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Chevy Dealer Causes Customer to Get Arrested

A clerical error is blamed for the buyer receiving a $5,000-plus discount on a Traverse, and a communication error for calling the cops.

By Douglas Newcomb Oct 4, 2012 12:39PM

2013 Chevy Traverse. Photo by GM.When dealing with car salespeople, most buyers are looking for a deal, if not a steal. A Virginia man got the former, while the dealership that sold him the vehicle initially thought he illegally got the latter -- and had him arrested when he refused to pay more for their mistake. The buyer, Danny Sawyer, was taken into custody in his front yard and sat in jail for four hours before being released on bail.

The sales staff at Priority Chevrolet of Chesapeake inadvertently sold the Virginia man a Chevrolet Traverse for about $5,000 less than the vehicle’s actual price, and when Sawyer refused to sign a new, more expensive contract, a sales manager at the dealership called the police to report that Sawyer had stolen the vehicle. It turned out to be a clerical and communication error on the dealer’s part, and its president has since apologized and offered to forgive the $5,000-plus discount that Sawyer got on his SUV in error.

But now that Sawyer has decided to sue for $2.2 million in damages, it could end up costing the dealership much more than if it had just let the slip-up slide.

According to the lawsuit that attorney Rebecca Colaw filed on Sawyer’s behalf, the 40-year-old registered nurse test-drove a blue Chevrolet Traverse on May 7 that had a sticker price of about $39,000, but then decided to buy a black one instead that was priced at around $34,000. Sawyer signed a promissory note and left in his new vehicle. The next day, he returned to the dealership and asked to exchange the black Traverse for the blue one.

The lawsuit claims that sales manager Wib Davenport approved the trade without ever mentioning that the blue SUV had a higher price. The dealership’s vice president, Stacy Cummings, disputes this and says that Davenport told Sawyer about the additional $5,500 for the black Traverse and that Sawyer orally agreed to the higher price. But the final contract Sawyer signed didn’t reflect the higher price, and Cummings blamed a clerical error. "We definitely made a mistake," said the dealership’s president, Dennis Ellmer.

Sawyer returned from a vacation a week later and found numerous voice mails and a letter from the dealership, the suit says. Davenport said he explained in a phone conversation that the dealership made a mistake on the contract and asked Sawyer to return to the dealership and sign a new contract. The lawsuit claims Sawyer refused, although Cummings said Sawyer initially agreed but never followed through.

The dealership's staff persisted in trying to contact Sawyer by phone, text message and even hand-delivered letters. When Sawyer did not return to the dealership, they eventually contacted police. Ellmer and Cummings told the PilotOnline that their staff never reported the SUV stolen and never asked for Sawyer to be arrested, and called police only to help locate the vehicle while they pursued civil action.

But after speaking with police, Ellmer learned that one of his managers, Brad Anderson, said the SUV had been stolen. A police department representative said an officer told Anderson in advance that he was going to ask for a warrant for Sawyer's arrest.

The local district attorney dropped all charges against Sawyer on Aug. 23 after speaking with representatives of the dealership and deciding there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case. But Sawyer is moving ahead with the lawsuits.

“This shouldn't have happened," Ellmer said, describing it as an isolated incident and noting that his dealerships sells about 13,000 cars a year.

[Source: Autoblog]

Oct 5, 2012 6:21AM
a contract is a contract!  after it has been signed and delivered.  IT IS DONE!

I am glad he is suing the dealership.  
Oct 5, 2012 7:51AM
After a signed contract any and all verbal contracts are null and void, period.
Oct 5, 2012 5:19AM

"But the final contract Sawyer signed didn’t reflect the higher price, and Cummings blamed a clerical error. "We definitely made a mistake," said the dealership’s president, Dennis Ellmer."

Both parties are responsibile for READING and REVIEWING anything they sign. When the most basic information is NOT in a dealership's favor, they try and declare the signed contract void? It does sound like the president of the dealership figured this out when he was made aware of the situation, but the others involved at the dealership compounded their mistake.

Oct 5, 2012 7:45AM
I fthe $5K error was reversed and in favor of the dealership, I wonder if they would have been willing to "sign a new contract" for a lower amount.  More important, who would pay $39K for a Chevy?
Oct 5, 2012 7:42AM
If the dealership were smart, they would have IMMEDIATELY "comped" the car to the guy, giving him the Title. I am surprised a large dealership like this didnt anticipate the HUGE fall-out that would come of this. Anytime someone is falsely imprisoned, you can be sure they WILL sue. This could have all been cut off at the pass, if the dealers owner had any business savvy. Now he is in for a HUGE loss.
Oct 5, 2012 3:58AM

I've been arrested for false charges, it really sucks, plus you get treated like **** by every1 in the system... cops and lawyer alike... this guy is gonna SUE the **** off this dealership... **** them... take your 2.2 and consider early retirement... lol

Oct 5, 2012 8:08AM
The contract on the car is one thing. A contract is a contract. However the person was put in jail. I think they should get the car for free and everyone at the dealership that was involved should spend some time in jail theirselves. False accusations and having someone arreseted is against the law.
Oct 4, 2012 5:05PM

HA HA thats too bad for the dealership. Now the customer should take them to court for false arrest. Mistakes happen those thieves at dealerships got there comeuppance. hahahah

I hope the salesmen didnt lose his job, its tough enough out there...

Oct 5, 2012 9:36AM
That sales manager knew exactly what he was doing. Now he will play "clerical error", BS! This guy should be fired and brought up on charges of calling in a false theft. The customer should be compensated, not $2m, but definitely enough to sting the dealership.
Oct 5, 2012 9:49AM
You can't get an arrest warrant without a sworn statement by the affiiant (in this case the car dealer). So it couldn't have been a "Clerical error". Someone at the dealership had to give a sworn statement to the police stating that the car was stolen. Then the police presented that information to a judge. Then the judge issued an arrest warrant. That is filing a false police report, and should be prosecuted. I'm a cop, this is how it works. The dealership is responsible and will pay in civil court.
Oct 5, 2012 8:20AM

Someone, if the buyer later noticed that he signed a note and sales contract for $5,000 more than the car was worth, do honestly believe the car dealership would say ok, you made a mistake, come by and we will sign a new contract for $5,000 less.


I don't think so!!!  They made a mistake, suck it up and move on.  If the mistake was in there favor, they would not be calling the customer to refund the money,  You screwed up, take the hit.  End of story.

Oct 5, 2012 9:59AM

This story doesn't  say whether this was a cash deal or finanaced. If financed, the entire deal would have to be re-written and re-submitted. (different VIN and sticker price, etc.) . Either way, whomever OK'd the deal (sales desk) should have known better, not a simple matter of changing from black to blue even if they were the exact (MSRP) unit. In any event, the dealer has to eat it and was really stupid for having the customer a major lawsuit that the dealer cannot win...dealers NEVER win in court, even when they are in the right. Dumb salesperson and Dumber sales mgr.

Oct 5, 2012 8:10AM
2.2 Million is excessive and makes him scum??  More than likely the Dealership will settle for hundreds of thousands of dollars and will never see the inside of the courtroom.  But let's say that it does go all the way ad he's actually awarded that much by the jury.  The people at the dealership lied and had him FALSELY ARRESTED!!  They took away one of our most closely guarded and precious rights (go read the constitution), his liberty and freedom.  He'll  have an arrest on his record that he'll have to go through a costly, long and difficult process to have it removed from his record (IF he ends up in front of a sympathetic judge and has an attorney worth his salt).  So let me ask Frosty and some of the others that have made those rediculous "scum" comments.  How much is your liberty and freedom worth to you?  $5, $1000, $10000?  A pretty cheap sell if you ask me.  I value mine as priceless.  And don't forget, at a minimum that police officer should be fired as he has no place enforcing the law.  He SHOULD have taken one look at the legally binding contract and told the dealership, "I'm sorry but this is a civil matter not criminal".  That's a BASIC concept of law.  Anyone with a normal IQ can figure that one out.
Oct 5, 2012 9:50AM
Generally I'm not in favor of suing, but this is different.  Covering up a mistake by filing a false report of theft?  Having a registered nurse arrested?  Can you guarantee that accusation won't follow him for the rest of his life, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to change jobs? (I'm hoping it hasn't damaged his relationship with his current employer.)  I have a childhood friend who is a registered nurse and from what she's told me in the past, her job depends on having the absolute trust of her employer and her patients. Hard to ask for the keys to the drug cabinet, etc., with that sort of thing hanging over your head.
Oct 5, 2012 8:10AM
I was in the auto and motor home industry from 1972 until I retired in 2006 this mistake happened a couple of times over the decades that I was in business and we just had to to eat the mistake the customer did not write the contract he only agreed with what the dealership and finance office printed up and had him sign.
Oct 5, 2012 7:39AM
They need to be sued, they run car lots like govt. nazis. I hope he cleans house.
Oct 5, 2012 10:59AM
we all know that if the roles were reveresed the dealer would never call back and say we charged you 5000 to much. come get your refund.
Oct 5, 2012 10:56AM
The dealer signed a contract, which is binding.  That should have been the end of it.  They should have been more careful.  They made a mistake, tough beans, they need to honor the contract they signed.
Oct 5, 2012 7:43AM
Sue the scum dealership for their mistakes.
Oct 5, 2012 10:14AM

,,,You claim F N I 4 U   you have been in F+I for years ,You should know that if the dealership wrote up a contract and everyone involved signed it  then the deal is done.That would be the fault of the dealership not the police. The other issue here is that they could have discounted the vehicle 5K and still made a profit.  How many uneducated buyers have paid to much under your watch??
This is totally the dealerships fault and they should have wrote it off ,but some ones commision was on the line,or a possible job.So quit blaming anyone other than the dealership. What is a fair lawsuit 2mil. , 1 mil. no charge for the vehicle?? you tell me what you would do if it happened to you.Prob. 5 million lawsuit.
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