Friday, March 7, 2014

Breach of Contract Action in New York Civil Court

CIVIL COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF KINGS

DECISION/ORDER FOR NON-JURY TRIAL

Plaintiff commenced this breach of contract action against Defendants, alleging that he was never given possession of a vehicle that he purchased from the Defendants.

At trial, Plaintiff testified that in December 2012, he met with Defendant, the principal of Corporate Defendant, a used car wholesaler, to purchase a 2008 Lexus GX470. On December 5, 2012, Plaintiff paid Defendant $26,510.00 in cash for the vehicle plus an additional $350 fee to purchase the car at Manheim Auction in New Jersey. Plaintiff noted that he did not receive the car at that time, and was told by Defendant that it would take 20 to 45 days to obtain the title to the car.

Plaintiff averred that in January 2013, he received the title and car keys from Defendant but was not given the car because sales tax remained outstanding. Plaintiff stated that during the following month, he paid Defendant $2,351.00 in sales tax, and received the retail certificates of sales; yet, he was still not given possession of the vehicle. Consequently, he commenced this action.

On cross-examination, Plaintiff testified that in 2009, he purchased his first vehicle from Corporate Defendant, and had only been to Defendant's business twice that year. He also denied ever traveling to Bordentown, New Jersey- the location of Manheim auction.

After Plaintiff rested, Defendants called Defendant, the owner of Corporate Defendant. Defendant testified that he knew Plaintiff since he was "in a stroller," and was familiar with his family. Defendant noted that Plaintiff frequented his business, and that he had taken him to Manheim auction on at least two occasions to purchase cars. In particular, Defendant recalled that in December 2012, Plaintiff informed him that he was looking for a new vehicle since his car had been destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. Defendant requested that Plaintiff produce his driver's license so that he could make a copy. Defendant explained that he needed a copy of the identification so that Plaintiff could be permitted to enter Manheim auction (Defendant's Exhibit "B" in evidence).

Defendant recounted that on the morning of December 5, 2012, he and his business partner picked up Plaintiff from his apartment, and traveled to Bordentown, New Jersey for the auction. Defendant testified that Plaintiff gave him permission to bid on a Lexus truck; and paid him in cash. After he learned that Plaintiff had the winning bid, Defendant signed a green receipt, and the keys were given to Plaintiff. Defendant testified that before Plaintiff drove to the security gate with the vehicle, he advised Plaintiff not to leave the auction using his Pennsylvania license plate because he did not have car insurance. Defendant averred that Plaintiff would be solely responsible if the police stopped him for not having insurance. According to Defendant, Plaintiff left with the truck, while he and his business partner stayed at the auction to bid on other cars.

He further testified that on approximately December 27, 2012, he received the title to the Lexus, and subsequently gave it to Plaintiff. However, Defendant told Plaintiff that he still needed to pay New York sales tax, and complete some more paperwork. Soon thereafter, Defendant stated that Plaintiff told him that he parked his car near his apartment building, but could no longer find it. Defendant explained that he then ran a "Car Fax" report on Plaintiff’s Pennsylvania plate number, and learned that the car was reported stolen on January 29, 2013 by an unidentified person (Defendant's Exhibit "D" in evidence). Defendant then advised Plaintiff to go to the local police precinct because a sheriff could have picked up the car. When he returned to Corporate Defendant, Plaintiff told Defendant that the police refused to give him information because the car was not in his name.

Defendant stated that Plaintiff subsequently paid the outstanding sales tax, and filled out the necessary paperwork to get the retail certificates of sale. Copies of the certificates, dated February 4, 2013, were admitted into evidence.

It is well settled that the determination of a trier of fact as to issues of credibility is given substantial deference. Significantly, a trial court has the opportunity to observe and evaluate the testimony and demeanor of the witnesses, which affords it a better perspective from which to assess their credibility (Vizzari v. State of NewYork, 184 AD2d 564 [2d Dept. 1992]; Kincade v. Kincade, 178 AD2d 510, 511 [2d Dept. 1991]).

In the instant case, this Court determines that Defendant credibly testified that Plaintiff traveled with him and his business partner to Manheim auction in December 2012 to purchase the 2008 Lexus GX470. In fact, Plaintiff acknowledged that Defendant bought the car at the auction. On the other hand, Plaintiffs testimony was vague and bereft of details as to how he selected the vehicle. Plaintiff also failed to submit probative evidence regarding the material terms of his alleged contract with the Defendants.

Moreover, it is evident that Plaintiff, who had previously purchased cars at the auction, was aware of the risks of driving the uninsured vehicle out of the auction without the proper registration and license plate. This Court also observes that Plaintiff claimed that Defendants never gave him possession of the car; yet, he neither filed a police report nor filed a complaint with the District Attorney's office. In fact, Plaintiff apparently paid the sales tax and signed the Retail Certificates of Sale in February 2013, only after discovering that the car was reported stolen on January 29, 2013.

Accordingly, based upon the above, Plaintiff has failed to make a prima facie case. The Summons with Endorsed Complaint are hereby dismissed.

This constitutes the Decision/Order of the court.

Dated: March 4, 2014

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