a “conditional sale contract” under Civil Code Section 2981(a).
     13.     On March 21, 2013, Plaintiff received a letter from Universal City Nissan, in which Universal City Nissan misrepresented that it had a right to cancel and rescind the Nissan Versa’s purchase contract, and that it was exercising its right to do so. The letter demanded that Plaintiff return the Nissan Versa.
     14.     Plaintiff did not return the Nissan Versa.
     15.     On or about April 18, 2013, Universal City Nissan repossessed the Nissan Versa.
     16.     Universal City Nissan continues to retain possession of the Nissan Versa, and to withhold such possession from Plaintiff. Universal City Nissan did not send Plaintiff a Notice of Seizure within 48 hours of the repossession.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
Conversion

     17.     Plaintiff hereby incorporates by reference the allegations in Paragraphs 1 through 16.
     18.     On the day that Universal City Nissan repossessed the Nissan Versa, Plaintiff had a legal right of ownership and a legal right to possess the Nissan Versa.
     19.     Universal City Nissan intended to and actually interfered with Plaintiff’s dominion over the Nissan Versa by repossessing it.
     20.     Plaintiff was damaged by Universal City Nissan’s conversion of the Nissan Versa.
     21.     Universal City Nissan’s conversion of the Nissan Versa was done intentionally, maliciously, and oppressively, with the specific intent to injure Plaintiff and in conscious disregard of Plaintiff’s rights. Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages.

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
Consumers Legal Remedies Act – Injunctive Relief Only

     22.     Plaintiff hereby incorporates by reference the allegations in Paragraphs 1 through 21.
     23.     The Nissan Versa constitutes “goods” bought for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes.
     24.     Plaintiff is a “consumer” under the CLRA.
     25.     The advertisement and sale of the Nissan Versa to Plaintiff are “transactions” under the CLRA.
     26.     The CLRA prohibits numerous unlawful business acts, including: (i) representing that a transaction confers or involves rights, remedies, or obligations which it does not have or involve, or which are prohibited by law; (ii) representing that the subject of a transaction has been supplied in accordance with a previous representation when it has not; (iii) representing that a consumer will receive a rebate, discount, or other economic benefit, if the earning of the benefit is contingent on an event to occur subsequent to the consummation of the transaction; and (iv) failing to make a statement that it is otherwise required by law.
     27.     Universal City Nissan violated the CLRA by: (1) misrepresenting that it was legally entitled under the purchase contract to rescind the sale of the Nissan Versa to Plaintiff, when it was not entitled to do so; (2) misrepresenting that Plaintiff was obligated under the purchase contract to return the Nissan Versa to Universal City Nissan, when Plaintiff had no such legal obligation; and (3) failing to provide Plaintiff with a notice of seizure after the repossession.
     28.     Plaintiff is concurrently serving Universal City Nissan with a CLRA notification and demand letter via certified mail, return receipt requested. The notice letter sets forth the relevant facts, notifies Universal City Nissan of its CLRA violations, and requests that Universal City Nissan promptly remedy those violations.
     29.     Under the CLRA, a plaintiff may without prior notification file a complaint alleging violations of the CLRA that seeks injunctive relief only. Then, if the defendant does not remedy the CLRA violations within 30 days of notification, the plaintiff may amend her or his CLRA causes of action without leave of court to add claims for damages. Plaintiff will amend this complaint to add damages claims if Universal City Nissan does not remedy its violations within 30 days of notification.
     30.     Under the CLRA, Plaintiff is entitled to a permanent injunction prohibiting practices that violate the CLRA.
     31.     Universal City Nissan has an illegal pattern and practice of: (1) misrepresenting that it is legally entitled under automobile purchase contracts to rescind such contracts; (2) misrepresenting that consumers are obligated under their purchase contracts to return the vehicles that they purchased from Universal City Nissan; and (3) failing to provide notices of seizure after it repossesses consumers’ automobiles.
     32.     Plaintiff is entitled to a permanent injunction that compels Universal City Nissan to notify all consumers who have been victims of the above-described illegal conduct, and enjoining Universal City Nissan from such further acts of illegal conduct.
     33.     Plaintiff is also entitled to recover her attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses.

THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION
Breach of Contract

     34.     Plaintiff hereby incorporates by reference the allegations in Paragraphs 1 through 33.
     35.     On or about March 8, 2013, Plaintiff and Universal City Nissan entered into a written contract whereby Universal City Nissan agreed to transfer ownership and possession of the Nissan Versa to Plaintiff, and Plaintiff agreed to pay to Universal City Nissan the payment amounts specified in the contract.
     36.     As of the date of Universal City Nissan’s repossession of the Nissan Versa, Plaintiff had performed all of the conditions, covenants and promises required by her under the Nissan Versa’s purchase contract.
     37.     Universal City Nissan breached the written contract with Plaintiff by repossessing the Nissan Versa, even though it had no legal right to do so.
     38.     Plaintiff has been damaged by Universal City Nissan’s breach of contract in an amount to be proven at trial.

FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION
Unfair Competition

     39.     Plaintiff hereby incorporates by reference the allegations in Paragraphs 1 through 38.
     40.     Universal City Nissan’s acts, omissions, misrepresentations, practices, and non-disclosures constituted unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business acts and practices within the meaning of California Business & Professions Code Sections 17200 et seq.
     41.     Universal City Nissan has engaged in “unlawful” business acts and practices by: (1) misrepresenting that it is legally entitled under automobile purchase contracts to rescind such contracts, when it has no such right to rescission; (2) misrepresenting that consumers are obligated under their purchase contracts to return the vehicles that they purchased from Universal City Nissan; (3) failing to provide notices of seizure after it repossesses consumers’ automobiles; and (4) wrongfully converting its customers’ automobiles. These acts and practices were intended to and did violate the CLRA, Business & Professions Code Sections 7507.9 and 7507.10, California Civil Code Sections 1709 and 2983.3(a), and constitute the common law tort of conversion.
     42.     Universal City Nissan has also engaged in “fraudulent” business acts or practices in that the representations and omissions of material fact described above have a tendency and likelihood to deceive the general public.
     43.     Universal City Nissan has also engaged in “unfair” business acts or practices in that the justification for selling vehicles and repossessing vehicles based on the misrepresentations and omissions of material fact delineated above is outweighed by the gravity of the resulting harm, particularly considering the available alternatives, and offends public policy, is immoral, unscrupulous, unethical, and offensive, or causes substantial injury to consumers.
     44.     The above described unlawful, fraudulent, or unfair business acts and practices conducted by Universal City Nissan continue to this day and present a threat to Plaintiff and the general public in that Universal City Nissan has failed to publicly acknowledge the wrongfulness of its actions and provide full equitable injunctive and monetary relief as required by the statute.
     45.     Universal City Nissan has an illegal pattern and practice of: (1) misrepresenting that it is legally entitled under automobile purchase contracts to rescind such contracts, when it has no such right to rescission; (2) misrepresenting that consumers are obligated under their purchase contracts to return the vehicles that they purchased from Universal City Nissan; (3) failing to provide notices of seizure after it repossesses consumers’ automobiles; and (4) wrongfully converting its customers’ automobiles.
     46.     Pursuant to California Business & Professions Code Section 17203, Plaintiff is entitled to and seeks a permanent injunction from this Court requiring Universal City Nissan to immediately cease such acts of unfair competition and enjoining Universal City Nissan from continuing to conduct business via the unlawful, fraudulent, and/or unfair business acts and practices set forth in this Complaint and from failing to fully disclose the true nature of his misrepresentations, and ordering Universal City Nissan to engage in a corrective notice and advertising campaign. Plaintiff additionally requests an order from the Court requiring that Universal City Nissan provide complete equitable monetary relief so as to prevent Universal City Nissan from benefitting from the practices that constitute unfair competition, including requiring the payment of restitution of any monies as may be necessary to restore to any person any money or property which may have been acquired by means of such acts of unfair competition.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

     Plaintiff prays for judgment as follows as appropriate for the particular causes of action:

     1.     For permanent injunctive relief as permitted under the CLRA and Business & Professions Code
             Section 17203;
     2.     For the declaratory and/or equitable relief under the CLRA and Business & Professions Code
             Section 17203;
     3.     For incidental, consequential, and actual damages of $15,340, or such other amount as
             determined at trial;
     4.     For punitive damages;
     5.     For pre judgment interest;
     6.     For attorney’s fees, costs of suit, and out-of-pocket litigation expenses; and
     7.     For such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper under the circumstances.

                                                                      LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL R. VACHON, ESQ.
                                                                      Attorney for Plaintiff Charlotte Harris

Date: April 22, 2013                                      Michael R. Vachon, Esq.