ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Duty to Disclose? [Dead Body in Car Edition]

This story from the Detroit News (h/t @ABAJournal):

A New Baltimore woman is suing a car dealership, alleging employees there failed to tell her the sport utility vehicle she purchased once held a dead body.

Margarita Salais sued Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights, claiming the dealership did not disclose information about a 2006 Ford Expedition she bought in March, says the complaint filed in Oakland Circuit Court.

After Salais bought the car, she noticed a rotten odor. "They bought the car while it was still cold out in March," said Dani Liblang, Salais' lawyer. "The warmer it got, the worse the smell got."

Salais brought the car to the dealership, and someone informed her the smell came from a dead animal, Liblang said. But she wasn't satisfied.

Salais filed a claim with her insurer, State Farm, which hired a biohazard cleanup company to check the car, Liblang said. Clinton Township-based Elite Trauma Clean-up, Inc. determined the odor was of human origin, according to a letter from State Farm in the complaint.

The dealership did not respond to a call for comment Monday and has not yet filed a response to the Nov. 1 lawsuit. The suit was filed in Oakland County because Suburban Ford's offices are registered in Troy.

A man who answered the phone at Elite Trauma Clean-up on Monday said it was determined only that the car smelled of "rotten meat." The man, who wouldn't give his name, said he inspected the car and there was no way to find the origin of the smell without dismantling it.

The car had been stolen and used as a rental car, according to the complaint. The dealership didn't purchase the car until December 2010, so the same cold weather that hid the smell from Salais might have kept it hidden from the dealer, Liblang said.

Salais is suing the dealer and Chief Financial Federal Credit Union, which financed the vehicle, for $25,000 plus fees.

[Meredith R. Miller]

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