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Finance company prevails in dispute over car’s title

A dispute over a car sale gone sour resulted in arbitration and an eventual judgment for the finance company.

According to attorney Phillip Raine of Knight Nicastro McKay, much of the case revolved around the issuance of title for the vehicle, a decade-old Lexus purchased in Blue Springs in 2015. Raine’s client, Westlake Services, ultimately repossessed the car and filed suit against buyer Danielle Williams in 2020.

Williams counterclaimed that she had not received proper title in a timely fashion and that Westlake “knowingly threatens and otherwise forces consumers who it knows did not receive titles to pay on the void installment sale contracts by falsely informing the consumers that they are still obligated to pay on the contracts,” according to her filing with the arbitrator.

In arbitration, the parties were reversed and Williams became the plaintiff.

Raine said that Williams signed a piece of paper indicating she’d received title.

“During discovery, we found out that she actually had a copy of the title but she was saying that she couldn’t ever register it because the DMV was telling her there was some issue with the lienholder on it,” he said. “Nobody could ever quite figure out what the issue was.”

Williams alleged violations of Missouri merchandising practices laws and proposed a class action in the matter, requesting compensatory and punitive damages exceeding $1.1 million.

Arbitrator Arlander Keys found in favor of Westlake, noting that “the Claimant’s testimony suffers from serious questions” and saying that Williams frequently answered “I don’t remember” on various points. The arbitrator outlined a number of areas where he felt testimony was inconsistent or lacking and indicated evidence that Williams had received a wide array of documentation.

“It is implausible that the dealer would give all the other documents necessary to complete the transaction to Claimant and forward them to Respondent but fail to give her the Title,” he wrote.

Keys also awarded $8,460.39 to Westlake reflecting the amount still due under the contract.

Scott Waddell of Waddell Law Firm, an attorney for Williams, did not return a request for comment. 

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