Hickethier v. Janesville Kia (Fraudulent Misrepresentation)

In Hickethier v. Janesville Kia (2018AP2276), the Court of Appeals District IV held that plaintiffs failed to sufficiently allege that their car dealership knowingly misrepresented defects in the vehicle they purchased or that the dealership engaged in unconscionable practices.

Dawn Livingston-Hickethier and Chris Hickethier purchased a used Buick from Janesville KIA. When the Hickethiers got the vehicle’s oil changed for the third time, a mechanic found that the vehicle had an excessive oil consumption issue. The Hickethiers later obtained a vehicle history report showing that there had also been a recall for seat wiring in the vehicle. As a result, the Hickethiers filed this lawsuit alleging that Janesville KIA had engaged in fraudulent conduct and unconscionable practices in violation of auto dealer statutes in Wis. Stat. Ch. 218.

The court found that the Hickenthiers failed to sufficiently allege the Ch. 218 claims. The court determined that, for their fraud claims to succeed, the Hickenthiers must have established that Janesville KIA made a knowing misrepresentation. The Hickethiers failed to allege that Janesville KIA made such a knowing misrepresentation. The court could not infer that Janesville KIA had known about the excessive oil consumption issue, especially since it had taken three trips to mechanics before the Hickenthiers discovered the issue. Regarding the seat wiring recall, Janesville KIA was not obligated to find and disclose recalls for Buick, for which it did not hold a franchise (see Wis. Admin. Code § Trans 139.04(9)). Finally, the court held that Janesville KIA did not engage in unconscionable practices because the dealership did not inflate the price and the vehicle was not unsafe to drive at the time of purchase.

Because the Hickenthiers’ claims failed to meet the required pleading standards, the court dismissed the case.