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Mispresentation Case Defended on Misrepresentation Made in Good Faith

In the case of Borgen v. A&M Motors, Inc., the Alaska Supreme Court considered a consumer law case that will be of interest to those involved in the buying and selling of vessels and other transportation goods.


The issue presented to the Supreme Court in this case was whether under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, a misrepresentation by a seller of a used motor home is subject to a defense that the misrepresentation was made in good faith. The Plaintiff, Robert Borgen, bought a used Travelaire motor home from A&M Motors, Inc. in 2004. The motor home had previously been owned by Thom and Linda Janidlo; the Janidlos traded in the vehicle to A&M Motors about two weeks before Borgen bought it. When the Janidlos traded in the motor home, they indicated that it was a 2002 model. At some point, someone changed the model year to 2003 on the documents at A&M Motors. The title from the State of Alaska showed that the motor home was a 2003 model, but the vehicle identification number (VIN) indicated that the motor home was a 2002 model. Both trial experts testified that the tenth digit of a VIN of a chassis indicates the model year of the chassis, but their testimony as to whether the same holds true for the VIN of a coach was unclear. The VIN on the chassis is the VIN on the vehicle’s title, but a motor home’s model year is determined by the model year of the coach. A&M Motors sold the Travelaire to Borgen as a 2003 model. In August 2005, Borgen discovered documents in the motor home indicating the motor home was actually a 2002 model. He contacted A&M Motors to complain; the only compensation they offered him was a $1,000 service contract.

Borgen sued A&M Motors, pleading three causes of action: (1) misrepresentation, (2) violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA), and (3) breach of contract. Borgen moved for summary judgment on his UTPA claim in February 2008. The trial court denied that motion, and a jury ultimately decided that A&M Motors had not engaged in an unfair or deceptive act in its dealings with Borgen. Finding that the trial court did not err by finding the UTPA implied an unknowing affirmative misrepresentation of material fact would not give rise to liability, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment with respect to Borgen's UTPA claims, but remanded for further proceedings on treble damages.

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