Car Buyer’s Compliance With Pre-Suit Dispute Resolution Procedure A Question Of Law

Edmond Jones sued Nissan because, he claimed, the car he bought was a lemon. The purchase agreement required Jones to submit his claim to an automotive complaint resolution program before he was allowed to sue in court. He did that twice, and twice his claim was dismissed. It was dismissed the first time because he missed the scheduled vehicle inspection time. It was dismissed the second time because, it having been repossessed, he no longer owned the car.

Jones then filed a lawsuit against Nissan. Nissan asked the court to dismiss the case because Jones did not comply with Nissan’s the informal dispute settlement procedure. The trial court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit. Jones then appealed.

Jones and Nissan first argued about the proper standard of review in the appellate court. Jones argued for a de novo standard of review, which is typical when an appellate court considers whether a motion to dismiss a complaint was properly granted. Nissan stated that the trial court’s dismissal should get more deference, and argued for an abuse of discretion standard.

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court sided with Jones because, it said, it was confronted with a question of law. “… [T]he trial court’s … finding that noncompliance with Auto Line’s eligibility requirements [the informal resolution procedure] can bar plaintiff from filing suit under Magnuson-Moss is a determination of law, not a factual finding. Where the question presented is one of law, our review is de novo.”

In the end, the appellate court reversed the dismissal. Read the whole case, Jones v. Nissan North America, No. 2-07-0448 (9/11/08), by clicking here.