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Boone Ford, Inc. v. IME Scheduler, Inc.

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

April 18, 2017

BOONE FORD, INC. d/b/a BOONE FORD LINCOLN MERCURY, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
IME SCHEDULER, INC., a New York Corporation, Defendant. and CASH FOR CRASH, LLC, a New Jersey Limited Liability Company, Plaintiff,
v.
BOONE FORD, INC. d/b/a BOONE FORD LINCOLN MERCURY, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 25 January 2017.

         Appeal by defendant IME Scheduler, Inc. and plaintiff Cash for Crash, LLC from judgment entered 1 March 2016 by Judge William H. Coward in Watauga County Superior Court Watauga County, Nos. 14 CVS 81, 14 CVS 502.

          Miller & Johnson, PLLC, by Nathan A. Miller, for defendant-appellant IME Scheduler, Inc. and plaintiff-appellant Cash for Crash, LLC.

          Walker DiVenere Wright, by Anné C. Wright, for appellee Boone Ford, Inc.

          ELMORE, Judge.

         This appeal involves a challenge to the consolidation of two actions for trial in superior court. Boone Ford, Inc. filed a complaint against IME Scheduler, Inc. alleging several claims arising from the unsuccessful sale of a 2013 Ford SVT Raptor pickup truck. IME Scheduler counterclaimed and its affiliate, Cash for Crash, LLC, filed a separate complaint against Boone Ford after the dealership refused to immediately return a $206, 596.00 wire transfer on suspicion of money laundering.

         Upon Boone Ford's motion, Judge Jeff Hunt entered an order consolidating the two cases for trial, which was held at the 1 February 2016 session of the Watauga County Superior Court, Judge William H. Coward presiding. The jury denied all claims raised by IME Scheduler and Cash for Crash and returned a verdict in favor of Boone Ford. IME Scheduler and Cash for Crash appeal, arguing, inter alia, that Judge Hunt lacked authority to consolidate the cases. Because that authority is reserved for the judge presiding over the trial, we vacate the order of consolidation and remand to the superior court.

         I. Background

         In October 2013, IME Scheduler contacted Boone Ford to purchase a 2013 Ford SVT Raptor pickup truck. At the time, Boone Ford did not have the truck in stock. In exchange for a newer model, Boone Ford acquired a 2013 SVT Raptor from a dealership in West Virginia to consummate the sale with IME Scheduler.

         As alleged in the pleadings, Boone Ford believed that it was selling the 2013 SVT Raptor it had acquired from West Virginia, which had a VIN ending in -66435 and an 800A options package, for $49, 385.50. On or about 6 November 2013, Boone Ford faxed to IME Scheduler a window sticker of the Raptor and a bill of sale for the same. After receiving the fax, IME Scheduler issued a $9, 000.00 down payment via American Express credit card and, on 12 November 2013, wired the remaining balance of $40, 385.50 to Boone Ford.

         A dispute arose two days later when IME Scheduler requested another copy of the window sticker via e-mail. When the sticker described a Raptor 800A, IME Scheduler insisted that Boone Ford had sold the wrong truck. IME Scheduler believed it was purchasing a 2013 SVT Raptor with a VIN ending in -97953 and an 801A options package for $49, 385.50. It also alleged that Boone Ford had previously faxed a window sticker of the Raptor 801A. Unable to resolve the conflict, IME Scheduler canceled the $9, 000.00 down payment. Boone Ford refused to refund the $40, 385.50 and, sometime later, sold the Raptor 800A to another party.

         On 19 February 2014, Boone Ford received an unexpected wire of $206, 596.00 into its account. The wire originated from Cash for Crash. Alfred Glover, the owner of Boone Ford, learned that Cash for Crash was affiliated with IME Scheduler and that the organizations were located in New Jersey and New York, respectively. Concerned that they were trying to launder money through his dealership or involve him in illegal activity, Glover contacted the Boone Police Department, Attorneys General, FBI, CIA, and Department of Homeland Security. Cash for Crash insisted that the wire was a result of human error and demanded the money be returned, but Glover refused to do so until an investigation was complete. Approximately two months later, Glover returned the $206, 596.00 at the direction of the Boone Police Department which had found no connection to money laundering.

         Boone Ford filed a complaint against IME Scheduler alleging breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unfair and deceptive trade practices (UDTP), and punitive damages arising out of the failed Raptor transaction. IME Scheduler filed a counterclaim alleging the same claims against Boone Ford. Cash for Crash also filed a complaint against Boone Ford, alleging conversion, UDTP, fraud, and punitive damages arising out of the $206, 596.00 wire transfer.

         Upon Boone Ford's motion, Judge Hunt consolidated the cases and they were tried together before Judge Coward in Watauga County Superior Court. The jury found for Boone Ford on its breach of contract, fraud, and UDTP claims against IME Scheduler, awarding $20, 000.00 in compensatory ...


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