My Customer Is Suing Me! What Can I Do?
It's more common than people imagine. A customer calls to complain and ends with a threat to sue you. What to do? Your next move depends on what stage of a lawsuit you're in.
At this stage, you are reviewing the details of your interaction with this customer. Make sure that you understand, as best you can, what the customer is upset about. If there is any validity to their concerns, then, by all means, address them. Often, customers want you to do something that is impossible, like buy the vehicle back from them or pay for exorbitant repairs. Politely decline such a request.
This is also a good time to review your dealership procedures. To the best of your knowledge, did you and your staff treat this customer the same as you treat all other customers? Are all of the deal jacket contents in order? Did you timely transfer title to the customer? Did you disclose any known defects prior to the sale? Did the customer test-drive the vehicle, or was s/he offered the opportunity to do so?
An angry customer will say many things. A threat does not equal a lawsuit.
Attorney Demand Letter
You still have not been sued at this stage. The customer has taken time to contact an attorney. Based on what the customer says, an attorney believes that the customer has a cause of action. Now is the time to reach out to your own attorney.
No one at your dealership should speak directly to this customer. Now that the customer is represented by counsel, all communication should go to the customer's attorney. Instruct all staff to refrain from all but the most necessary pleasantries if/when this customer makes contact directly with the dealership.
Legal Complaint Served
If you have not called your attorney, call them now. Once a lawsuit has been filed and you have been served with the complaint, you have limited time to formally respond. If you do not respond by the deadline, then the court will issue a default judgment in favor of the customer.
TIADA's Attorney Referral Service can put you in touch with competent counsel you can hire to represent your interests. These attorneys have extensive experience representing independent auto dealers and are happy to assist.
NOTE: This is a general information article. Nothing in it is legal advice, nor should it be interpreted as such. Please speak with your attorney about any specific questions you have.