Tun v. Wells Fargo Dealer ServicesAnnotate this Case
This case arose out of the purchase of a used 2007 BMW vehicle by plaintiff-appellant Michael Tun from defendant-respondent Plus West LA Corporation, dba CA Beemers (CA Beemers). Defendant-appellant Wells Fargo Dealer Services, Inc., an incorporated division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (collectively Wells Fargo), subsequently accepted assignment of Tun's retail installment sales contract (RISC) under an agreement with CA Beemers and/or defendant and respondent West LA Corporation, dba California Beemers (California Beemers) (sometimes collectively dealer). Tun listed 11 causes of action in a third amended complaint, all based primarily on his contention that dealer knowingly and intentionally failed to disclose that the vehicle had suffered "frame/unibody damage" from a prior collision, which damage Tun further alleged "existed at the time it was sold" to him and which "substantially decreased the value of the vehicle." Tun alleged he first learned the vehicle had been in a prior collision when he took it to a mechanic near his home, after he experienced problems while driving the vehicle. After a multi-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the dealer, finding dealer had not committed fraud, breached its contract with Tun or otherwise engaged in conduct that violated the Consumers Legal Remedies Act. The jury also found that Wells Fargo was not derivatively liable as holder of the RISC. Following the verdicts, the trial court granted Tun's new trial motion only as to Wells Fargo, despite the fact Wells Fargo was only liable to the extent, if at all, dealer was liable. In granting the motion, the trial court determined it had erred in ruling pretrial that Tun could not comment to the jury regarding Wells Fargo's tender under section 2983.4—a statute awarding a party prevailing under the Automobile Sales Financing Act (hereafter ASFA) reasonable attorney fees and costs—of the amount Tun had paid under the RISC ($15,700). Wells Fargo appealed, arguing that the court had correctly ruled in limine that Tun could not comment on Wells Fargo's tender under section 2983.4 because that tender could not be treated as a judicial admission of liability; that the tender was irrelevant to the issues decided by the jury, which focused on the conduct of dealer in connection with the sale of the vehicle; that, even assuming error, Tun could not establish prejudice; and that the new trial order was improper because there were no issues left to try, inasmuch as Wells Fargo's liability, if any, was derivative of dealer's, and dealer was exonerated. After review, the Court of Appeals concluded the trial court erred in granting Tun a new trial against Wells Fargo because the Court concluded the court's pretrial ruling precluding comment on the Wells Fargo tender was not legal error. The Court rejected Tun's cross-appeal.