Consumer Protection

Litigation Shenanigans & the Attorney Fee Multiplier-What You Need to Know

Most consumer and personal injury lawyers represent clients based on a contingency fee agreement. That means that the attorney will not get paid unless the client receives a settlement, award, or judgment in their favor. Many firms and attorneys defending lawsuits charge by the hour. They are then paid monthly by the corporate defendant or insurance company. This can often result in defense lawyers using tactics that are meant to drain the plaintiff’s attorney’s time, money, and resources in an effort to force the plaintiff to settle or divert the plaintiff’s lawyers attention from the issues in the case. These tactics can come at a price though, and an unpublished Ninth Circuit opinion sheds some light on the remedy available to a party who is subjected to litigation shenanigans. In Beck v. Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co., No. 16-35816 (9th Cir. June 5, 2018) the Ninth Circuit approved an attorney fee multiplier of 2.0 due to the defendant’s litigation tactics. What this means is that the plaintiff’s lawyers attorney fee claim of $597,669.25 was doubled to $1,195,398.50 “due to the nature of this case and the conduct of Metropolitan and its Counsel.” Beck v. Metropolitan Prop. and Casualty Insurance Company,. 3:13-cv-00879-AC pg 44. (Dist. Or. Sept. 16, 2016)

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You are probably wondering how was the plaintiff able to force the defendant Insurance company to pay double the amount of her attorney fees. Thankfully, John Acosta, United States Magistrate Judge, drafted a 56 page order that provides a clear road map for lawyers who are seeking an attorney fee multiplier in Oregon. In this breach of insurance contract case, Judge Acosta addressed the legal standard that permitted the plaintiff to seek fees under ORS 742.061 (whether or not the plaintiff satisfied the “proof of loss requirement). Judge Acosta found the plaintiff had satisfied the proof of loss requirement under ORS 742.061. As a result the defendant was forced to pay plaintiff’s reasonable attorney fees. The question then became, What is the reasonable amount of fees?

The Judge used the ORS 20.075(1) and (2) factors to determine what was reasonable. First, the Judge rejected defendant Metropolitan’s argument that the ORS 20.075(1) factors apply only to the court’s determination whether to award fees and not the amount of fees, and not to the reasonableness of the fees.. In doing so, the court provided clear guidance that both ORS 20.075(1) and ORS 20.075(2) factors are to be used to determine the reasonable amount of attorney fees to award.

The Court then delved into the factors under ORS 20.075(1). The court evaluated the parties’ respective pre-litigation conduct and did not look kindly at Metropolitan’s attempts to resolve the case on unilaterally established terms. The court also looked at the objective reasonableness of the claims and defenses asserted by the parties under ORS 20.075(1)(b). In addressing that factor the court acknowledged that the case was a simple breach of contract case. However, the defense asserted unreasonable defenses in its answer, and advanced unreasonable arguments to use as the equivalent of defenses. For example the defense asserted a merit-less “Fraud” defense. This is a common defense tactic in consumer cases, and the court did not take kindly to it. The Court then delved into the various other ORS 20.075(1) factors and found they either weighed in plaintiff’s favor or they did not apply.

The court then turned to the ORS 20.075(2) factors. The court did a fantastic job concisely addressing each of the numerous factors. In doing so, the court addressed the prevailing market rates for legal services in the relevant community. In this case the plaintiff’s attorneys submitted expert declarations as expert evidence of the plaintiff’s attorneys’ skill and experience in insurance law and to support the hourly rates she requested. The court used the expert opinions and the 2017 Oregon State Bar Economic Survey to assist in establishing the attorneys’ respective hourly rates.

The court also addressed whether the fee is fixed or contingent factor under ORS 20.075(2)(h). The plaintiff’s lawyer initially worked under an hourly fee and then transferred to a contingency fee. The Beck case is similar to many consumer cases, because the defense used tactics which made it impossible for the plaintiff to pay the lawyer an hourly rate. However, the firm representing Ms. Beck continued to be able to do so under a contingency fee agreement. The court noted that the defense’s litigation strategy increased the risk to Beck’s attorneys that they might not be fully compensated for their time, and that factor weighed in favor of an attorney fee award.

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The court then addressed the attorney fee multiplier. The court noted, “Oregon law permits an enhancement of fees when it is supported by the facts and circumstances of the case. See Griffin v. TriMet, 112 Or. App. 575, 585 (1992) aff’d in part and rev’d in part, 318 Or. 500 (1994) (approving trial court award of 2.0 multiplier).” The court then spent significant time addressing the facts leading up to the litigation and the defense’s litigation tactics. The court noted that the defense’s efforts to attempt to obtain irrelevant evidence through the discovery process, using theories that lacked any relevance, and the defenses disorganized or deliberately untimely approach to raising various issues resulted in the plaintiff incurring fees for having to respond to both the substance of the issues and their “procedural infirmity.”

However, the court limited the 2.0 multiplier to the fees the plaintiff only incurred during the litigation. The court concluded that pre-litigation fees that were incurred were not subject to the multiplier because the defense’s litigation counsel played no role in the parties’ negotiations.

Judge Acosta did a magnificent job in providing a road map and guidance for future litigants facing a defendant who desires to engage in litigation shenanigans in a fee shifting case. Hopefully the opinion will have a deterrent effect and help litigants combat litigation shenanigans. The opinion is also a fantastic example of the various issues a fee petition should address and the arguments a fee seeking party may face. Lastly, the opinion is an excellent example of the facts and factors the court looks to when deciding if a fee multiplier is appropriate in a particular case.

If you are having an issue with an insurance company or have questions about attorney fees, call Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658. Ross Law PDX represents people in various claims against their insurance companies Ross LAW PDX is happy to represent Oregonians in Personal Injury Protection Insurance disputes, and claims for Uninsured Motorist Benefits and Under-insured Motorist benefits. Please remember the law is constantly changing and to not solely rely on this post.


Oregon Women Pay More For Car Insurance Than Oregon Men! Here is Why...

As an Oregon Personal Injury Lawyer and Consumer Lawyer, I am regularly asked by people if making a claim to their auto insurance will cause their insurance rates to go up. This is not an easy question to answer, because Insurance Companies are for profit businesses. As a result, Insurers are going to do what they feel is necessary in order to make a profit unless regulators or attorneys’ stop them. For example, GEICO was ordered to pay $23,000,000.00 to one of their insureds for GEICO failing to pay benefits, and denying payments on a whim. State Farm agreed to pay its customers $250,000,000 (That is not a typo) in order to avoid a racketeering trial in which customers claimed that State Farm was rigging an election for a Judge that had made favorable rulings for State Farm. USAA agreed to pay $39,000,000.00 to settle a lawsuit filed by its insureds (Veterans, Active Duty Military, and their families). These cases are evidence that some Insurance Companies are willing to skirt the law and disregard the moral high-ground in an effort to make a profit. Another example of insurers putting profit over people is how insurance companies are charging Oregon women more than Oregon men for auto insurance.

A recent study by an insurance search engine, The Zebra, found that Oregon women’ paid roughly $70.00 more for auto insurance last year than men did. A recent Pew Research study also came to the same conclusions on a national level. The studies found certain states prohibit gender based pricing, but Oregon is not one of them. What this means is that Insurers are at liberty to charge women more for insurance than men, and they do not have to have any justification for doing so.

The statistics support the fact that Oregon insurance companies are charging dramatically different rates for women than men. In 2016, insurers charged Oregon women $13.00 more for auto insurance than men. However, in 2018 that number inexplicably jumped to women paying $71.00 more for auto insurance than men. Does that mean that women are more dangerous on the road than men if insurers are charging them more? The answer is no.

The data does not support the Insurance Industry’s decisions to charge women more for car insurance in 25 States. The Zebra study affirmed that women and men equally engage in distracted driving, so that could not be a basis to charge women more. Additionally, fatality statistics do not support the insurance industry’s decision to overcharge Oregon women for car insurance. For example, men are the drivers in the vast majority of fatal Driving Under the Influence (DUII) crashes. Men also cause more speed related wrongful deaths on the road. The statistics show that men are riskier to insure than women.

Additionally, different companies charge different rates to similarly situated women throughout the country. For example, State Farm charged middle aged women the same as men. However, GEICO charged middle aged women 16% more than men. This is an important statistic. If insurance companies rates reflect the risk of a particular demographic of drivers then there would not be such a large disparity between the rates particular insurance companies are charging.

Then why are insurance companies charging women the so called “pink tax” to insure their vehicles? Why have the number of states where women pay more than men doubled in the past two years? The answer is simple, profits. The insurance industry is operating in a relaxed regulatory environment that permits them to take actions that will make their companies more profitable, even if that means imposing the “pink tax” on women.

For example, the insurance industry knows that Oregon does not have a bad faith claim, and Insurance Companies are specifically exempted from Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA). The UTPA is a law that provides consumers a remedy if consumers are ripped off by a business. However, the insurance industry lobbied the legislature to be exempted from that law. As a result the insurance industry knows they are likely immune from any real consequences of arbitrarily charging women more for insurance than men.

Despite the insurance industry’s protections, here at Ross Law we will sue insurance companies if a person has been wronged by an insurer and there is a recognized legal remedy for that person. For example we regularly sue insurance companies on behalf of people whose automobile insurers deny paying personal injury protection benefits. We also sue insurance companies to collect uninsured and under-insured motorist benefits. Ross Law has also sued insurance companies for denying insurance coverage for a car crash.

If you or someone you know has an issue with an auto insurance company please call Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658 for your free case evaluation. Ross Law PDX is happy to represent Oregonians in many types insurance disputes.

Please note that Ross Law PDX is not affiliated with The Zebra or the Pew Research Center. Please refer to the links in the article for the most accurate information. Please note that this blog may be considered attorney advertising and expresses the opinions of this law office. Please remember that the law is constantly changing and insurance issues are usually very complicated. Please consult with an Oregon attorney if you have a dispute with an Oregon insurer. Do not simply rely on this blog post.




3 Things Oregon Car Buyer's Should Know Before Going to the Dealer

As an Oregon Consumer Lawyer I regularly sue Car Dealerships on behalf of people that get ripped off. Some Car Dealers have perfected the art of bamboozling customers in an effort to squeeze every penny out of the deal. Some dealers do such a masterful job, that most consumers feel powerless even though something “doesn’t feel right.” However, Car Buyers do have rights and can assert those rights. Here are 3 tips to help you Protect Yourself from a Car Dealer:

1) Read the Documents: It is a no brainer that you should read what you are signing. However, dealers use tactics to prevent this. Dealers are trained to keep their hands on the documents and point where to sign while engaging in conversation with you. You can protect yourself by asking the dealer to step out of the office or away from the desk and give you time to read the documents. You can also politely ask the dealer to stop talking as you are going through the documents, and remind them that you are trying to focus. There is never enough time to read all of the small print. However, before you sign the documents you should have an understanding of the major aspects of the deal.

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2) Shop Based on Total Sale Price: Many people purchase cars solely based on the monthly payments. Focusing on monthly payments puts the consumer at a disadvantage because the dealer can tweak the financing and price of add-ons to keep the monthly payments roughly the same, but the actual amount financed of the vehicle is substantially higher. You can protect yourself by shopping based on the “Total Sale Price” of the vehicle. That price is located on the truth in lending act disclosures that the dealer requires you to sign.

3) Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away If Something Doesn’t Feel Right: If you think the dealer is trying to take advantage of you then walk away. Dealers use long delays to exhaust buyers so that the dealer can get them to rush through signing the paperwork. You can combat this by giving them a certain amount of time to prepare the documents or you walk. You can also walk out if you get the sense that the dealer is trying to pull a fast one or take advantage of you.

If you or someone you know has been ripped off by a car dealer please call Ross Law PDX at 503.224.1658. Oregon Consumer Lawyer Jeremiah Ross has represented numerous consumers who have been victims of auto fraud, unlawful car sales, and vehicle financing schemes. Please remember that rules and laws are constantly changing. PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE ARE NUMEROUS OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM BEING RIPPED OFF (Vehicle inspections, taking financing documents home, pre-loan approval, etc.) These are simply three basic tips. Please contact a lawyer or refer to the law rather than simply relying on this post. This post could be considered ATTORNEY ADVERTISING.

5 Things Oregon Car Buyers Should Know About "Add-Ons" & 3 Car Buying Tips

You spent days looking for the perfect vehicle. You finally find it, and the $280.00 per month payment is just what you were looking for. The dealer then offers you more than expected for your barely running trade in. Things are going great! The car buying process is taking forever, but you don’t mind because the dealer seems so nice. He is talking about the weekend he had with his kids and his young family. The dealer is in and out of the office. He blames the delay on a a back-log in financing. Hours later he walks in with a stack of “routine” documents that need to be signed so you can purchase and finance the vehicle.

The dealer says that the lender requires that you purchase a warranty and GAP insurance. He explains this is required, and that because you are getting such a great price on the car it will have little effect on the monthly payment. The dealer then starts to present each document and points out where you should sign while keeping one hand on the document and talking about his recent trip to Mt. Hood. The dealer apologizes for the delay and shakes your hand. You drive off the lot with a big grin on your face.

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When you get home that big grin quickly turns to a frown once you review the paperwork. It is at that time that you notice the dealer charged you $3,000.00 for the required GAP insurance. You don’t know what GAP insurance is, but he said it was required. You also notice that the car is under factory warranty but you paid $2,000.00 for a service contract that covers the same thing as the warranty. This $15,000.00 car has now become $20,000.00. You also notice the increased monthly payments were the agreed $315.00, but instead of a 48 month loan you have a 60 month loan. You call the dealer and he says he will look into it and call you back. After that first call, the dealer won’t take your calls anymore. Unfortunately this unlawful scenario is all too common. However, consumers can mitigate their chances of being ripped off if they educate themselves about “add-ons.” Here are five things Oregon consumers should know about add-ons before they buy a car:

1) What are Vehicle Add-Ons: Vehicle add-ons are the extra goods, services, and accessories the dealer sells you in addition to the vehicle. Common add-ons are service contracts, pre-paid maintenance plans, extended warranties, GAP insurance, rust proofing, VIN etching, anti-theft devices, fabric protection, nitrogen in tires, window tinting, chrome-plated wheels, all-season floor mats, splash guards, wheel locks, cargo trays and alarm systems. These add-ons will almost always increase the price of the vehicle.

2) Dealers Can Make a Significant Profit on Add Ons: Dealers do not typically make a large profit on simply selling a vehicle. A dealer can substantially increase their profit if they are able to sell you add-ons. This is why they may be willing to substantially drop the asking price of the vehicle or increase your trade in value. This gives the illusion that you are getting a great deal when in reality you are being over-charged for the add-ons. Dealers are willing to drop the price of the vehicle if they can make up the difference by selling over-priced add-ons. For example the dealer may charge you $2,500.00 for GAP insurance. The dealer then only pays GAP insurance company $500.00 for your GAP insurance policy. The dealer will then keep the $2,000.00 as her profit. This is important to know If you want to purchase an add-on, because there is usually room to negotiate with the dealer.

3) Dealers Cannot Charge an Unconscionable Price for Add-Ons: Oregon law prevents the dealer from making false or misleading representation about the amount charged for add-ons that are sold with the vehicle by selling them at a price which is unconscionably higher than the price typically sold to customers. See OAR 137-020-0020 (3)(f). What this means is that the dealer cannot sell VIN etching for one customer for $50.00 and then sell the same product/service to you for $1,500.00.

4) Dealers Cannot Require You to Purchase Add-Ons in Order to Finance the Vehicle: Oregon law prohibits dealers from informing consumers that the dealer won’t sell the vehicle or obtain financing for the vehicle unless the consumer purchases add-ons, accessories, or insurance. See OAR 137-020-0020 (3)(L)&(v). The dealer can ensure that the consumer has liability insurance that is required by law, but cannot condition the sale based on the consumer purchasing that insurance from the dealer, GAP insurance, or other products or services. To put it another way, you do not have to buy any add-ons in order to buy the car.

5) The Dealer Must Be Up Front About the Cost of the Add-Ons and the Price of the Vehicle: Dealers often try and pack add-ons into the price of the vehicle. This enables them to conceal the actual price of the add-ons. This is called “packing” and it is unlawful. The law requires that during negotiations the dealer cannot quote monthly payments or the total sale price of the vehicle with the add-ons included unless the dealer clearly and separately delivers in writing, during negotiations and prior to any purchase order, the individual price of the add-ons, and the total costs without the items included. See OAR 137-020-0020 (3)(m). What this means is that during negotiations the dealer should provide you something in writing noting the total cost of the vehicle and the monthly payments without any of the add-ons included. The dealers should also provide you the individual price of each add on.

How Can You Protect Yourself from a Car Dealer?

1) Read the Documents: It is a no brainer that you should read what you are signing. However, dealers use tactics to prevent this. Dealers are trained to keep their hands on the documents and point where to sign while engaging in conversation with you. You can protect yourself by asking the dealer to step out of the office or away from the desk and give you time to read the documents. You can also politely ask the dealer to stop talking as you are going through the documents, and remind them that you are trying to focus. There is never enough time to read all of the small print. However, before you sign the documents you should have an understanding of the major aspects of the deal.

2) Shop Based on Total Sale Price: Many people purchase cars solely based on the monthly payments. Focusing on monthly payments puts the consumer at a disadvantage because the dealer can tweak the financing and price of add-ons to keep the monthly payments roughly the same, but the actual amount financed of the vehicle is substantially higher. You can protect yourself by shopping based on the “Total Sale Price” of the vehicle. That price is located on the truth in lending act disclosures that the dealer requires you to sign.

3) Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away If Something Doesn’t Feel Right: If you think the dealer is trying to take advantage of you then walk away. Dealers use long delays to exhaust buyers so that the dealer can get them to rush through signing the paperwork. You can combat this by giving them a certain amount of time to prepare the documents or you walk. You can also walk out if you get the sense that the dealer is trying to pull a fast one or take advantage of you.

Add-ons may be a good deal for some people, but buyers should beware. Selling add-ons is a fertile area where dealers can increase their profits on a deal substantially. That means the consumer will end up paying more unless they understand what they are purchasing and the amount they are paying.

If you or someone you know has been ripped off by a car dealer please call Ross Law PDX at 503.224.1658. Oregon Consumer Lawyer Jeremiah Ross has represented numerous consumers who have been victims of auto fraud, unlawful car sales, and vehicle financing schemes. Please remember that rules and laws are constantly changing. Please contact a lawyer or refer to the law rather than simply relying on this post. This post could be considered ATTORNEY ADVERTISING.


Ross Law Files Lawsuit Against Ontario Auto Ranch for Unlawful Vehicle Sale

Ross Law PDX recently filed a lawsuit in Malheur County Circuit Court against Ontario Auto Ranch for an unlawful “Yo-Yo” sale of a vehicle. This is one of the more egregious “Yo-Yo” sales that we have seen in years.

Yo-Yo scams go by a few different terms (spot delivery, bushing scams), but essentially the scam goes like this: The dealership informs the consumer that their financing has been approved and the deal is done. The consumer then drives the vehicle off the lot and is under the impression it is theirs.

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Days, weeks, or months later, the dealership calls the consumer and tells the consumer that the financing did not go through. The dealership will then claim they can obtain financing for the vehicle, but they will either need more money for a down payment, or they have to change the financing terms, or both. This puts the consumer in a difficult spot, because the consumer is under the impression the vehicle was theirs. Consumers don’t want to have to explain to friends and family that they had to return the vehicle because they couldn’t get it financed. Dealers know this, and capitalize on the consumer’s fears to get the consumer to agree to new less favorable financing terms. This allows the dealership to squeeze more money out of the consumer.

Yo-Yo sales are legal. However, the law requires the dealership to comply with certain deadlines and make certain disclosures in order to make a Yo-Yo sale legal. For example, the dealership has 14 days from the date the consumer takes possession of the vehicle to find the consumer financing or inform the consumer that financing under the original terms could not be obtained. During this 14-day period the dealership cannot sell the Trade-In vehicle. Additionally, if the dealership cannot obtain vehicle financing under the original terms, then the dealership must offer to immediately return any vehicle traded in and any cash down payment. If the dealership fails to do this, they have broken the law.

Usually there are other legal violations that flow out of these unlawful sales. Truth In Lending Act violations are common, unlawful “payment packing” is also common, and there will often be unlawful attempts to conceal negative equity or inflate cash down payments in an effort to obtain financing from the lender. This is what we allege Ontario Auto Ranch has done.

Ontario Auto Ranch is a large auto dealership in Ontario, Oregon. Auto Ranch sold our client a 2015 Ford truck in June 2018. Auto Ranch orchestrated the deal so that our client would trade in two vehicles for the Ford truck, and the dealership would obtain financing for the Ford Truck. Our client took possession of the vehicle in June 2018 and the dealership informed our client the financing had been approved. At that time, the dealership took possession of the 2 trade in vehicles.

One of the trade-ins was a 2017 Dodge truck, the other was an 2011 Ford. The Dodge was financed and the consumer owed more than the Dodge was worth. (negative equity) The financing documents do not note the Dodge had any negative equity, so it appears that the dealership gave our client cash for the 2011 Ford and applied that amount to the “Trade-In value” of the Dodge. The financing documents are silent on the amount the dealer paid our client for the 2011 Ford. This allowed the dealership to conceal the Dodge’s negative equity and make it appear the dealership paid more for the Dodge than they actually did.

The Retail Installment Contract was also silent as to “Theft Protection” and “Pre-Paid Maintenance.” Dealerships make significant profits on these additional products. However, these products appear on our client’s “Motor Vehicle Purchase Agreement.” It appears these products were unlawfully rolled into the purchase price of the vehicle, and were not disclosed in accordance with the law.

After the purchase of the Ford Truck, our client continued to contact Ontario Auto Ranch. He wanted to know where he would send his monthly payments to. Ontario Auto Ranch informed him that the vehicle financing was being processed and blamed the delay on the Credit Union.

Six weeks after our client took possession of the vehicle, Ontario Auto Ranch finally informed our client that they were having difficulty financing the vehicle due to a paperwork error. In August 2018, the dealership demanded our client sign a new Retail Installment Contract with new financing terms. Auto Ranch again failed to disclose the Dodge’s negative equity and there is no mention of the 2011 Ford on the August Retail Installment Contract. However, this time the dealership noted on the Retail Installment Contract that there was $299.00 paid to an entity for “Maintenance.” Similar to the June 2018 sale, our client was instructed where to sign and did so based on the dealer’s representations.

Our client continued to call Auto Ranch in August and September 2018. At this point, our client had the vehicle for roughly three months. However, Ontario Auto Ranch gave him the run-around and would not provide a clear answer on the status of the financing. In September, Ontario Auto Ranch asserted the loan needed to be re-submitted to the bank.

Later in September, the dealership informed our client that it was unable to obtain funding for the Ford’s loan under the terms of the agreement. Auto Ranch informed our client that a different bank could finance the deal, but at a substantially higher interest rate. Shortly thereafter, Auto Ranch informed our client that the options were: 1) sign a new financing contract with a higher interest rate, or 2) Auto Ranch would repossess the Ford. Auto Ranch never informed our client whether or not he could obtain his trade-ins back. In October 2018, our client contacted Ontario Auto Ranch in an effort to determine the status of financing. The dealership has yet to get back to him or contact Ross Law.

As a result, our client had no choice but to file a lawsuit against the dealership. This type of scam is all too common. However, it rarely gets to this point. As you can imagine this has been extremely frustrating and difficult for our client. We are eager to force the dealership to attempt to justify their actions and hopefully Auto Ranch will learn from this lawsuit.

FOR A FULL FACTUAL BASIS FOR THIS POST SEE: Malheur County Circuit Court Case 18CV55364. If you, or someone you know, has been ripped off by a car dealers, call Ross Law PDX at 503.224.1658. Jeremiah Ross represents consumers throughout the state of Oregon. Please note that this litigation is evolving and refer to the Court’s file for updated information, and this post is based on current information as we know it. The dealership may have a different version of events, and we look forward to hearing those.

Jeremiah Ross Votes to Approve The 2018 Final Report on the Task Force on Autonomous Vehicle

After numerous meetings, hours of reviewing documents, and collaborating and discussing issues with others, Oregon’s Task for On Autonomous Vehicles unanimously voted to approve a 2018 Final Report to the Oregon State Legislature. I was honored to represent consumers on this committee and protect their interests on the Liability and Insurance Sub-Committee. In addition to myself there was only one other personal injury lawyer on the committee and I was proud to be the only Consumer lawyer on the committee. The Report will now be forwarded to the Legislature to assist them in formulating laws and policies regarding Oregon’s Autonomous Vehicles. Click here to review the full task force on Autonomous Vehicles 2018 Final Report.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a crash with an Autonomous Vehicle Call Oregon Personal Injury and Consumer& Auto Fraud Attorney Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658 or Ross Law LLC. Please remember this post is for informational purposes only and that it can be considered ATTORNEY ADVERTISING.

Beware Oregon Car Buyers! Hurricane Season Means Flood Car Season

Hurricane Florence is currently pummeling the Carolina Coast.  Buckets of rain have fallen and are expected to continue to fall over the next couple of days.  Major cities are predicted to flood.  People have left their homes in search of safety until the rain and flooding subsides.  Once the rain stops the clean up will begin. Katrina and Sandy have taught us that clean up can take years.  There are entire industries dedicated to natural disaster clean up. Of particular concern is the industry that has evolved to remove and resell the hundreds of thousands of flood vehicles that will eventually be sold to unwary Oregonians.

Flood vehicles” are vehicles that have been in flood areas and the vast majority of them have been partially submerged for a period of time.  Flood vehicles can develop terrible mechanical and electrical issues even though they may look great.  I have litigated cases involving Hurricane Sandy cars being sold in, or through, Oregon.  Throughout that litigation, I learned how thousands of cars get out of the flood zone and are resold throughout the country.  

First, an insurance company representative typically will go through neighborhoods seeking out homes and vehicles that are insured by their insurance company.  The insurance company employee, or subcontractor, then briefly inspects the vehicle.  The insurance company often renders the vehicle a total loss on the spot.  Then the insurance company immediately initiates the process to total the vehicle and title it as a Flood Vehicle. The vehicles are then transported from the neighborhood to a large holding area.  Thousands of vehicles are then auctioned off and sold around the Country and the world.  Some of the vehicles will wind up in Oregon.

Prior to coming to Oregon, some of the titles may be washed.  Title Washing is a process where a vehicle with a branded title, such as a Flood Vehicle, will be titled in a state that may issue a clean title to that vehicle. Then the vehicle is re-sold and may wind up at your local used car dealer.  The new Title will not be a "branded" or a "Flood" title, so consumers will not be alerted the vehicle will likely have serious electrical or mechanical issues.  

Some dealers will rip consumers off in a more brazen fashion.  These dealers simply take the consumer's money and then provide the branded title after the funds have cleared. Then the dealer claims they informed the buyer that the vehicle was a flood vehicle.  Dealers often have unwary consumers sign a piece of paper noting the vehicle maybe a flood or salvaged vehicle, However, the dealer will simply state this is a standard form.  Then once the salvaged title is provided to the consumer, the dealer uses the document as a defense to claim the consumer knew of the branded title.

Buyers need to beware of flood vehicles over the next few years.   If a consumer unknowingly purchases a flood vehicle, then the seller may be liable for the violations of various State or Federal Laws.   

What you Can Do To Try And Ensure You Do Not Purchase a Flood Damaged Car:  It is important for Oregon Consumers to inspect any vehicle they may buy.  That great deal on Craigslist may actually be a terrible deal for a car that is plagued with electrical issues.   Oregonians should inspect the vehicle.  Consumers should examine underneath the vehicle to ensure there are not any mineral deposits, a "silt line," or significant mud.  The headlights may have mud or debris lines inside of them.  The interior and trunk should be inspected for any discoloration that indicates flooding.  If the vehicle smells funny (either of mold or heavy chemicals) that may be an indication of flooding.  The consumer should turn on and off all of the lights and radio, and operate any electrical features (windows, sunroof, rear windshield wiper)to ensure they all function properly.  

The consumer should also pull a title history report from Carfax or AutoCheck to determine: 1) if the vehicle has a branded title, and 2) to determine if the vehicle is from the North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia.  However, these reports are not always accurate so they shouldn't solely be relied upon.   If the vehicle was bought or sold at a "Copart" auction yard that is a big red flag that the vehicle may have had a salvaged title, or had previously been total. These tips may assist consumers in protecting themselves from buying a flood car, but it may not completely protect car buyers.

If you, or someone you know, purchased a vehicle that you believe is a flood vehicle, lemon, or has a salvaged title, then call Jeremiah Ross for your free case evaluation.  Call Oregon Lemon Law and dealer fraud lawyer Ross Law PDX at 503.224.1658.  

Please remember this is attorney advertising.  Please do not solely rely on this post to obtain information to ensure you are not purchasing a flood vehicle. Have the vehicle checked by a mechanic and take other steps to ensure the vehicle is not a flood damaged vehicle. These are merely some steps that may protect Oregon car buyers.

Ross Law Filed 2 Lawsuits Last Month Against The Same Car Dealer

May was a busy month for Ross Law PDX.  We filed multiple lawsuits on behalf of personal injury clients and auto fraud and consumer clients.  It is rare to file multiple lawsuits against a single car dealer in a month, but it happened. We filed two lawsuits against Cascade Auto Inc alleging violations of Oregon's Unlawful Trade Practices Act and other statutory violations arising out of the purchase and sale of two separate motor vehicles.  Both of the lawsuits allege Cascade Auto Inc. sold a vehicle with a material defect that the dealer knew or should have known about.   One client was forced to file a lawsuit because Cascade Auto Inc. refused to honor the arbitration agreement they directed our client sign at the time of the vehicle purchase.   

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If you or someone you know was ripped off by an Oregon Car dealer call auto fraud and lemon law lawyer Jeremiah Ross.  Ross Law PDX represents consumers who have purchased lemons or vehicles with material defects, have been victims of yo-yo sales or other car financing schemes, and other cases involving the purchase and sale of a motor vehicle from an Oregon Car dealer.