Federal Judge Dismisses GAP Coverage Lawsuit
BALTIMORE — A federal judge threw out a proposed class-action suit last month against the Pohanka Auto Group, which claimed the dealer group’s GAP coverage was “phony” because it did not meet the definition of a debt-cancellation agreement under Maryland law.
Judge Deborah K. Chasanow dismissed the putative class action against Pohanka’s 11 dealerships because the plaintiffs, Eunice and Barbara Jones, did not suffer a loss of their vehicle — a used 2007 Mercedes-Benz C230 they purchased from Pohanka Isuzu in 2008. The court also found that the plaintiffs did not show that they were harmed by all 11 dealerships named in the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, the Jones purchased a $750 GAP product, which they claimed was not a “true” debt-cancellation agreement under the Maryland Credit Grantor Closed End Credit Provisions (CLEC) because it would not necessarily pay off the remaining loan balance if the vehicle was totaled or stolen.
“According to the complaint, ‘[t]he phony GAP agreements … only agree to relieve the borrower of the obligation to pay the difference between the ‘value of the vehicle’ and the amount owed on the financing contract,’ which plaintiffs presumably believe will be less than the remaining loan balance in the event of total loss,” Chasanow wrote in her memorandum.
In the case of the Pohanka Auto Group’s GAP coverage, the value of vehicle is determined by either the insurance company or the book value of the vehicle — whichever value is higher. Under this policy, the consumer could get less money than the total remaining loan balance because they would only receive the difference between the higher value and the amount owed on the financing contract.
Judge Chasanow noted that the contract the plaintiffs signed did incorporate language from the CLEC, but she said Maryland dealers can’t be held liable for any inconsistencies in the language of the GAP contract as long as claims are honored according to state law. And because the plaintiffs never made a claim, she ruled there was no violation of the CLEC.
The Jones also alleged that because the Pohanka Auto Group was selling “phony” GAP coverage, it had created a “conspiracy.” Chasanow found that the Jones did not have the right to sue any dealership other than Pohanka Isuzu, which is now closed.
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