Trial court erroneously determined appellant failed to prove actual damages

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Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant Yolanda Poole (“Poole”) appeals after she was awarded minimal statutory damages of $1,500 plus attorney fees upon her claims for fraud, breach of contract, and violation of the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act1 (“the Odometer Act”) against Defendants/Counterclaimants Tom Naquin Chevrolet Nissan, Inc. (“Naquin”) and Jet Leasing, Inc. (“Jet Leasing”).  Poole presents two issues for review:

(1) Whether the award of minimal statutory damages is inadequate because the trial court erroneously determined that Poole failed to prove actual damages; and
 
(2) Whether the attorney’s fees portion of the judgment should be payable directly to Poole’s attorney, so as to avoid the set-off ordered for an unpaid judgment against Poole held by Jet Leasing. 
 

Conclusion (slip op. at 7):  We reverse and direct the trial court on remand to enter judgment for Poole in the amount of $26,238.15 plus $7,060 attorney’s fees (subject to the judgment setoff previously ordered).  Reversed and remanded. 
 

Key Analysis (slip op. at 5-7):  “Actual damages” are not defined in the Odometer Act, but are given a meaning commonly applied to fraud cases. This is the difference in value between the amount paid (not the value of the vehicle if it had been as represented) and the fair market retail value of a vehicle of the type purchased with the number of miles actually traveled by the car, together with outlays legitimately attributable to the acts of defendants . . . the Cadillac purchased for $11,746.05 was worth only $3,000.

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Bose McKinney & Evans LLP is a business law firm, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, serving both publicly held and privately held businesses, governmental entities and high-growth industries. Our clients include Fortune 100 companies, international manufacturers, national and regional financial institutions, agribusinesses, sports teams, university-incubated start-ups, media, utilities, cities and schools, to name a few. We strive to build strong relationships with our clients as key business advisors, to exceed expectations in the quality of our work, to be knowledgeable about our clients’ businesses and sectors, to be responsive to service needs and to continually seek to improve the delivery of client services. Our ultimate focus is on our clients.
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