BY DR. LOUIS ALPERT
In my previous life teaching college (initially at MIT) for more than 40 years, I have found that a parody, which is a humorous imitation of a serious writing, to often be more effective in driving home a critical message to my students than using the bare unvarnished facts alone.
It is with this in mind, that this Ombudsman will now use a fictional parody to illustrate, not only the shortcomings of the New York AG’s “Settlement” with the 104 New York State Used Car Dealerships (which were outlined in last weeks’ article), but additionally, the fact that it could pose a severe financial risk to the purchaser in the event of a serious accident caused by a possible unresolved serious defect which was the subject of the safety recall!
Bill Smith walked into a New York State Used Car Dealership, Honest John Motors, and was attracted to a Universal Motor’s 2016 Thunderbolt 4-door sedan.
Joe Jones, the used car salesman, explained the virtues of this auto which had only 15,000 miles on its odometer, and as part of his pitch said: “Even though this used car dealership was not one of the 104 NY State dealerships cited by the Attorney-General for non-disclosure of a pending safety recall on cars, which they sold in the past, we are willing to abide by the terms of the settlement agreed to by the errant 104 dealerships and reveal to you, up front, that this otherwise fine automobile is subject to a safety recall for possible brake issues. As soon as this recall is completed by our service department at no cost to you the automobile will be in A1 condition.”
Bill Smith was quite pleased with this “honest” statement of the salesman and said “I like the final price of $18,500 we negotiated, so when can I pick up this car and pay off the car?”
Joe Jones explained that “under the settlement agreement that we will abide by, we will now provide you with a copy of the NHTSA recall status report of this vehicle with an unrepaired safety recall and ask you to wait for two days before picking up this vehicle.”
Bill Smith responded, “Fine, I really need that car by that time and I guess you will take care of the recall and fix that safety defect when I pick up the car”
Joe Jones answered this question as follows: “There is no problem under AG Schneiderman’s settlement for you to pick up the car in two days, but it will take up to two more weeks before we will obtain the parts to resolve that recall.”
Bill Smith then responded, “Wait a minute, what will happen if I run into trouble within the next two weeks and get into an accident. Will the dealership or Universal Motors be responsible if I get sued?“
Joe Jones answered as follows: “Bill, unfortunately we or Universal Motors cannot to responsible, and as a matter of fact, the attorney general requires you to sign the following written acknowledgment that you were made aware of this unresolved recall today, so that you can pay for and pick up your car in two days.”
Bill then responded, “What happens if I have an accident within the next two weeks due to this brake problem and I kill someone?”
Joe Jones responded, “That would be very rare, and I wouldn’t worry about it happening in such a small period of time”
Bill then concluded, “Joe, it was nice talking to you, but we can’t do any business at this time, since I am a lawyer and know…that by signing that acknowledgment I would, in effect, be waiving my rights if I was on the wrong end of a Wrongful Death Action.”
Please address all comments and questions for the Ombudsman to firstname.lastname@example.org.