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B & L Auto Group, Inc. v. Zelig

Other Lower Courts

June 12, 2001

B & L Auto Group, Inc., Doing Business as B & L Toyota, Plaintiff,
v.
Irma Zelig, Defendant.

Page 852

COUNSEL

Wolf, Haldenstein, Adler, Freeman & Herz, New York City, for defendant.

Thomas Sun, New York City, for plaintiff.

OPINION

Mary Ann Brigantti-Hughes, J.

In this action, plaintiff, an automobile dealership, seeks to recover $2,500 of a $4,000 down payment from defendant, the purchaser of a secondhand car.

In a pretrial motion, defendant moves to dismiss this case in its entirety on grounds that the automobile dealership was not licensed as a secondhand automobile dealer at the time it purported to sell to defendant the used car at issue in this action and, consequently, according to defendant the contract of sale is void, and plaintiff lacks standing to sue for relief in connection with the purported sale.

Defendant further moves to dismiss this case on the grounds that plaintiff did not have title to the used car at the time it purported to sell it to defendant and, consequently, the purported sale is therefore void. [1]

In plaintiff's opposing papers, it concedes that its New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (NYCDCA) secondhand automobile dealers' license expired on July 31, 1999 and it did not timely renew until October 18, 1999. Plaintiff, however, argues that the two-month lapse in its license should be excused because it has been in business for more than 20 years and has always met its obligation of being a fully licensed business and because the delay was purportedly caused by its business moving to a different address.

Moreover, plaintiff argues that even if it did not have a valid New York City license [2] at the time it entered into contract with defendant, it nevertheless has standing to recover its down payment from the defendant because it is a certified

Page 853

dealer registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYSDMV). Specifically, plaintiff argues that the NYCDCA license is contingent upon compliance with the laws of the State of New York and therefore it is licensed and controlled by the NYSDMV. Hence, plaintiff alleges that its failure to be licensed by NYCDCA is not a basis to preclude it from bringing this action or declare the sale contract null and void.

Plaintiff additionally argues that as a certified dealer it had title of the vehicle when it acquired ownership of the vehicle and need not apply for a New York State certificate of title.

The determining issue before this Court, therefore, is whether a secondhand dealer who sues a " consumer" may circumvent New York City's licensing requirement by complying solely with New York State's certification and be allowed to amend its complaint to plead its State certification. The Court finds it cannot.

Factual Background

By lease dated September 18, 1996 between plaintiff as lessor and defendant as lessee, defendant leased a 1997 Toyota Avalon sedan from plaintiff. As the conclusion of the three-year lease term approached, the parties agreed to extend the lease for an additional month, that is, through October 18, 1999, and to meet to work out terms for defendant Zelig to lease ...


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