7ASR3d83

Series: 7ASR3d | Year: () | 7ASR3d83
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NAPOLEAN ROACHE, Petitioner,

 

v.

 

PELE and EASTER UIA, Respondents.

 

High Court of American Samoa

Trial Division

 

CA

No. 06-03

 

March

18, 2003

 

 

[1] Hidden defects of an item for

sale were material facts which the seller had a duty to disclose to the

buyer. 

 

[2] Seller’s intentional

misrepresentation of known hidden defects permit the buyer to return the

purchased item for a refund, terminating the contract without further liability

for the purchase price. 

 

Before RICHMOND, Associate Justice, LOGOAI, Chief

Associate Judge, and SAGAPOLUTELE, Associate Judge.

 

OPINION AND ORDER

 

Respondents Pele Uia (“Pele”) and Easter Uia (together “the

Uias”) initiated this small claims action in the District Court to claim a

refund of $1,400 they paid to Petitioner Napoleon Roache (“Napoleon”) towards

purchase of a motor vehicle.  Napoleon

counterclaimed in the District Court for his costs of repairing the vehicle

after its return by Pele and a payment due under the purchase contract.  At the District Court trial, but not in this

Court, Napoleon also sought refund of his cost of roundtrip airfare to defend

against the refund claim and prosecute the repair cost claim.  The District Court denied Napoleon’s

counterclaim and, after holding that $300 per month was the fair value of Uias’

use of the vehicle, ordered Napoleon to refund the balance of $800 to the

Uias.  Napoleon appealed to this Court

for a trial de novo, in accordance

with A.S.C.A. § 43.0421.  Trial de novo was held on February 28,

2003.  Napoleon and Pele were present and

testified.

 

Findings of Fact

 

Despite the witnesses’ mutual recriminations muddying the

waters, the essential material facts are clear.

 

On September 23, 2002, the Uias purchased a 1992 Toyota Camry

station wagon from Napoleon.  The contract

established a purchase price of $10,500 to be paid in 15 monthly installments

of $700 each, payable on the third day of each month, beginning October 3,

2002.  The vehicle was sold in an “as is”

condition.  The Uias made the first two

payments on October 2 and November 2, 2002. 

However, on November 29, 2002, the Uias returned the vehicle to

Napoleon, because of defects in its condition when the Uias took possession on

September 23, 2002, and Napoleon’s failure to correct the defects.  Napoleon accepted return of the vehicle.

 

The CD system in the vehicle did not properly work; the brake

system did not function without adding brake fluid every other day; and after

an earlier accident, undisclosed at the time of sale to the Uias, the

windshield had been replaced in a shoddy manner, allowing water to enter the

interior through a gap between the windshield and roof.  Pele sought Napoleon’s attention to these

problems with the vehicle, on the assumption Napoleon was responsible for

correcting them.  Pele left numerous

unreturned telephone messages for Napoleon. 

However, he was able to personally contact Napoleon on occasion, but

Napoleon gave him the proverbial runaround when they met and, in any event, did

nothing to constructively address the problems.

 

Though not specifically cited by Pele

when the Uias returned the vehicle to Napoleon, there were other defects at the

time of sale.  The right front door lock,

left front seat movement mechanisms, and air conditioning system were

defective; the colors of the dashboard and rest of the interior were not the

same; and various exterior dents also existed. 

However, except perhaps for the air conditioning system, these defects

were readily discernible to the Uias when they took possession of the vehicle.

 

While they had possession of the

vehicle, the Uias also added to the vehicle tinted windows, four new tires, and

rear mudguards at a total cost of $379.95, but the Uias did not include these

expenditures in their small claims demand.

 

After regaining possession of the

vehicle, Napoleon expended approximately $1,480.00 in repairs, including the

defects cited by Pele as reasons for returning the vehicle.  Though Napoleon claimed the Uias abused the

vehicle while they used it, the repairs were made to defects existing at the

time of sale. 

 

The reasonable remaining life

expectancy of a 1992 vehicle is approximately five years.

 

 

 

Conclusions of Law

 

[1-2] Napoleon was certainly aware of both

the evident and hidden defects in the vehicle at the time of sale to the Uias.  He deliberately chose not to reveal the

hidden defects at that time.  The hidden

defects were material facts, which Napoleon had a duty to disclose to the Uias.  See

Hill v. Jones, 725

P.2d 1115, 1118 (Ariz. 1986) (citing Restatement

(Second) of Contracts § 16 (1981)); see

also Am. Samoa Gov’t Employees Fed. Credit Union v. Sele, 28 A.S.R.2d 21, 23 (Trial

Div. 1995) (defining fraud as anything calculated to deceive, including

suppression of the truth).  Although the

Uias agreed to purchase the vehicle “as is,” Napoleon’s intentional

misrepresentation of known hidden defects gave the Uias justification to return

the vehicle and terminate the contract without liability for the purchase

price.  See Hill, 725

P.2d at 1118; Restatement (Second) of

Contracts § 164.

 

The Uias did have use of the vehicle

for approximately two months, and Napoleon is entitled to receive reasonable

compensation for this period of time. 

Given the purchase price of $10,500 and a reasonable remaining life

expectancy of five years, the monthly fair value of use is approximately

$175.00, providing a fair total use value of $350.00 for two months.

 

However, this amount is offset by the

Uias’ expenditure of $379.95 in improving the vehicle, and unless Napoleon’s

counterclaim is valid, the Uias’ claim for refund of the two monthly payments,

totaling $1,400.00, is not subject to any reduction.

 

Napoleon expended approximately $1,480.00 for repairs of the

vehicle after he regained possession. 

However, this expense principally corrected defects existing when the

Uias took possession of the vehicle. 

None of these repairs are traced to the Uias’ use of the vehicle.  The evidentiary support for Napoleon’s

counterclaim is lacking.

 

Accordingly, we conclude that

Napoleon takes nothing by his counterclaim against the Uias, and that the Uias

are entitled to a refund from Napoleon of the full amount of $1,400.00 paid on

the purchase price of the vehicle.

 

Order

 

Napoleon’s counterclaim against the Uias is dismissed.  Napoleon shall pay the Uias $1,400.00, plus

court costs of $15.00, a total of $1,415.00. 

The Clerk of the Court shall pay the $815.00 deposited by Napoleon in

the registry to the Uias.  Napoleon shall

pay, within 14 days of entry of this judgment, the balance of $600.00 to the

Clerk of the Court, who shall disburse this amount to the Uias.  Interest on any portion of the unpaid $600.00

balance of the total judgment not paid within the 14-day period shall accrue at 6% per annum until the judgment is

paid in full.

It is so ordered.

 

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