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Dealership sued over allegedly “duping” elder customer

June 21, 2017 0 Comments


In September, June Shivers, 85, brought her fully paid-for 2005 Lincoln LS into the Blue Island Napleton Lincoln dealership to get it serviced. When she drove away, though, it was in a used 2014 Ford Fusion, and Shivers was “on the hook” to pay $398 a month over six years.

Last month Shivers filed a lawsuit against Napleton Lincoln and Citizens Bank, alleging that “as an elderly woman with memory problems,” she was “duped” into buying the Fusion and swapping out her “beloved” Lincoln. Her son, Steve Shivers, said she loved her Lincoln, and her granddaughter said she “even named it.”

The dealership said they’ve dealt with June Shivers “countless times” in the past few years and have never noticed any erratic behavior on her part.

According to Shivers’ lawsuit, the 85 year old went to the Napleton Lincoln dealership to service her Lincoln and was told her vehicle required $700 worth in maintenance and repairs. Shivers, a retired nurse, “approved the fixes” and walked around the dealership to pass the time.

A salesman approached her and asked if she wanted to take a used Ford Fusion for a test-drive, to which Shivers agreed. The lawsuit alleges that Shivers was “led to believe she could take home the Fusion for a day or two and return it after the work on her Lincoln was done,” so she signed some documents and went on her way.

Her son Steve Shivers, visiting from Europe, was alerted by some of June’s friends who had gone with her to the dealership.

“They called me and were a bit concerned,” he said. “One of her friends said, ‘I think they’re trying to sell your mom a car.’”

Steve called the dealership to get more information, and an employee assured him that June was just taking the Ford Fusion for a test drive. When June came home, though, she was driving the Fusion and had documents showing she’d purchased the car.

According to the lawsuit, June Shivers “didn’t plan to trade in her car or sell it” and alleges that the salesman “didn’t ask for the vehicle title” or “talk price or discuss trade-in value.” Shivers reportedly purchased the Ford Fusion – with 23,000 miles on it – for $20,000, while the lawsuit said the fair price fell between $12,000 and $16,000.

Additionally, the lawsuit said Shivers received $600 trade-in credit for her Lincoln (63,000 miles), instead of a fair price between $2,000 and $4,000.

“She didn’t understand the documents she was signing,” according to the lawsuit.

Napleton Lincoln has asked Shivers’ lawyer for “documentation on her memory problems,” but the dealership’s general manager Gene Kennedy said the request had been denied unless the dealership agreed to a “substantial settlement.”

“Ms. Shivers has independently dealt with Napleton Lincoln countless times with no behavioral concerns and as recently as April 2016,” said Kennedy. He added that she had “excellent insurance coverage” and an Illinois driver’s license at the time of purchase.

The day after she bought the Fusion, Shivers and her son, as well as two of Shivers’ friends, tried to return the vehicle to the dealership. Steve said his mom was “having cognitive issues” and “shouldn’t be doing much driving.”

“They gave me a song and dance about how as children we don’t always know what’s best for our parents,” said Steve, and did not accept the return.

In an effort to “unwind” the deal, the Shivers contacting the Better Business Bureau and LAF (formerly Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago), June and Steve Shivers returned to the dealership, leaving the car and the keys there. June’s friends went with and filmed the return.

Later, though, the Fusion ended back up at Shivers’ house “with the keys in her mailbox.”

Steven returned to Europe, and at “some point later” the Ford Fusion was repossessed by Citizens Bank, who later sent Shivers a letter informing her that the car had been sold at auction and demanded she repay the loan. The remaining balance on Shivers’ loan is over $10,000, according to Shivers’ LAF attorney Michelle Weinberg.

In regards to Citizens Bank, the lawsuit alleges that the bank “should have known” the contract was unfair and that Shivers was 85 years old. Citizens Bank said it “doesn’t comment on pending litigation.”

As for June Shivers, “Senior home care aides now visit June Shivers five days a week.” The aides have a car, according to Steve Shivers, but June doesn’t “get out and around” as much as she used to, and she feels lonely.

The lawsuit seeks “seeks compensatory and punitive damages and a ruling that June Shivers doesn’t own any money for the Ford Fusion.”

It’s not a good look for a dealership. Shivers’ lawsuit “highlights a growing area of concern for regulators and consumer watchdogs as a wide swath of the population ages: misunderstandings and malicious acts involving businesses and elder consumers.”

As an example, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has identified “elder frauds” as “one of the 10 types of scams targeting back customers,” and a study released this month by the North American Securities Administrators Association showed that over “60 broker-dealer firms alerted authorities to nearly 2,300 cases of suspected senior-related fraud or exploitation” in 2015, mostly involving customers over 80 years old.

Weinberg advises anyone “considering a major purchase” to talk to family and be cautious when signing any documents, making sure the decision is informed. “June,” she says, “June wasn’t in a position to make an informed decision on her own.”

“Napleton Lincoln would like to resolve this matter amicably and is working toward arbitrating this to the satisfaction of all parties,” said Kennedy.

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