The Supreme Court recently published Craig and Bishop, Inc. v. Piles, et al., a case resulting in a jury verdict for violations of Kentucky’s Consumer Protection Act (KCPA).  Piles and Warner brought suit, alleging violation of the KCPA, common-law fraud, conversion, and breach of contract. Sonny Bishop Cars (Craig & Bishop d/b/a) counterclaimed. The jury found in favor of Piles and Warner on the KCPA violations and fraud, as well as conversion, and awarded them compensatory and punitive damages. The Court of Appeals affirmed, but vacated the portion of the judgment reflecting the common-law fraud and the award of inconvenience damages as duplicative of loss of use damages .

Craig & Bishop argued that Piles and Warner were not purchasers because they never completed the sales agreement, therefore, the KCPA did not apply.  The SC disagreed finding that Piles and Warner took a Camaro in exchange, in part, for giving a Nissan as value.  This was sufficient. The SC further found that an existing contract was not necessary for recovering for unlawful trade practices.

Craig & Bishop next argued that a finding of violations of the KCPA was not possible as the only promises made were future promises related to financing.  This was the basis for the Court of Appeals vacating the common law fraud claim.  The SC found this issue was not properly preserved at the trial court, and even if it were, there was sufficient evidence to support a KCPA violation in addition to the guarantees of future financing.

Craig & Bishop finally argued that the award of punitive damages was not warranted and was excessive.  The SC found the award of punitive damages appropriate in KCPA cases and in cases of conversion.  Since Craig & Bishop did not ask that the jury specify under which finding the punitives were based, the issue was not preserved for review. After review of the total jury verdict, the conduct alleged, and the award of $50,000 in punitive damages, the SC believed the award passed constitutional muster.

The SC also found that the Court of Appeals erred in vacating the inconvenience award as duplicative of the loss of use award.  The SC noted that without the inconvenience award, Piles would not recover for the inconvenience caused her by Craig & Bishop, since she was not the owner of the car traded.  (She was involved in the financing of the new car, however).  The inconvenience award considered the plaintiffs’ loss of work, multiple trips to the dealer, and difficulties finding alternative transportation, aside from the loss of use of the Nissan

The SC reinstated the trial court’s judgment in its entirety.

Editor’s note: This case is an interesting factual read in the trial and appeal of a KCPA claim from start to finish.  The court file should be recommended reading for any attorneys involved in these types of claims.