FISHERS — A Greenfield consumer has filed a lawsuit alleging a Fishers car dealership forged her signature on documents when she bought a car.
Jessica Poertner filed a complaint against Napleton Kia of Fishers alleging they violated the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and the federal Truth in Lending Act.
When Jessica Poertner drives her Kia Optima around town, she wants to be happy — it’s her first brand new car.
Instead, she feels like a dark cloud is hanging over.
“I haven't really felt like it's mine,” Poertner said. “I've been driving around making payments and hoping everything comes out at the end."
Poertner said she did a ton of research on cars and dealers before buying a Kia Optima at Napleton Kia of Fishers on May 1, 2020.
She said because of COVID-19, the transaction was limited contact and the dealer put her paperwork in the glovebox.
“I thought I got a good deal, and when I got home I realized that I didn't,” she said.
Poertner said the dealer verbally agreed to a 3.25% interest rate, but the paperwork says 3.75%, according to her complaint.
When Poertner looked closer, she saw a signature that is not hers.
"My signature was forged,” Poertner said.
Records provided to WRTV Investigates by Poertner’s attorney, Andrew Ault, show Poertner's actual signature on several documents, but a noticeably different signature on others.
Poertner said she did not use a computer or pad to do a digital signature on documents.
She filed a lawsuit on July 1 against Napleton Kia of Fishers alleging they forged her signature on several documents, and that she did not agree to:
- Interest rate of 3.75%
- The trade-in allowance of $1,000.00
- GAP insurance contract for which she paid $850.00
- Tire and registration fees $1.25 and $15.00, respectively.
- Unidentified payment to “Flagship” of $1,179.00.
- “Doc Fee” of $199.00
Poertner said also she never would have agreed to a $1,954 service contract with the dealership.
"Napleton Kia is not close for me to get an oil change or my tires rotated,” she said. “There's no way I would have gone 45 minutes out of my way to get this done."
Poertner said buying a car ended up costing her emotionally as well.
“It's affected everything,” Poertner said. “I'm 50 years old. I'll never buy a new car again just because of the way I was treated."
Her attorney, Andrew Ault, specializes in car dealership practices.
"Forgery is not only deceptive, it's also a crime,” Ault said. “You can't sign someone's name to paper without their authorization. She did not know she was signing to terms that were not presented to her.”
Ault said Poertner’s $509 monthly car payments are about $85/month higher than they should be because they reflect the higher interest rate and fees she did not agree to.
“That’s a lot of money for me, interest over a six-year loan,” Poertner said.
The lawsuit alleges the dealership violated the federal Truth in Lending Act and Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, and seeks an unspecified amount of damages and restitution from Napleton Kia of Fishers.
“She was misled," Ault said. “Dealers are supposed to be forthright [and] honest. They're not supposed to lie or deceive in any way."
Jeff Kehl, an attorney with Bryce Downey & Lenkov LLC in Chicago, told WRTV he represents Napleton Kia in this lawsuit.
“We do not wish to speak about this pending lawsuit at this time,” Kehl said in an email to WRTV.
In August, the dealership’s attorney filed a motion pointing out when Poertner bought the car, she agreed to resolve any disputes in arbitration, which is an out-of-court resolution.
In September, a judge agreed Poertner should submit her claim to arbitration. Her attorney said they are waiting on the dealer to begin the arbitration process.
The lawsuit is on hold for the time being, court records show.
Ault says you should never go to a car dealership alone and always bring a witness with you.
“Read through and know what you’re signing, and be willing to walk away,” Ault said.
Tips from the Better Business Bureau for visiting a car dealership include:
- Take your time. If you don’t want to make a decision on your first visit, tell the dealer upfront. Let them know you want to take a test drive and will be making your decision on a purchase later.
- Go on a test drive. This is one of the most important things to do! Drive each model you are considering and try to do so in a variety of conditions (driving through traffic, on a highway, and on back roads). Take a test drive checklist with you to examine important characteristics of the car and check out all of the features. While driving, carefully check the brakes, steering, outward visibility, and gear shifting. Turn off the radio and listen to the engine for any noises. Try parallel parking to make sure the visibility is good and you can adjust all mirrors as needed. Ensure all of the dashboard lights are on and the instrument panel is easy to read. Test the back seat for comfort for passengers sitting there and the trunk for ample space and easy access to the spare tire. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If anybody else will be driving the car regularly, take them with you to test it as well.
- Keep all negotiations separate. Consider questions about financing, service contracts, warranties, trade-ins, or other extras after you have settled on a price for the car. You can let the dealer know you have a trade-in, in order to initiate the appraisal process, but keep the focus on the new car first.
- Determine the price for car. The MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) sticker price taped to the car window is the amount the dealer is seeking and may be about 10-15% more than what the dealer paid for the car. Tell the salesperson exactly what car and options you would like, and ask for the best price. You may be less likely to get a good price on a more popular car that is in short supply. Make sure you discuss all the options you are interested in and that you are clear on any additional costs associated with the options. If the dealership allows it, consider bargaining for a better deal, and always get the final figure in writing. Shop around and see if other dealers will offer you better prices. Be patient when purchasing a new car. If the first or second offers are not desirable, you must be able to walk away.
- Decide if you are buying from stock or ordering from the factory. Sometimes you will get a better deal for a car already in stock, because the longer a car sits on the lot, the more expensive it is for the dealer. These cars may have expensive options that you neither need nor want. Ask the dealer to remove the option -- and reduce the cost -- or sell you the car without charging for the option. Sometimes the better deal will come with ordering a car because it is a sure sale and the dealer does not have to invest in the car. Discuss all options to see which works out best for you. Factor in the time you have to wait for a car from the factory into your decision-making.
- Discuss your trade-in. Once you have finalized the price for your new car, move on to discussing the trading in of your old car. Keeping that negotiation separate from the price of the new car will help you stay focused on the actual price of the new car.
- Ask about warranties and service contracts. Make sure the information on your warranty is detailed and includes whether the warranty is full or limited and what is covered, who covers it, and for how long. Read all the details about any additional service contracts and make sure you understand them completely before signing anything. If you are considering an extra-cost service contract, compare it to your warranty closely to check for duplication. Unless the service contract offers free scheduled maintenance or other services, it may not be economical to have a service contract while the warranty is in effect. If you decide to buy a service contract, do some comparison shopping. Buying a service contract through an insurance company, for instance, may save you money.
BBB Tips on Closing the Deal
- Ask questions. Do not sign unless you are satisfied with the answers.
- Be sure that all blank spaces are filled in, that all of the salesperson's verbal promises are included, and that any warranty that comes with the car is spelled out.
- If the seller has agreed to take care of any repairs as a condition of purchase, make sure these commitments are in the contract. Get the time frame for completion of the repairs in writing and make sure you understand who to contact about the work. Remember that repairs on a used vehicle can take longer than expected when parts need to ordered or repairs under warranty need to be approved.
- If you are required to make a deposit, ask whether it is refundable, and under what circumstances, and make sure the information is also included in the contract.
- Be sure to get a signed statement verifying the mileage at the time of sale. Most state laws require dealers of used cars to provide the buyer with this information in writing.
- Know your state's requirements concerning emissions inspections, child safety, seat belt, and airbag requirements, and title transfers.
- Make sure you understand what will happen if you fall behind on payments and how the seller will communicate with you about that.
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