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Gonzalo Rojas v. Platinum Auto Group

January 15, 2013


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Jacqueline A. Connor, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. SC112226)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rubin, Acting P. J.


Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Gonzalo Rojas appeals from the court's judgment sustaining without leave to amend the first demurrers filed by defendants. We reverse as to defendants Platinum Auto Group, Inc., and Topaz Financial, Inc., affirm as to defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, and remand for further proceedings.


On September 20, 2010, appellant Gonzalo Rojas bought a car from respondent Platinum Auto Group, Inc., doing business as Platinum Motors (Platinum), a car dealership in Marina Del Rey. Appellant put no cash down the day he bought the car. Instead, he made a deferred down payment over the next three months consisting of four payments totaling $2,000: $1,000 on October 11, 2010; $500 on October 27, 2010; $250 on November 20, 2010; and, $250 on December 23, 2010.*fn2

When appellant bought the car, Platinum filled out a retail installment sales contract, a form required by the Rees-Levering Motor Vehicle Sales and Finance Act (Rees-Levering). (Civ. Code, §§ 2981 et seq., 2981.9.)*fn3 The sales contract contained a section for Platinum to enter information about the down payment. Platinum should have entered appellant's $2,000 down payment on Line 6D of that section, labeled "Deferred Down Payment." Instead, Platinum deliberately entered "$2,000" on Line 6G, labeled "Remaining Cash Down Payment," to indicate a $2,000 cash payment by appellant at the time of sale.

Six months later in April 2011, appellant filed his complaint at issue here. He alleged Platinum's mischaracterization of his down payment violated Rees-Levering, which requires a detailed and truthful itemization of appellant's down payment. (§ 2982, subd. (a)(6).) Appellant's complaint named as defendants respondents Platinum and Topaz Financial Inc. (Topaz), the lender to whom Platinum had assigned the sales contract.*fn4 In addition to alleging a cause of action for violation of Rees-Levering, appellant alleged Platinum's deliberate mischaracterization of appellant's down payment violated the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (Civ. Code, § 1750 et seq.), and constituted an unfair business practice in violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200.

Platinum demurred to appellant's complaint. Platinum noted that appellant did not allege that Platinum had misstated essential terms of the sale, such as the car's purchase price or the terms of appellant's auto loan from Topaz. Platinum asserted that its entering the $2,000 figure on the wrong line of the sales contract was merely a technical violation which did not support a cause of action. Moreover, according to Platinum, appellant benefitted from drawing out his down payment into four deferred payments because it eased any cash flow crunch he might have suffered if he had been forced to pay the entire $2,000 down payment at the time of sale. Topaz joined Platinum's demurrer.

The trial court sustained the demurrers without leave to amend. The court concluded Platinum's mischaracterization of appellant's down payment was not actionable. The court's order sustaining the demurrers stated the "Court finds that PLATINUM's sole fault was in failing to list [appellant's down] payment as 'deferred' three lines above in Item 6(d) instead of 6(g), a defect which, under these circumstances, may properly be characterized as 'trivial'." Additionally, the court concluded appellant suffered no actual loss from the mischaracterization. The court found, "There is no allegation that PLATINUM's alleged mischaracterization of the down payment . . . resulted in any damage or monetary loss to [appellant]." The court reasoned that "even if the parties' agreement had properly listed the $2,000 as a 'Deferred Down Payment,' [appellant] would be in the exact same position as he is now. There is nothing to show how listing the $2,000 as a 'Remaining Cash Down Payment' versus a 'Deferred Down Payment' altered the parties' deal to [appellant's] detriment." This appeal followed.*fn5


"A demurrer must assume the truth of a complaint's properly pleaded allegations." (Century-National Ins. Co. v. Garcia (2011) 51 Cal.4th 564, 566, fn. 1.) "We treat [a] demurrer as admitting all material facts properly pleaded, but not contentions, deductions or conclusions of fact or law. [Citation.] We also consider matters which may be judicially noticed.' [Citation.] Further, we give the complaint a reasonable interpretation, reading it as a whole and its parts in their context. [Citation.] When a demurrer is sustained, we determine whether the complaint states facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. [Citation.] And when it is sustained without leave to amend, we decide whether there is a reasonable possibility that the defect can be cured by amendment . . . ." (Blank v. Kirwan (1985) 39 Cal.3d, 311, 318.)*fn6


A. Complaint Stated a Cause of Action for Violation ...

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