Washington County District Court File No. C6974980
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and
Recovery for a technical violation of the Minnesota Motor Vehicle Installment Sales Act without any claim of damage or harm is limited to the remedy provided for unintentional violations of the Act.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Minge, Judge
Appellant challenges summary judgment dismissing his claims for intentional damages and limiting him to damages and attorney fees for an unintentional violation of Minnesota Motor Vehicle Installment Sales Act (MMVRISA) under Minn. Stat. §á168.71 (2002). Because appellant vehicle purchaser does not claim that respondent auto dealer's deliberate failure to timely provide a copy of the sales agreement signed by the auto dealership caused or could cause any actual damages or harm, because the substantial statutory damages for intentional violations of MMVRISA are to deter practices that might cause harm to consumers, and because the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining allowable attorney fees, we determine that the remedy for respondent's technical violation of MMVRISA is limited to that allowed for unintentional violations of MMVRISA, and we affirm the district court's summary judgment order but modify the award of attorney fees.
In November 1995, appellant Raymond Scott traded in a 1991 Dodge Caravan for a 1995 Dodge Caravan at Forest Lake Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge (Forest Lake Chrysler). This was not the first vehicle Scott had purchased from Forest Lake Chrysler. As he had done with his previous vehicle purchases, Scott financed the vehicle through the dealership and was provided with a retail installment contract containing the purchase price, applicable fees, interest rate, number of monthly payments, the amount of each monthly payment, and the total amount to be paid over time. A Forest Lake Chrysler representative did not sign the contract at the time of the transaction, but Scott received an unsigned copy of the agreement.
Scott filed several actions in both the United States district court and in Minnesota district court based on Forest Lake Chrysler's failure to deliver a signed copy of the agreement and other alleged violations of MMVRISA. The U.S. District Court action was dismissed; two of the state actions were appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and one of those was further appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. See Scott v. Forest Lake Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge, No. 3-96-671 (D. Minn. July 3, 1997); Scott v. Forest Lake Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge, 637 N.W.2d 587 (Minn. App. 2002); Scott v. Forest Lake Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge, 598 N.W.2d 713 (Minn. App. 1999), rev'd, 611 N.W.2d 346 (Minn. 2000). At issue in those actions was the use of a conditional delivery agreement instead of a retail installment contract, the nonsigning of the contract by Forest Lake Chrysler, and Forest Lake Chrysler's intent. Appellant does not allege that he suffered, and he concedes that he did not suffer any loss, damage, inconvenience, or risk.
On May 24, 2002, the issue of Forest Lake Chrysler's intent came before the district court. The court defined intentional and unintentional, determined that Forest Lake Chrysler's actions were unintentional, and granted Forest Lake Chrysler's motion for summary judgment. The court ordered Forest Lake Chrysler to pay Scott $50 as a statutory penalty.
The issue of attorney fees was reserved and came on for hearing on Septemberá27, 2002. Scott requested attorney fees in the amount of $116,022.45; the court awarded attorney fees in the amount of $4,063.47. This appeal followed.
I. Is a vehicle purchaser entitled to the remedies provided for intentional violations of the Minnesota Motor Vehicle Retail Installment Sales Act when the act that violated the statute is intentional but is ...