Poulin v. Ford Motor Co., No. 83-287

Docket NºNo. 83-287
Citation147 Vt. 120, 513 A.2d 1168
Case DateMay 16, 1986
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

Page 1168

513 A.2d 1168
147 Vt. 120
Stephen G. POULIN
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY and Hayes Ford, Inc.
No. 83-287.
Supreme Court of Vermont.
May 16, 1986.

Page 1169

[147 Vt. 121] Gregory P. Howe, Newport, and Michael Rose, on brief, St. Albans, for plaintiff-appellee.

Ritchie E. Berger of Dinse, Allen & Erdmann, Burlington, for defendants-appellants.

Before [147 Vt. 120] HILL, PECK, GIBSON and HAYES, JJ., and BARNEY, C.J. (Ret.), Specially Assigned.

[147 Vt. 121] PECK, Justice.

The plaintiff brought an action against defendants Hayes Ford and Ford Motor Company, alleging that they illegally induced him to buy a 1979 Ford Mustang "Pace Car" by indicating that the car was a limited-production model which would increase in value. The complaint alleged violations of express and implied warranties, intentional misrepresentation and violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, 9 V.S.A. § 2453. After trial, the jury awarded the

Page 1170

plaintiff $40,000. Defendants appeal the judgment on the verdict, the denial of a motion for a new trial, and the denial of a motion to set aside the verdict. We affirm.

In May, 1979, plaintiff, an owner of a lumber business, approached John Hayes, owner of defendant Hayes Ford, Inc., and expressed some interest in purchasing a 1979 Ford Mustang "Pace Car." The car was an exact replica of the one used to pace the field at the 1979 Indianapolis 500 motor car race. The plaintiff's interest stemmed from his knowledge that the 1978 Corvette Pace Car had increased in value, according to the evidence, from $14,000 to approximately $28,000.

After a test drive, the plaintiff met with Hayes and a representative of defendant Ford Motor Company. He expressed a continuing[147 Vt. 122] interest in the vehicle but also indicated that personal financial difficulties might preclude the purchase. According to the plaintiff, the representative of defendant Ford Motor Company told plaintiff that the pace car is "going to be a very lucrative type of car ... as a collector's item ... [W]e are stopping production as of the Indianapolis 500." Further, testimony indicated that the defendants told plaintiff the 1979 pace car was a limited edition with only about 2,800 issued, or less than one car per dealer. Defendants told plaintiff the car would increase in value similarly to the Corvette version of the pace car. Based on these representations, plaintiff purchased the car.

About one month later, plaintiff contacted Hayes and expressed his concerns about seeing "quite a few" pace cars on the road. Defendant Hayes Ford indicated to plaintiff that Ford had "flooded the market" with the cars, that Ford was still producing them and that Hayes Ford had, in fact, acquired another pace car. Plaintiff also learned that a Ford dealer in Swanton, Vermont, was offering rebates on two of the cars, asking only $7,400 for each.

After failing in his attempts to get Hayes Ford to buy back the pace car, plaintiff brought an action against the named defendants. The counts specified that: (1) defendants breached an express warranty that the vehicle was a "limited production car;" (2) defendants breached an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose in that defendants knew plaintiff, in purchasing the car, relied upon statements regarding its expected increase in value and that the warranted increase never occurred; (3) defendants defrauded plaintiff; and (4) defendants' actions constituted unfair and deceptive acts and practices in violation of 9 V.S.A. § 2453.

After both sides presented their cases, the trial judge, over defendants' objection, charged the jury on plaintiff's consumer fraud claim as well as the other claims. The jury found defendants liable, and awarded him $40,000. The amount of this award indicates the jury's verdict was rendered pursuant to the exemplary damage provision in the Consumer Fraud Act. 9 V.S.A. § 2461(b). Defendants moved the court to grant a new trial and to set aside the verdict. The court denied defendants' motions and [147 Vt. 123] issued judgment for plaintiff. Defendants appealed the order denying their motions and appealed the judgment. 1

The defendants first argue that the trial court committed reversible error in submitting the consumer fraud count to the jury. They contend (1) that the plaintiff was not a consumer, and (2) that there was insufficient evidence of consumer fraud presented at trial. In reviewing the denial of a directed verdict motion, this Court "must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, excluding any modifying evidence." Senesac v. Associates in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 141 Vt. 310, 312, 449 A.2d 900, 902 (1982).

The Consumer Fraud Act prohibits "unfair or deceptive acts or practices in

Page 1171

commerce." 9 V.S.A. § 2453(a). For the Act to apply, the plaintiff must be a consumer as defined by the Act: "any person who purchases ... merchandise or services not for resale in the ordinary course of his trade or business but for his use or benefit...." 2 9 V.S.A. § 2451 a. Defendants argue that plaintiff was not a consumer because he purchased the pace car as an investment, and because he stated he bought and sold cars. Plaintiff's expectation that the car would appreciate in value does not prohibit him from being a consumer. The issue is whether the plaintiff bought the car to resell in the ordinary course of his business. The plaintiff testified that he bought the car for his personal benefit and that although he had sold cars bought as investments, he was not a used car dealer. Based on this testimony, the jury could conclude that the plaintiff was a consumer under the Act.

The defendants' next argument is that there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to allow the claim of unfair or deceptive acts or practices to go to the jury. Although this Court has considered what constitutes unfair acts and practices, Christie v. Dalmig, Inc., 136 Vt. 597, 600-01, 396 A.2d 1385, 1387-88 (1979), we have not addressed what constitutes deceptive acts or practices under 9 V.S.A. § 2453(a).

In this case, the trial court charged the jury on common law fraud, 3 apparently concluding that it was...

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39 practice notes
  • DJ's Tree Serv. & Logging, Inc. v. Bandit Indus., Inc., Case No. 2:20-cv-00217
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 31 Agosto 2021
    ...of the word ‘fraud’ in a statute does not mean that heightened standards of specificity are required"); Poulin v. Ford Motor Co. , 147 Vt. 120, 513 A.2d 1168, 1172 (1986) ("The purpose of our Consumer Fraud Act6 is to protect consumers by adding ‘a claim for relief that is easier ......
  • Moffitt v. Icynene, Inc., No. 1:04-CV-115.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 27 Diciembre 2005
    ...and (f) conform to the promises or affirmations of fact made on the container or label if any." 4. Poulin v. Ford Motor Company, 147 Vt. 120, 126, 513 A.2d 1168 (1986) is also distinguishable. In that case, the court found that "there was sufficient evidence to support a showing o......
  • In re Kelton Motors, Inc., Bankruptcy No. 89-00255
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court —District of Vermont
    • 26 Marzo 1991
    ...a civil fraud action, and under Vermont Law fraud must be proved by "clear and convincing evidence." Poulin v. Ford Motor Co., 147 Vt. 120, 513 A.2d 1168 (1986); Hughes v. Hold, 140 Vt. 38, 435 A.2d 687 (1981); Leno v. Meunier, 125 Vt. 30, 209 A.2d 485 The Becker Court, supra, dis......
  • Bergman v. Spruce Peak Realty, LLC, Case No. 2:11–cv–128.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 20 Marzo 2012
    ...consumer fraud claim to satisfy the higher standard of proof by clear and convincing evidence that a common law fraud claim must meet. 147 Vt. 120, 513 A.2d 1168, 1172 (1986). The Court stated: The mere fact that the word ‘fraud’ appears in the title of our consumer protection statute does ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • DJ's Tree Serv. & Logging, Inc. v. Bandit Indus., Inc., Case No. 2:20-cv-00217
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 31 Agosto 2021
    ...of the word ‘fraud’ in a statute does not mean that heightened standards of specificity are required"); Poulin v. Ford Motor Co. , 147 Vt. 120, 513 A.2d 1168, 1172 (1986) ("The purpose of our Consumer Fraud Act6 is to protect consumers by adding ‘a claim for relief that is easier ......
  • Moffitt v. Icynene, Inc., No. 1:04-CV-115.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 27 Diciembre 2005
    ...and (f) conform to the promises or affirmations of fact made on the container or label if any." 4. Poulin v. Ford Motor Company, 147 Vt. 120, 126, 513 A.2d 1168 (1986) is also distinguishable. In that case, the court found that "there was sufficient evidence to support a showing o......
  • In re Kelton Motors, Inc., Bankruptcy No. 89-00255
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court —District of Vermont
    • 26 Marzo 1991
    ...a civil fraud action, and under Vermont Law fraud must be proved by "clear and convincing evidence." Poulin v. Ford Motor Co., 147 Vt. 120, 513 A.2d 1168 (1986); Hughes v. Hold, 140 Vt. 38, 435 A.2d 687 (1981); Leno v. Meunier, 125 Vt. 30, 209 A.2d 485 The Becker Court, supra, dis......
  • Bergman v. Spruce Peak Realty, LLC, Case No. 2:11–cv–128.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 20 Marzo 2012
    ...consumer fraud claim to satisfy the higher standard of proof by clear and convincing evidence that a common law fraud claim must meet. 147 Vt. 120, 513 A.2d 1168, 1172 (1986). The Court stated: The mere fact that the word ‘fraud’ appears in the title of our consumer protection statute does ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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