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Chrysler Motors Corp. v. Flowers

January 10, 1991

CHRYSLER MOTORS CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
MARIA FLOWERS, ET AL, RESPONDENTS



En Banc. Andersen, J. Callow, C.j., and Utter, Dolliver, Dore, Durham, Smith, and Guy, JJ., concur. Brachtenbach, J., did not participate in the disposition of this case.

Author: Andersen

Facts of Case

At issue here is whether Washington's lemon law (RCW 19.118) is applicable to automobiles such as the one sold to the purchaser in this case.

In November 1986, Chrysler Motors transferred a new 1987 Dodge Ramcharger 4 X 4, hereafter referred to as the automobile, to Chrysler's Denver, Colorado, zone office. The Denver zone office intended to use the automobile as a

"field" vehicle, or a vehicle assigned to an employee for business and personal use. In December 1986 the Denver office assigned the automobile to a Chrysler employee who used it for 7 months, driving it more than 20,000 miles. The automobile was never titled in Colorado.

Chrysler took the automobile out of service as a field vehicle in July 1987, then in August consigned it to the South Seattle Auto Auction at Kent, Washington. The auction sold the automobile in September 1987 to Armand Moceri's Puyallup Chrysler/Plymouth, Inc.

On September 22, 1987, Maria Flowers, hereafter referred to as the purchaser, bought the automobile from Puyallup Chrysler/Plymouth. At the time of her purchase, the odometer on the automobile read 23,410 miles. Chrysler issued a manufacturer's warranty that covered the first 24,000 miles of operation.

Within a few days of the automobile's purchase, problems surfaced and the purchaser returned it to the dealer for repairs. The odometer read less than 24,000 miles at the time. The allegedly defective items included power steering, transfer case, drive train, transmission, windshield, right turn signal and brakes, and excessive oil usage. The purchaser brought the automobile in for repairs at least 8 times, and it was out of service for 35 days.

The automobile was never satisfactorily repaired, and on July 11, 1988, the purchaser submitted a request for arbitration under Washington's lemon law, RCW 19.118. After a hearing on August 18, 1988, the new motor vehicle arbitration board ordered Chrysler to repurchase the automobile, minus a statutorily set offset for mileage.

Chrysler appealed to the King County Superior Court and filed a motion for declaratory judgment seeking a declaration that the automobile was a used vehicle not subject to RCW 19.118 and that Chrysler was entitled to a summary judgment dismissing the purchaser's claims. The

purchaser filed a cross motion for summary judgment seeking to enforce the arbitration board's decision. The State of Washington Attorney General intervened in the case and supported the purchaser's motion.

The superior court judge heard oral argument and granted summary judgment to the purchaser. The court ordered Chrysler to repurchase the automobile, as had previously been ordered by the arbitration board, and also awarded attorneys' fees and costs to the purchaser pursuant to RCW 19.118.100. Chrysler appealed the summary judgment ...


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