Clover v. Sunset Auto Co., Slip Copy, 2009 WL 1490489 (E.D.Mo., May 27, 2009)(NO. 4:09CV58 HEA)

Attorneys have earned quite a name for themselves. But, there is one profession whose reputation might be a bit more tarnished. Yep, you guessed it, the car salesmen. 

Many of you have probably had the delightful experience of dealing with car salesmen. They perch in the corners of car lots waiting to spring out of nowhere trying to convince their prey that they have the best deal in town often swindling them into paying too much. The defendant in Clover v. Sunset Auto Company was hardly the exception.

In Clover the defendant car dealer was sued in state court for charging car buyers “administrative fees” in violation of Missouri law.  It’s how car dealers work. They have their salesmen swear till they are blue in the face that they are knocking off the extra cash “just this once for you” and convince you that you are getting the bottom dollar price.  However, when it is time to sign all the paperwork the buyer is often blindsided and left broke after all the hidden fees are tacked on.    

More specifically, the defendant in Clover was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by charging clients an administrative fee for preparing contracts, titles, finance arrangement, and other legal documents. The defendant was able to make $1,141,968.25 in administrative fees over a five year period.

After suit was filed in Missouri state court, the defendant dealer used its charming ways and successfully removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act.  In response, the plaintiff attempted to have the case remanded back to state court under the “home state” exception which prevents removal when at least one-third but no greater than two-thirds of the class are citizens of the state where the action was filed.

The plaintiff had the burden of showing that the home state exception was met and therefore should be remanded back to state court.   In attempting to meet his burden, the plaintiff’s inability to persuade the court made it painfully obvious that he could never be a car salesman. The court found that the plaintiff in Clover failed to meet his burden of proof because he failed to provide any evidence other than mere speculation that the home state exception had been met and allowed the case to remain in federal court.  Then again, just maybe the judge was in the market for a new shiny set of wheels.  

By:  Heather Nagel