United States District Court, D. Maryland
MARK COULSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter was originally filed on March 12, 2014 and stems from
the Plaintiffs' purchase of an automobile from Defendant
on February 25, 2014. The original Complaint included claims
for violations of the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C.
§1601-1667f ("TILA"), the Maryland Consumer
Protection Act, Md. Code Ann., Com. Law §§
13-101-13-501, and the Uniform Commercial Code
("UCC") § 2-608. (Compl., ECF No. 1.)
Jurisdiction in this Court was premised on 15 U.S.C. §
1640 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.
Complaint was amended on May 7, 2014 to add counts for common
law deceit by non-disclosure or concealment and negligent
misrepresentation, violation of Code of Maryland Regulations
("COMAR") § 11.12.01.15(A), and violation of
Maryland Code Annotated, Commercial Law § 12-694. The
UCC count was dropped. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 6.)
order dated November 4, 2014, Chief Judge Blake of this Court
granted, in part, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. As a
result of this order, the remaining counts consisted of: a
violation of TILA's "timing" requirement
regarding disclosures,  the common law deceit claim, better
treated as a claim for fraud, the negligent misrepresentation
claim, and part of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act
claim. (Mem., Nov. 4, 2014, ECF No. 10.)
parties consented to proceed before a United States
Magistrate Judge on December 16 and 17, 2014. (ECF Nos. 20,
22.) Defendant moved for summary judgment on the remainder of
the Amended Complaint on July 17, 2015. (ECF. No. 27.) This
Court granted Defendant's motion in part on September 28,
2015. (ECF No. 33.) As a result of that order,
Plaintiffs' claims were further narrowed. Plaintiffs'
TILA claim was limited to their actual damages (the failure
of Defendant to return their $1200 deposit), and their
fraud/deceit, negligent misrepresentation, and Maryland
Consumer Protect Act claims remained.
about October 21, 2015, Defendant apparently tendered the
$1200.00 plus interest to Plaintiffs and, on February 2,
2016, Defendant moved to dismiss based on lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. (ECF No. 40.) By order dated March 21,
2016, this Court denied Defendant's motion without
prejudice, instructing Defendant that if it submitted proof
of delivery of a cashier's check in the amount of
$1200.00 plus interest, the TILA claim, the negligent
misrepresentation claim, and the Maryland Consumer Protection
Act claim would be dismissed for mootness. (ECF No. 45.) The
Court further indicated that it would retain jurisdiction
over the remaining fraud claim to the extent it alleged
punitive damages, under its supplemental jurisdiction.
4, 2016, Defendant filed another motion to dismiss for
mootness, having followed the Court's instructions set
forth in its March 21, 2016 order. (ECF No. 49.) By order
dated May 27, 2016, this Court dismissed as moot all
remaining claims except Plaintiffs' claim for punitive
damages under their common law fraud theory.
on this remaining theory was held on June 13, 2016. For the
reasons stated below, the Court finds no liability for
punitive damages for fraud and enters judgment on behalf of
Defendant. Pursuant to Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, the Court's findings of fact, legal analysis
and conclusions of law are set forth separately below.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Plaintiff Anthony Price is 26 years old. He did not finish
high school and left in the 11th grade. He has
been employed as a line cook since then. His partner,
Virginia Aldrich, is 28 years old. She left high school in
the 10th grade and has been employed as a
bartender since then.
February 25, 2014, Mr. Price and Ms. Aldrich decided to try
to purchase a vehicle. After being told by one dealership
that their credit was not good enough, they were directed by
that dealership to Berman's Automotive
Price and Ms. Aldrich arrived at Berman's at 6 or 7 p.m.
on February 25, 2014. They told unknown Berman's
personnel that they were looking for an SUV and were then
introduced to an unknown Berman's salesman.
Price and Ms. Aldrich looked at several vehicles on the lot
with the Berman's salesman and told him that they had
$1200.00 with them for a down payment and were looking to pay
no more than $300.00/month for a vehicle. The Berman's
salesman said that Berman's had vehicles within that
range, and after a test drive, Mr. Price and Ms. Aldrich
decided to purchase a 2003 Jeep Cherokee.
Price and Ms. Aldrich agreed to purchase the Jeep and
Berman's agreed to sell them the Jeep for a total price
of $11, 318.76 (including tax, various fees and costs),
consisting of a down payment of $2000.00, and $9, 318.76 to
be financed at a payment of approximately $300.00/month for
Price and Ms. Aldrich could not pay the full $2000.00 down
payment on February 25, 2014 because they only had $1200.00
with them. Mr. Price and Ms. Aldrich agreed with Berman's
to pay the remaining $800.00 of the $2000.00 down payment by
March 11, 2014.
Price and Ms. Aldrich signed at least one unidentified
document with the Berman's salesman. The salesman told
them that he was going to get someone from the Berman's
Finance Department to finish their paperwork.
Price and Ms. Aldrich went to the office of Berman's
Finance Manager, Ms. Nathlee Miales, to complete their
paperwork for the purchase of the Jeep. Ms. Miales has worked
for Berman's for five years and has been involved in
automobile financing for various dealerships for 20 years.
Miales understood that Mr. Price and Ms. Aldrich had only
$1200.00 with them, had agreed to pay the remaining $800.00
of the down payment by March 11, 2014, and could only afford
payments of around $300.00/month. Ms. Miales further
understood that Mr. Price and Ms. Aldrich were going to take
the Jeep home with them that day (February 25, 2014).
Miales does not negotiate terms of sale nor does she obtain
financing approval for buyers. That is done by Berman's
General Manager before Ms. Miales generates a customer's
paperwork. The terms are communicated to Ms. Miales through a
"worksheet" from Berman's General Manager.
Loan approval for financing at $300.00/month for 36 months
with a $2000.00 down payment (the "36-month
financing") had already been obtained from a third-party
lender by the General Manager prior to Ms. Miales dealing
with Mr. Price and Ms. Aldrich. She confirmed the terms of
the 36-month financing with Mr. Price and Ms. Aldrich by
going over the "worksheet" from the General Manager
with them. Ms. Miales confirmed with Mr. Price and Ms.
Aldrich that ...