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My fears confirmed today-my "clean Carfax" C350 has had bodywork...legal rights?

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My fears confirmed today-my "clean Carfax" C350 has had bodywork...legal rights?

 
Old 06-19-2010, 12:39 AM
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My fears confirmed today-my "clean Carfax" C350 has had bodywork...legal rights?

My fears were realized today...that odd spot in my door was a sign of past repair, extensive repair...now do I have any legal rights here? Or is it buyer beware? Any lawyers out there that can give me advice? Nevertheless I feel like I got screwed big time. Still love my car but it's flawed now. See my email to salesman below. We'll see how they respond...


Hello there, I bought my C350 from you last November and I'm enjoying the car more all the time. Now the bad news...I was shocked to learn today that my great pre-owned car that had a clean carfax (which you showed me at time of purchase) has had fairly extensive body work to the driver's side front quarter and both doors!

This was discovered today at Eveland Brothers autobody shop when I went in for a quote to have my scraped front bumper estimate (this was damaged also prior to me buying the car but I knew about it before the sale). I wanted to get it fixed because I'm super OCD about my cars especially my prized Mercedes. Well I had always wondered about this strange spot in my driver's door that looked like a run in the paint very low on the door. I always assumed that it was a factory paint defect but I thought I'd have an expert take a look while I was there. I was extremely disappointed to learn from the expert that there had been extensive body work done to the driver's side with a repaint (and very poorly done per Eveland Brothers). I told him how I thought it was a factory defect and he laughed saying that MB paint is always perfect and it was clear that a very shoddy repair job had been done on my car noticeable to anyone who does auto body repairs. To the OCD car guy this news SUCKS!

Not sure what MB of KC can do and I'm guessing your dealership probably will do nothing but I wanted you to be aware of this. A clean carfax should give piece of mind when buying a used car. I would not be surprised if this happened at a lower class dealership but at MB of KC?! This is the first used car that I've ever bought (all 4 prior cars were brand new). I only bought used this time because I felt that I was dealing with a very honest reputable dealership at MB of KC. Live and learn I guess or maybe you guys really didn't know. It's possible I guess but when your dealership buys a used car I'm sure that you check for past body repairs, right?

I planned on keeping this car a long time but now I'm not so sure, it is flawed in my opinion. And when I go to trade it in a couple of years I'm sure the body repair will be spotted by a trained eye at the dealership and I'll get screwed on trade-in value. Thus I will probably end up paying the $1500 someday to fix it if I can't unload it as is...

Up until this point I've had nothing but praise for your dealership and I've been treated very well by you, service, parts, etc. I want to do future business at MB of KC so I'm wondering if anything can be done? I don't expect the car to be fixed but seems like I'm owed something, eh? I mean indirectly or directly I was deceived here thinking that I bought a primo, accident-free, Mercedes-Benz...

To confirm my story call Eveland Brothers, I was there today, I think the estimator's name was Mark but not 100% sure. They will remember me for sure.

Thanks
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Old 06-19-2010, 01:13 AM
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Does MB have a certified pre-owned program that you went through? I would've gotten a 2nd opinion on that paint and then torn MB a new one (respectfully though) and see how they respond. Perhaps MB only goes by a carfax when they bring it in but regardless you were too soft on them by simply asking if anything further can be done. They will likely not do anything in your favor since they don't have to. An irate customer gets the most attention and I'd say you have a reason to be here. You've got nothing to lose and their feelings don't come first here - it is a lot of money.

Regardless, I hope they at least respond to you.

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Old 06-19-2010, 02:40 AM
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Very curious to see what their reply would be. Sorry to hear about your car. Hope you get it sorted out soon.
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Old 06-19-2010, 03:23 AM
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Interesting situation.

A bit of information that you're missing is how much the undisclosed damage and the cost to have it repaired will ultimately cost you.
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Old 06-19-2010, 07:29 AM
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The issue that surrounds legal action is, "was the accident reported or not". Car Fax does not guarantee if a accident was never reported. So you need to find out if there ever was a report on the accident or not.

Cars get into accidents all the time and people never report them, they just have their cars fixed. The issue in your favor is, if it was extensive damage there probably was a report by a insurance company. So you will have a little detective work to do. Good Luck

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Old 06-19-2010, 07:38 AM
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True, but if the damage repair was so poorly performed that an auto dealership should have known, then wouldn't they be obligated to disclose it?

That's probably what this will all hinge on.

And as someone else said about the OP, you're being too nice.

I'd also hold off doing any repairs to the car (damage wise) till you've had some time to digest this. You may be better off on forcing them to take the car back. Being OCD, its only a matter of time before you start wondering about other things about a car that they didn't disclose....and you're welcome for me pointing that out. sorry.
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Old 06-19-2010, 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by JimPap View Post
Interesting situation.

A bit of information that you're missing is how much the undisclosed damage and the cost to have it repaired will ultimately cost you.
$1500-$2000 was the estimate
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Old 06-19-2010, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by JimPap View Post
True, but if the damage repair was so poorly performed that an auto dealership should have known, then wouldn't they be obligated to disclose it?

That's probably what this will all hinge on.

And as someone else said about the OP, you're being too nice.

I'd also hold off doing any repairs to the car (damage wise) till you've had some time to digest this. You may be better off on forcing them to take the car back. Being OCD, its only a matter of time before you start wondering about other things about a car that they didn't disclose....and you're welcome for me pointing that out. sorry.
Thanks for your replies guys. When I wrote that email last night I was still pretty much in shock... I'm pissed as hell and they will know that soon. I guess I'm hoping they'll "do the right thing" and worried that ripping them a new one would not be in my best interest. I may have to meet with the dealership and I want to keep it "business-like" before I go crazy on their asses. I have a couple of friends who are new lawyers and I will run this by them to see if I have any rights as the customer. Yes I do wonder what else is wrong with this car now... It was not a CPO but only had 23K miles on it when I bought it. Runs great now but I am fearful that this thing is going to fall apart after the 50K mile warranty has passed. This is the most money I've ever spent on a car so I am going to try my best to get some resolution here. I'll keep you informed. And if there are any lawyers on the forum feel free to give me some advice.

Does anyone here know a lot about autobody repair? The estimator told me that some sort of "plastic" something had been done to the door panels. I cannot remember exactly what he called it but it had "plastic" in the terminology. He also mentioned pitting in the paint and a very poor clearcoat job, which I understand. But if anyone knows this plastic deal he was talking about please chime in, it can't be actual plastic in the bodywork right!?
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Old 06-19-2010, 09:33 AM
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At this point in time, $1500-$2000 is the measure of your damages. Particularly if the CarFax was provided by the selling dealership, your interest in purchasing an undamaged car was made clear. I would take the position that their CarFax was part of the sales documentation. You contracted with the dealer, not CarFax, so the burden of the "unreported accident" is between those two parties. The dealer used and relied upon CarFax to persuade you of the undamaged/repaired history of the car. The dealer either knew or (and this is the important phrase) "should have known" of the damage, as they are the experts who should have detected the condition of the car during their own pre-sale inspection. If you asked them if the car had any previous damage or repair and they said it did not, you can truthfully testify to any conversation on the subject. Although CarFax has exceptions for unreported accidents, the dealer, who had possession of the car, and opportunity to inspect, would be held to be the expert, so it should not be "caveat emptor" on that issue. I would make the point that if the dealer intends to rely on CarFax to represent the car as undamaged, they have a duty to also inspect the car to be sure there is no evidence of an unreported repair. Selling the car with undisclosed damage should be considered a "material misrepresentation", which suggests a deceptive practice on their part.

(What are the terms of the warranty? it's only been 7 months since sale.)

So, I would send a second letter, with a different approach. I would ask them to repair the poorly repaired damage which has only now revealed itself. The premise of this, as it is with all bodywork, is that repair to an acceptable like-original condition can be done.

After you calmly and logically set out your argument and request for 1) them doing authorized MB repair, or 2) reimbursing the cost of you having the same done on your own, then I would close with;

"I would greatly appreciate if your management and counsel would kindly consider my situation and respond at your earliest convenience."

Failing that, you need to document the condition of the car, and along with the estimate of the cost to achieve the repaired condition, make a visit to your local friendly small claims court (think People's Court, but for real), where neither side can bring a lawyer. Documents of the original sale, CarFax, photos, documents of the deterioration cause from your outside bodyshop expert, cost of repair (two estimates would be better), and a body shop witness with you would be desired.

Sometimes, just receiving the court summons can help move to resolution, but it will just as likely end your ongoing service relationship with the dealer. This may be a good reason to try to achieve a negotiated settlement and not raise the spectre of legal action until they turn their back on you. The quoted sentence above says all that is needed in non-threatening terms.

Finally, I am NOT representing any of the above as legal advice in any or all jurisdictions, nor myself as qualified to offer any legal advice in any or all jurisdictions. This is nothing more than a freely offered opinion from a fellow forum participant. Any and all consequences of the above advice are taken at your own risk.
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Old 06-19-2010, 09:57 AM
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The initial email was way too ambiguous....you can't rely on them coming up with the compensation that you feel you're entitled to- you'll get a key chain and an MB hat. You need to tell them what you expect them do do for you. Good Luck, hope it works out for you.

I was in the market for a used CLK Class, but yesterday I put a deposit down on a new C Class. Why? Because most of the used cars I looked at had body work done in some form or another or were just dirty and ratty. My honest opinion is that so many MBs are leased, that people just don't really care about their car. After all, they are only going to turn it in at lease end, so they do as little as possible to maintain it, and if it gets damaged, they throw as little money as possible at it to make the problem go away and not increase their insurance. Its definitely buyer beware unfortunately because the dealer either doesn't want to see the damage or doesn't want to disclose it so that they can get a sale.

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Old 06-19-2010, 03:18 PM
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MBNewbe:

Sorry about your predicament, but it is par for the course in the law of averages.

What I'd do is call and friendly arrange a meeting with the Used Cars Sales Manager, and your salesman, or the Dealership General Manager, without disclosing the situation until the meeting occurs. Take along one of your attorney friends to observe. Get them to see the car, and the report from Eveland. See if they would wish to exchange the car (terms), cover the fix, or take an amiable action to rectify the situation. Find out what they would negotiate as things stand. NO "OR ELSE" AT ALL.

This will probably not solve the situation, but will give you a good feel on how hostile to approach it. Then you proceed in writing and, if necessary, through Small Claims Court.

Good luck.
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Old 06-19-2010, 03:57 PM
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Thanks to all of you for the great advice, this next week should be interesting. I will keep you informed and wish me luck. I do not have high hopes of getting this resolved fairly but they will get tired of me if nothing else and maybe a threat to take this thing to court will provide some action on the part of MB of KC.
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Old 06-19-2010, 06:49 PM
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Not to put a stick in your spokes per say but why would the dealer do anything? It's been almost eight months since you drove it off the lot. How does the dealer know YOU didn't get in an accident (non-reported) and YOU had it fixed and are now trying to say you bought it in that condition? Unless it's noted when you bought the car about any damage/flaws I just don't see it happening. Just looking at it from the business side and no I have no relationship with any dealership. Just own a business and I am looking at it from the other side. Good luck.
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Old 06-20-2010, 12:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Chi-Benz View Post
Not to put a stick in your spokes per say but why would the dealer do anything? It's been almost eight months since you drove it off the lot. How does the dealer know YOU didn't get in an accident (non-reported) and YOU had it fixed and are now trying to say you bought it in that condition? Unless it's noted when you bought the car about any damage/flaws I just don't see it happening. Just looking at it from the business side and no I have no relationship with any dealership. Just own a business and I am looking at it from the other side. Good luck.
Yes I've thought about that since they've already screwed me once selling a damaged vehicle they would probably try to pull something like that. I have some hope that I can contact the previous owner, which was a company per the title, and figure out when/what actually happened. It's a long shot but would provide proof that the car was damaged long before I bought it. I don't have much hope that anything will get resolved but I'm not going down without a fight!
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Old 06-20-2010, 01:09 AM
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Some good & not so good advice on here IMO. Sportstick's points are valuable and should be used IMO. I would start with these points face to face with the sales manager of the dealership & see how he reacts. Don't be rude but don't be weak either. If you get no satisfaction explain that your going to have to work your way up starting with MBUSA,BBB,Attorny general,small claims. Be ready to compromise if they're being reasonable. From experience,I've been at least 15 times over 8 years for work,small claims court is not based on law nor is the judgement enforceable by law. Small claims is more a mediation with alot of "fluff" & emotion. Make sure you also put yourself in their shoes knowing that your bringing a grievance to them 7+ months after purchase.
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Old 06-20-2010, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by MBnewby View Post
Yes I've thought about that since they've already screwed me once selling a damaged vehicle they would probably try to pull something like that. I have some hope that I can contact the previous owner, which was a company per the title, and figure out when/what actually happened. It's a long shot but would provide proof that the car was damaged long before I bought it. I don't have much hope that anything will get resolved but I'm not going down without a fight!
I wouldn't fret needlessly about this issue. It would be helpful to establish the prior repair, either through testimony of a bodyshop expert, documentation of the earlier repair, or both. But, the red herring of whether the car was damaged (again?) while under your ownership will not impact your position. The allegation is based on pure speculation and when the Small Claims Court judge asks a couple of questions, it should be disposed of rather quickly:

Judge: (to dealer) Do you have any evidence that the car was damaged and/or repaired after the plaintiff purchased it from you?
Dealer: No (ultimately, or "I don't know", or words to that effect, as there is no evidence)
Judge (to you): Was this car ever damaged and/or repaired after you purchased it from the defendant or have you ever paid to repair any body damage while in your custody and control?
You: No.

The court will understand that you cannot prove the negative, as the dealer could also speculate that you drove across the country and paid cash under a false name for a repair!! This becomes nonsensical. Further, a judge will realize that if the car was damaged and repaired after you bought it, you have a simple case of poor workmanship against a body shop. It would be absurd for you to sue the dealer when you would have a simpler and stronger warranty case against whomever did the poor repair! Most judges will presume that the party you name as defendant is the one who you believe committed the act against you and if it was simply poor work at the bodyshop, the bodyshop you used would be your defendant.

Don't be so pessimistic about the outcome! Even if they don't help willingly, many of the facts line up in your favor for Small Claims, and your damages should be within that court's jurisdiction. A judgment against a business like this is easily enforceable, but I don't think it will come to that. Best guess...after some struggle, the dealer will do a repair for you. And, if so, reach an agreement that sheetmetal will be replaced and no Bondo or other filler will be used. BTW, you are copying MBUSA on all your correspondence with the dealer? If not, start now and attach copies from the start. Repeat that you are seeking professional and competent repair of the car to put it in the condition originally represented or as close to as possible via expert MB authorized repair, and no additional monetary damages beyond that.

Ultimately, if you go to Small Claims, I would name both the dealer and MBUSA (as the dealer is their agent) as defendants. The dealer represented to you, by relying on CarFax and their own statements, that the car's body was as built by MB.

Also, see my earlier disclaimer in red from my post above and apply to this one as well. And, if you have local lawyer friends, have a good long talk with them about how to proceed in your home jurisdiction.
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Old 06-20-2010, 01:54 PM
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The dealer is MBUSA's agent for certain things.

I don't know for sure but it would seem that used car sales wouldn't be part of the agent agreement.
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Old 06-20-2010, 02:10 PM
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So the car is not CPO right?
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Old 06-20-2010, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by JimPap View Post
The dealer is MBUSA's agent for certain things.

I don't know for sure but it would seem that used car sales wouldn't be part of the agent agreement.
You are correct that the dealership is an independent business and the OP bought a used car from this dealer, not from MBUSA. However, the principal is generally liable for the tort of the agent (in this case, at least negligence) and with the issue being the sale of a MB car, whether used or new, I think it provides a sufficient nexus to name MBUSA as well. Does MBUSA set inspection standards for even non-CPO sales, for example? Is there a policy about revealing prior damage and repair? Was the car damaged before the first owner took delivery and is only now deteriorating? Was the dealer acting within or outside of MBUSA requirements? The fact of this being a car sale goes further to involve MBUSA than, for example, a slip and fall at the dealership. The OP likely relied upon the dealer being an MB dealer to have a more reliable outcome to the transaction, versus an unknown person or different brand dealer.

Depending on the outcome, MBUSA, in theory, could have a cause of action against the dealer, although in reality, I don't expect to see that pursued. I still don't expect to see any of this come to court. For the cost of a reasonably requested body repair, the parties will likely not wish to get to court in the OPs home location.

Previous disclaimer still applies. Just plain ol' non-lawyer folks jawboning here. You choose to take it or leave it!
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Old 06-20-2010, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Sportstick View Post
Was the dealer acting within or outside of MBUSA requirements?
If this is a CPO, then YES, the dealer MUST adhere to MBUSA standards... If it is not a COP, I view this like selling any other -non MB- vehicle (with the exception of their obligation to cover MBUSA's manufacturer warranty issues)... Here is why: let us assume that this is a Lexus or a BMW, or a Toyota for that matter... Does MBUSA have a certain minimum standard for those vehicles that the dealer may or may not opt to place on their lot? Doubtful!

As long as the dealer will cover MBUSA's manufacturer warranty for an MB vehicle, then the buck stops there. And obviously, this is a problem that is NOT covered under MB's warranty! Any and all other issues/matters revert back to the "buyer beware" and "as is" clauses that are often the standard for used car sales.

A few more random thoughts...

1) I highly doubt that MBUSA will end up carrying any liability here (at least not from a legal stand point). I would venture a guess that the scope of their involvement here will be limited to maintaining a record of the "complaint" simply because the dealer has an MB sign outside his door. Nothing more, nothing less. They may even attempt to put some sort of pressure on the dealer to "address the issue" but that does not necessarily mean they MUST do so or that they will dictate how the matter should be handled.

2) Keep in mind that the burden to prove liability falls on the plaintiff's shoulders (MBnewby). And assuming this is not a CPO (and considering the possibility that the dealer's inspection standards may vary between CPO vehicles and non-CPO vehicles) it may be extremely difficult to ascertain whether the liability should fall upon:
  • The original owner (who's to say that they disclosed the accident/damage to the dealer?),
  • CARFAX (they report what has been reported to them (brings us back to the original owner and whether they paid for the original repairs out of pocket or via insurance)), or
  • The dealer himself.

At the end of the day, and even if the original owner were to state that they did in fact disclose the damage/repair to the dealer, it still ends up being a case of "he said she said"....

3) In addition to liability, the plaintiff must also establish what his "damages" are... Should the dealer compensate him for the loss of value that the vehicle has suffered as a result of a prior accident? or should the dealer simply pay to repaint the panel(s) that are substandard? And in his attempt to establish what his damages are, may also bring in a 4th party into the equation... That being the shop that did the repair and whether their work met industry standards.

Hindsight is 20:20.. And a "professional inspection" before the deal was originally done may have been the way to go here...
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Old 06-20-2010, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by IGB View Post
Hindsight is 20:20.. And a "professional inspection" before the deal was originally done may have been the way to go here...
Live and learn.

After thinking about this some more, you really are dealing from a very weak position. All the dealer has to say is that it wasn't damaged when you bought it and if it was...for you to prove it.
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Old 06-20-2010, 08:58 PM
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any pics of the said re-painted panels?

usually one of those paint meter thing will reveal the truth.

i've seen fair share of 204s and even when I first got my car I pointed out there are orange peels in paint coming out of the factory in certain area on the lower side of the car. my sideskirt particularly has this issue.

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Old 06-20-2010, 10:20 PM
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There seems to be to many things going on here.
1 Auto dealers have no laws governing whether they disclose any damage other than State mechanical safety laws or salvage titles on used cars. Unless they supplied a letter stating the car has no damage[ I doubt that none of them do ]

2. MB the Mfg. doesn`t demand their dealer sell only pristine cars.

3. $1500 to $2000 in damage is not major damages a fender bender today can cost $1500 to $2000. You can have a bumper damage with a air bag go off and it will cost $3000 plus.

4 It`s the buyers responsibility to bring in outside mechanics to check auto and make sure there is no damage, if he chooses/

5. If dealers had to disclose everything that has ever happened [ when they had no idea what has happened in its history] to a used car under law, USED CARS WOULD NOT BE SOLD BY DEALERS, it would be impossible for any dealer to protect themselves

6. Attorney fees will be to high for a matter like this, discussing what will happen in court really does not make much sense here the only seen damage is a irregular paint spot and to be honest the buyer should have seen this and questioned it BEFORE ONE PURCHASES THE CAR.

7 The dealer is simply going to say they were not aware of any damage or that they did not make any assurances that the car had no previous damage

8 As I said before unless there was a damage report and CarFax made a mistake and didn`t pick it up theres not much one can do. Well theres always something one can do. Demand satisfaction from the dealer and if he doesn`t do anything then have a sign painted stating this dealer sold you a damage car and didn`t disclose it to you, mount it on your car and drive it all over town and in front of the dealership on saturdays [ their best sales day] they won`t be happy, of coarse they may sue you.
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Old 06-20-2010, 10:32 PM
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There continues to be a wide range of advice here, much of it contradictory. Find a local legal expert you trust and plan your approach from there. Good luck.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:02 PM
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2008 C350 Sport
The initial response has been good, see email from salesman (names have been changed). I'm hoping to have something in writing this week but it sounds like they're going to help me out in some way or another.

"MB Newby, I spoke with my GSM and he was as surprised as you were. When we buy and sell a car with a clean car fax we are under no obligation to do anything other than what transpired when you purchased your C350. Bob is friends with the owners of Body Shop and they do a ton of work for our customers. He is out of town the first of this week but upon his return he will call Body Shop to get a better deal for you on the work required and he told me he would participate monetarily to help you out. This is not required on his or Mercedes Benz of Kansas City’s part, but as a Mercedes Dealer I believe it is Bob's intent to do his best to make you as a valued customer happy. Thanks, Tom"
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Quick Reply: My fears confirmed today-my "clean Carfax" C350 has had bodywork...legal rights?


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