WA Legal Roundup: Division III
Quinn purchased a truck from Cherry Lane. Cherry Lane had purchased the truck at auction and replaced the speedometer cluster. Due to miscommunication, the odometer was never reset to the correct mileage (about 60,000 miles more). However, Cherry Lane discovered the mistake, contacted Quinn and attempted to make things right. Quinn had not lived up to his part of the bargain (submitting four titled vehicles as trade-in), the bank would no longer finance, and thus Cherry Lane repossessed the truck. You know how people feel about their trucks in Eastern Washington. Quinn filed suit and the trial court dismissed.
Federal law requires parties transferring vehicles to disclose known irregularities in the odometer reading. A civil action is available only if the purchaser establishes that the transferor acted with intent to defraud. Even though Cherry Lane had knowledge about the correct odometer reading, this knowledge had not been communicated to the sales staff. The trial court found no intent on behalf of Cherry Lane. On appeal, Quinn argued that the knowledge of the correct mileage could be imputed to the sales staff. The Court of Appeals held that while knowledge can be imputed, intent to defraud is not an issue of law, but an issue of fact. The trial court weighed the evidence and found that it was insufficient to find intent. “An appellate court is simply not permitted to reweigh the evidence and come to a contrary finding’ with an issue of insufficient evidence.
However, Quinn also argued that the State statutes in regard to altering odometers do not require intent and thus we are left with the knowledge argument. The Court of Appeals held that knowledge is again a factual question left to the trier of fact and the Court of Appeals will not reweigh that evidence. The Court of Appeals also affirmed the trial court’s finding that there was never a sale because Quinn did not submit his trade-ins and the financing fell through.
Chief Judge Schultheis filed a dissent. According to C.J. Schultheis, a reweighing of the evidence didn’t need to take place, because the evidence as it stood (undisputed) still was evidence of violations of the statute. He viewed this as statutory application versus factual issues (as the majority viewed this case).