DUANE YOUNG, an individual, and all those similarly situated, Appellant,
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES, U.S.A., a California corporation, Respondent.
Young's negligent misrepresentation and Consumer
Protection Act (CPA) claims against Toyota Motor Sales
were dismissed following a bench trial. He appeals dismissal
of the CPA claim, challenging the trial court's legal
conclusions. Because the trial court's factual findings
support its conclusion that Mr. Young failed to carry his
burden of proof on at least two elements of his claim, we
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
December 2013, several months after purchasing a 2014 model
year Toyota Tacoma truck from a dealer in Burlington,
Washington, Duane Young received a letter from Toyota. The
letter stated it had recently come to Toyota's attention
that the Monroney label on the vehicle he purchased might have
indicated that an outside temperature gauge was included in
the vehicle's rearview mirror. As the letter disclosed,
that feature was not available on any 2014 model Tacoma. The
letter apologized for the mistake and any confusion it might
have caused. It offered to compensate Mr. Young with a cash
reimbursement of $100.
January 2014, Mr. Young communicated with a customer service
representative for Toyota named Jeffrey Moore, expressing his
dissatisfaction with the reimbursement offer. By the end of
January, Mr. Moore had offered to install a rearview mirror
with an outside temperature gauge as an aftermarket part, but
because it would not be factory-installed, the three-year 36,
000 mile warranty on many of the truck's other parts
would not apply. Still dissatisfied, Mr. Young contacted an
attorney, after which Toyota offered to pay him $500 to
resolve his complaints. He declined the offer.
proceedings with Toyota led to an award of a buyback by
Toyota for over $27, 000. Mr. Young rejected the buyback
because he thought he could sell the truck for more. He was
right; he eventually sold the truck for $30, 500.
2015, Mr. Young filed the lawsuit below. He sought to pursue
it as a class action and asserted claims of common law fraud,
negligent misrepresentation, and for violation of the CPA.
The trial court denied class certification.
moved for summary judgment on all of Mr. Young's claims;
he responded with a cross motion for summary judgment on his
CPA claim. In ruling on the motions, the trial court
dismissed the fraud claim but declined to grant either
party's motions on the negligent misrepresentation and
CPA claims, which proceeded to a bench trial.
bench trial, Mr. Young testified that the outdoor temperature
gauge was an important feature to him and he was misled into
believing it would be included in the limited package by a
Monroney label and by the "Build-a-Tacoma" feature
on Toyota's website. The "Build-a-Tacoma"
feature enables a consumer to select the features of the
truck he or she is interested in purchasing.
defense case, Toyota called as a witness its distribution
pricing administrator, who testified that in early September
2013, an audit of the Monroney label for the 2014 model
Tacoma with the limited package revealed that it erroneously
identified the truck's rearview mirror as including an
outside temperature gauge. The 2013model Tacoma had included such
a temperature gauge, but it had been removed from the limited
package for the 2014 model. Toyota presented evidence that in
pricing the 2014 limited package the cost of that feature was
removed, so purchasers of the limited package never paid for
it. It also presented evidence that the cost of the feature
pricing administrator testified that the date on which Toyota
first started wholesaling 2014 model Tacomas to dealers was
September 4, 2013, so catching the error in the early
September audit enabled it to substitute correct labels on
most of the 2014limited package models before they were
shipped to dealers. In mid-October 2013, however, Toyota
employees realized there might be vehicles in the field that
had been shipped with incorrect Monroney labels. The pricing
administrator testified that on October 22, 2013, she
notified field offices of the possibility of incorrect
labels, and that corrected labels would be available to print
at their field offices the next day. The e-mail directed the
field office to send the corrected Monroney labels to dealers
in their region.
general manager for Toyota's Customer Experience Center
testified that she learned in late October 2013 that
incorrect information about the temperature gauge had been
entered into the "Build-a-Tacoma" program on
Toyota's website. She testified that the
"Build-a-Tacoma" website information was corrected
in early November 2013.
presented evidence that a total of 59 2014 model Tacomas with
the limited package were sold in the state of Washington, and
only three were sold before Toyota realized there was a
mistake with the Monroney label. Of the remaining 56 trucks,
41 were sold after January 30, 2014 (roughly three months
after the mistake had been corrected) and 31 were sold after
May 1, 2014 (roughly six months after the mistake had been
witnesses testified that letters like the one Mr. Young
received in December 2013 were sent to 147 individuals that
it identified as the only consumers who possibly purchased
the limited package after seeing misleading information.
There was no evidence presented that anyone other than Mr.
Young claimed to have been misled.
conclusion of the bench trial, the court took the matter
under advisement, issuing a lengthy and detailed memorandum
decision three months later. It found "at least seven
areas" where it "question[ed] Mr. Young's
credibility." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 411. It
concluded that Mr. Young had not proved either of his two
remaining claims and directed Toyota's counsel to prepare
formal findings and conclusions.
findings and conclusions thereafter presented and entered
incorporated all of the factual findings articulated in the
court's memorandum decision. They concluded that Mr.
Young failed to carry his burden of proving multiple elements
of both of his claims. Mr. Young appeals.
a bench trial, appellate review is limited to determining
whether substantial evidence supports the trial court's
findings of fact and, if so, whether the findings support the
conclusions of law. State v. Stevenson, 128 Wn.App.
179, 193, 114 P.3d 699 (2005). "Substantial
evidence" is evidence sufficient to persuade a
fair-minded person of the truth of the asserted premise.
Id. We defer to the trial court's determinations
of the weight and credibility of the evidence. Mueller v.
Wells, 185 Wn.2d 1, 9, 367 P.3d 580 (2016).
findings are verities on appeal, see id., and Mr.
Young does not dispute the trial court's extensive
findings. "Thus, the only question is if the
unchallenged facts support the trial court's conclusions
of law." Id. Mr. Young's appeal challenges
only the trial court's dismissal of his CPA
private cause of action, the CPA requires a plaintiff to
prove five elements: "(1) an unfair or deceptive act or
practice, (2) occurring in trade or commerce, (3) affecting
the public interest, (4) injury to a person's business or
property, and (5) causation." Panag v. Farmers Ins.
Co. of Wash., 166 Wn.2d 27, 37, 204 P.3d 885 (2009);
see also Hangman Ridge Training Stables, Inc. v. Safeco
Title Ins. Co., 105 Wn.2d 778, 780, 719 P.2d 531 (1986).
"Failure to satisfy even one of the elements is fatal to
a CPA claim." Sorrel v. Eagle Healthcenter,
Inc., 110 Wn.App. 290, 298, 38 P.3d 1024 (2002). The
trial court concluded that Mr. Young's proof of the CPA
claim fell short of his burden in five respects. It is
sufficient on appeal for us to address whether he proved the
first and fifth elements of the claim.
One: An unfair or ...