SPOKANE, Wash. (Aug. 1, 2002)—Weeks after a jury awarded nearly a half-million dollars to Alton's Automotive Centers Inc. for fraud and a Consumer Protection Act violation committed by Louisville, Ky.-based Challenger Lifts Inc., Spokane Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor has upped the ante.
After denying Challenger's request for a new trial, on July 26 Judge O'Connor awarded Spokane-based Alton's Automotive an additional $10,000 in treble damages, along with attorney fees and costs of $66,120 in the aftermath of its civil lawsuit against Challenger. The amended judgment pushed the original $454,168 awarded by the jury June 5 to a total of $530,288.
“We're satisfied with the amount the jury awarded,” said Matthew Alton, general manager of Alton's. “We thought they did a good job in determining the amount. We demonstrated the amount of the loss, the lost profits and the replacement costs. They gave us everything we asked for, less about $4,000.”
Challenger would not answer questions about the case, but released a statement pronouncing the company's intention to appeal.
Noting the action is still in litigation, the statement said: “Even though the jury at the trial court level rendered a judgment, we do not believe the evidence supported their verdict. Challenger is in the process of appealing this decision.”
The case surrounded seven Challenger HPLV 881 Envirolifts—a two-post design model Mr. Alton claimed was never tested or installed in the ground before his company got them in 1998. Alton's had problems with the lifts and, according to Mr. Alton, made more than 70 service calls while trying to retrofit them. Without being specific, he said the lifts simply never worked properly.
The company has used other Challenger products, Mr. Alton said, and had no problems. Despite that and in light of the litigation, he said it is unlikely the two companies will be doing any more business. Alton's is in the process of replacing the lifts with a product from Nussbaum Lifts GmbH.
It took just under two hours for the Superior Court jury to unanimously rule against Kentucky-based Challenger, which is why Mr. Alton believes an appeal, if heard, will be unsuccessful.
“The jury agreed with us that Challenger committed fraud. They misrepresented their products,” he said. “They discontinued selling them after we purchased them. I feel the jury was correct and the appellate court will determine that the jury ruled correctly. I find it difficult to believe that any jury out there would overturn a fraud conviction.”
Alton's has 13 stores in the Spokane area. It is a full-service tire and automotive chain that employs more than 100 and sells Dayton, Bridgestone, BFGoodrich and Yokohama brand tires.