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Jenkins v. C3 Racing, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Vermont

January 5, 2018

W. OWEN JENKINS, Plaintiff,
C3 RACING, INC. and MARC F. EVANS Defendants.


          Christina Reiss, United States District Court District Judge

         Plaintiff W. Owen Jenkins brings this action against Defendant C3 Racing, Inc., d/b/a New England Classic Car Co., and its owner, Marc F. Evans (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging six claims arising from the purchase and sale of a 1967 MGB motor vehicle ("the MGB"): (1) breach of express warranties, (2) breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (3) negligent misrepresentation, (4) fraudulent misrepresentation, (5) fraudulent concealment, and (6) unfair and deceptive business practices under Vermont's Consumer Protection Act ("CPA"), 9 V.S.A. § 2453. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages of $22, 750, punitive damages of no less than $10, 000, exemplary damages of $56, 655 pursuant to the CPA, attorney's fees and costs, and the payment of pre-judgment interest.

         Pending before the court is Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, asserting Plaintiffs state law claims fail to exceed the $75, 000 threshold for diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. (Doc. 5.) Plaintiff opposes dismissal.

         Plaintiff, an attorney, is representing himself. Defendants are represented by Mary P. Kehoe, Esq.

         I. The Complaint's Allegations.

         Plaintiff alleges Defendant Evans is an individual residing in Connecticut and Defendant C3 Racing, Inc., d/b/a as New England Classic Car Co., is a Connecticut Corporation. Plaintiff resides in Essex Junction, Vermont. As Defendants concede, diversity of citizenship is established.

         The Complaint alleges Defendants are engaged in the business of selling classic sports cars, vintage and historic racing cars, and various other collectible vehicles. Defendants advertise their inventory on the Internet and offer delivery within the New England region.

         In July 2015, Defendants bought the MGB, a 1967 motor vehicle with a removable hard top, from Daniel F. Kacher for $9, 000. Before selling the MGB and in response to Defendants' inquiries, Mr. Kacher allegedly disclosed to Defendants in writing that the MGB had rust on the right door, undercarriage, and rims and verbally disclosed rust on the firewall and transmission problems.

         After purchasing the MGB from Mr. Kacher, Defendants immediately offered the MGB for sale on the Internet for $17, 900 without the hard top and without making any repairs or modifications. Defendants' Internet advertisement for the MGB contained the following representations: "... a very nice car .. . 3, 000 miles on [a] rebuilt engine ... new top, new chrome, a wonderful example of the most collectible of MGB's ... 105 mph performance, great handling, sure braking, comfortable ride . . . ." (Doc. 1 at 3, ¶ 12) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In response to the Internet advertisement, Plaintiff contacted Defendants, asking for details about the MGB, including how Defendants had located and acquired the MGB and information regarding its overall condition because Plaintiff did not want to purchase a "project car." Id. at 3, ¶ 13 (internal quotation marks omitted). Defendant Evans replied that he found the MGB advertised on the Internet, had it inspected by a person acting on Defendants' behalf, and, finding the car in excellent condition, decided to buy it from Mr. Kacher. In response to Plaintiffs inquiries about specific issues with the MGB, Defendants stated that it had only 55, 400 original miles, no rust, and was in "show condition[.]" Id. at 4, ¶ 15 (internal quotation marks omitted). Defendants further represented in writing that:

All of the electrics and mechanicals [were] in good working order.
... I took my little magnet, started from the front (on each side) behind the front bumper and moved the magnet along the lower edge of the body, rockers, and fenders, to the rear bumper. It stuck the entire way making this car (one) of the best bodied early MGBs on the planet.

Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff discussed scheduling an appointment to view the MGB at Defendants' place of business, but Defendants "assured Plaintiff that such [a] viewing was not necessary because the condition of the [MGB] was excellent and precisely as advertised." Id. at 4, ¶ 17. After the parties agreed to additional minor upgrades costing $600 and a delivery cost of $385, Plaintiff bought the MGB "sight unseen" for $18, 885 without an independent inspection from Defendants. (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 20) (internal quotation marks omitted). Defendants promised delivery of the MGB to Plaintiff in Vermont.

         On October 29, 2015, Defendants' employee delivered the MGB to Plaintiff, gave Plaintiff an invoice for the car, and drove the MGB to Plaintiffs residence in South Hero, ...

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