Skip to comments.Dealership apologizes for error, customer arrest
Posted on 10/08/2012 5:14:50 AM PDT by billorites
The president of Priority Chevrolet apologized Wednesday for the arrest of a customer in June whom the dealership mistakenly undercharged for an SUV and who resisted the company's efforts to get him to sign a new, costlier contract.
Dennis Ellmer said he's heard from Chesapeake police that one of his managers told an officer that Danny Sawyer of Chesapeake had stolen a 2012 Chevrolet Traverse.
"I owe Mr. Sawyer a big apology," said Ellmer, who manages the entire Priority Auto Group - which includes 11 dealerships in Virginia and North Carolina.
He said his staff erred when they sold the SUV to Sawyer for about $5,600 too little and erred again when they went to police. He said Sawyer should not have been arrested and definitely should not have spent four hours in jail.
"It is my plan to let him keep the $5,600 and to make Mr. Sawyer right. I can't tell you how I plan to fix it, but it is my intention to make it right," said Ellmer, adding that he would like to sit down and talk with Sawyer.
Rebecca Colaw, Sawyer's attorney, said she appreciates that Ellmer is taking responsibility for what happened. But she said he will have to do more than say he's sorry and let Sawyer keep the SUV.
"An apology is not enough," she said.
Earlier this month, Sawyer, 40, a registered nurse, filed two lawsuits against the dealership accusing it of malicious prosecution, slander, defamation and abuse of process, among other things. The lawsuits seek $2.2 million in damages, plus attorney fees.
Ellmer and his vice president, Stacy Cummings, said they were unaware of the lawsuits until they read about them Tuesday on the front page of The Virginian-Pilot. Two managers at Priority Chevrolet declined Monday to comment on the lawsuits, and two phone calls and an email to an attorney for the dealership were not returned.
According to the lawsuits, Sawyer test-drove a blue Chevrolet Traverse on May 7 but ultimately decided to buy a black one. He traded in his 2008 Saturn Vue, signed a promissory note and left in his new SUV.
The next morning, Sawyer returned and asked to exchange the black Traverse for the blue one.
The lawsuit claims Wib Davenport, a sales manager, agreed to the trade without discussing how much more the blue Traverse would cost. Cummings disputed that, saying Davenport told Sawyer it would cost about $5,500 more than the black one and that Sawyer orally agreed to the higher price.
Regardless, the final contract Sawyer signed did not reflect the higher price, which Cummings said should have been in the area of $39,000. He blamed a clerical error.
"We definitely made a mistake there. There is no doubt about it," said Ellmer.
After signing the contract - which listed a sale price of about $34,000 - Sawyer immediately left the dealership and returned with a cashier's check covering what he owed after dealer incentives and his trade-in.
A week later, Sawyer came back from a vacation to find numerous voicemails and a letter from the dealership, the suit said. In a phone conversation, Davenport explained they had made a mistake on the contract and sold the car for too little. He asked Sawyer to return to the dealership and sign a new contract.
The lawsuit claims Sawyer refused. Cummings said Sawyer initially agreed but never followed through.
When Sawyer did not return to the dealership, Priority staff continued their attempts to contact him via phone, text message and hand-delivered letters. They eventually contacted police.
On June 15, three Chesapeake police officers arrested Sawyer in his front yard and took him before a magistrate judge. He was released on bond after about four hours at the Chesapeake jail, the suit said.
Commonwealth's Attorney Nancy Parr said her office dropped all charges Aug. 23 after speaking with representatives of the dealership and determining there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case.
In an interview Tuesday, Ellmer and Cummings said their staff never reported the SUV stolen and never asked for Sawyer to be arrested. They said they called police only for help locating the SUV while they pursued the civil action.
After speaking with police Wednesday, however, Ellmer said he'd learned one of his managers, Brad Anderson, had indeed said the SUV was stolen.
Kelly O'Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Chesapeake Police Department, said the officer told Anderson in advance he was going to secure a warrant for Sawyer's arrest.
Ellmer described what happened to Sawyer as an isolated incident. He noted that his dealerships sell about 13,000 cars a year.
"This shouldn't have happened," he said.
The key to our success has been the way we treat our customers. Our name Priority says it all. We make you our top priority by putting you first in all that we do. We put you first when you come in for service and we put you first in the value-added services of Priorities for Life when you purchase a vehicle from Priority.
I hope you'll agree there are plenty of reasons to make your next car or truck a Priority.
President, Priority Auto Group
Reminds me of some years ago when I had a car that 'died' before the loan was paid. Still owed about a year on it.
I bought another car, cash in full.
When I went to the bank to explain that the old car was no longer on the road and insurance dropped except for if tree dropped on it - or some such, they tried to get me to switch my new car onto the loan papers.
I laughed out loud and asked "Do I really look like a turnip?"
She chuckled and said: "Well, we had to try."
Makes me wonder what our medical service staff will look like in the future.
Wonder no more.................
“Yep, A contract is a contract, and Brad Anderson needs to do time for a false police report.”
This guy is a registered nurse.
Depending on the state, you have to report any arrest (regardless of convictions) to the licensing board. From what I can tell in a quick search, Virginia does require it.
Even if he doesn't report it, it will show up in a criminal background check -- which is done for all nurses these days, due to government requirements for people handling scheduled drugs. He might be able to get the record expunged, but it's not always successful, even if he gets a legal order to do so.
I got $30 too much at the local Bank of America. When I discovered it a couple of days later I went back to the teller and gave it to her. Her response, “now my drawer is going to be off again.”
Depends on the field. Many companies in my field check for arrests as well as convictions.
Arrests can be explained in some cases and would give the person a chance to explain. In other cases they won’t care.
They can wipe out the arrest record. They do it all the time when they arrest the wrong person.
Exactly - having an arrest on your record - even if proven bogus - is still an arrest warrant on your record.
Wherever you go - apply for a position, etc, that question is on the ap for a "yes" or "no" answer and can cost big time.
In this case, they guy needs to get compensated big time.
2,2 million seems a lot - but nearly half of that will go to legal fees - unless he can make the dealership liable for them - and half will go to the gov't in taxes (taxes , in these cases, are on the FULL amount - no deduction for legal fees. That actually leaves the man with a small chunk.
Indeed, there are cases where the person ends up OWING taxes - 60%A to legal, 50% to taxes ='s 110% of judgment and person still owes 10% in taxes, and cannot file bankuptcy on it.
I remember a case a few years ago where a gal ended up owing additional taxes of $100,000 - which left her in dire straights as the gov't insists on their money NOW.
The big winners in these suits are the lawyers and the gov't.
If that was not enough the dealer wants $39k for another one. Looks to me the dealer thought he had a really uninformed customer and he soon found out otherwise.
Back in the 90's I signed a lease for a Mercedes and the sales agent had put .00 per mile as the surcharge over 15,000 per year when the number was .25 per mile.
I saw it, signed it and took possession of the auto.
About two weeks later a Vice President from Mercedes leasing called and axed me to "re-negotiate" the lease.
I agree and said that in return for the .25 per mile that he wanted, I wanted to reduce the monthly payment by $200.00.
Never heard from him again.
Gives new meaning to the salesman’s pitch “It’s a steal”!
Unfortunately, it doesn't always work.
I have a friend that had a false arrest warrant dogging him for years. Every time he got stopped for a traffic violation, he risked being arrested and detained.
He had gone through the legal process to have it removed, but as I said earlier, it's like "whack-a-mole": it always popped back up.
NCIC doesn't seem to have the ability to reliably remove information. It's like Hotel California: you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.
This isn't the same. The bank ATM gives you $10,000 but the withdrawal slip says $1,000. You got more than the agreed amount.
In this case, the dealership countersigned a contract, selling a vehicle to the guy for a certain price. They AGREED to the sale price, even if it wasn't their intention.
How many times do dealers change contracts when the buyer pays too much?
At that point it doesn't matter. The cops don't do legal decisions. Once the warrant goes out, that is what they execute.
Not long ago, having your legal contract for your property to show the law was a good idea.
Your ATM example is faulty. In this case he had a signed contract where the dealer agreed to sell the vehicle for the price.
“An apology is not enough,” she said.”
I think that’s lawyer talk meaning instead of eleven dealerships owned it will soon be ten.
I once had a dealer sell me a car made in 1996. It was a used car which needed some work. I bought a bunch of parts for it but none of them fit. Come to find out it was a car made in 1993.
The dealer wanted to give me $500 back to fix the problem. I advised them that the District Attny said it wasn’t fraud as long as they gave me a refund.
They also paid for the parts which weren’t returnable.