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Doppes v. Bentley Motors

June 8, 2009

AUGUST B. DOPPES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
BENTLEY MOTORS, INC., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



Appeal from a postjudgment order of the Superior Court of Orange County, William M. Monroe, Judge. Affirmed. Motion to dismiss appeal. Denied. (Super. Ct. No. 04CC06715).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fybel, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

INTRODUCTION

August B. Doppes purchased a Bentley automobile that produced an obnoxious odor in its interior. He prevailed at trial against Bentley Motors, Inc. (Bentley), on claims for violation of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code, § 1790 et seq.), breach of express warranty, and breach of implied warranty. The judgment awarded Doppes reimbursement concurrent with his return of the car to Bentley and prejudgment interest at an annual rate of 7 percent.

Bentley did not appeal from the judgment. Instead, eight months after its entry, Bentley filed a motion to set aside the judgment under Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (d) on the ground it was void. Bentley argued the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction by awarding prejudgment interest because the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act does not permit its recovery. The trial court denied the motion, and Bentley appealed.

We hold the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act permits recovery of prejudgment interest under Civil Code section 3287. The trial court, therefore, did not exceed its jurisdiction by awarding prejudgment interest and did not err by denying Bentley‟s motion to set aside the judgment. Accordingly, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In April 2002, Doppes purchased a new 2001 model year Bentley Arnage automobile from Newport Auto Center (NAC). Soon after purchasing the automobile, he noticed an "obnoxious odor" in its interior. At Doppes‟s request, NAC tried unsuccessfully to repair the car on several occasions, resulting in the car being out of service for 171 days. Doppes demanded that Bentley repurchase or replace the car or make restitution in accordance with Civil Code section 1793.2, subdivision (d)(2), part of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Bentley refused.

In 2004, after a Better Business Bureau hearing, Doppes filed his initial complaint against Bentley and NAC. The operative complaint became the third amended complaint, which alleged causes of action against Bentley for damages and civil penalties under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of fitness, and fraudulent concealment. The third amended complaint sought damages of no less than $192,736.49, civil penalties of two times the amount of actual damages, punitive damages, rescission, prejudgment interest, and attorney fees.

A jury found that Bentley violated the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and concealed a material fact, but found that neither the violation nor the concealment was intentional. The jury also found Bentley breached express and implied warranties. The jury awarded Doppes $214,300 as reimbursement for a new vehicle and $100,000 for breach of express and implied warranties.

Doppes submitted a proposed judgment under which he elected to receive $214,300 in exchange for returning the Bentley automobile. The proposed judgment included prejudgment interest from the date of purchase of the automobile in April 2002 to the date of entry of judgment at the annual rate of 7 percent. Bentley filed objections to the proposed judgment, supported by a memorandum of points and authorities arguing Doppes was not entitled to prejudgment interest.

On March 14, 2007, the trial court conducted a hearing on Bentley‟s objections to the proposed judgment. The court stated, "I think Doppes is entitled to prejudgment interest."

The judgment, entered in March 2007, awarded Doppes $214,300 as reimbursement concurrent with his return of the Bentley automobile and prejudgment interest at a 7 percent annual rate. Bentley did not file a postjudgment motion to vacate ...


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