— A Nissan lease wear and tear fee lawsuit was dismissed after the automaker waived the end-of-lease fees.
The New Jersey plaintiff who sued is a class action lawyer who claims Nissan tried to rip him off by charging fees at the end of his lease of a 2015 Infiniti Q50. The plaintiff entered into the lease agreement in May 2015.
Section 20 of the lease called “Excessive Wear and Use” says a lessee may be “charged for excessive wear based on our standards for normal wear.”
But the plaintiff claims “excess wear” nor “standards for normal wear” are defined in the contract. He argues Nissan “purposely omits those definitions in order to hide the fact that the lease agreement actually contains a compulsory ‘excess wear and tear’ payment provision.”
According to the plaintiff, Nissan made the terms vague on purpose to fool New Jersey customers. However, Nissan responded by pointing to Section 20 of the provision which allegedly contradicts the plaintiff.
"Sec. 20. EXCESSIVE WEAR AND USE. You are responsible for all repairs to this Vehicle that are not the result of normal wear and use. At the end of the lease term or at early termination, you will pay us either the actual cost of repairs by us that are not the result of normal wear and use or the amount of the true itemized estimate of the cost of such repairs…These repairs include, but are not limited to the costs necessary to: (a) REPAIR: dents, scratches, chips…on the body;…dents, cuts, scratches or gouges in the bumper;…single dents or a series of small dents on other trim parts[.]"
The class action says the plaintiff never had any crashes, he maintained the vehicle properly and drove the vehicle normally as intended.
When he returned the vehicle to Nissan at the end of the lease, the vehicle was allegedly inspected but the plaintiff says he wasn't informed about any wear and use fees.
On September 18, 2018, the plaintiff received the "End of Lease Liability Statement" and a bill for $1,194 for “excessive wear and use.” The statement included the following charges: $375 for “hail damage” to the hood of the vehicle’s roof, $232 for a “previously damaged” rear bumper cover and $532 for “dings.”
According to the plaintiff, there was no hail damage and "even if there was, that [it] is clearly nothing more than ordinary wear and tear on a vehicle that is used, for 3 years, in New Jersey.”
There was also allegedly no problems with the rear bumper and it was not damaged during his three-year lease. The Nissan lessee says the $532 charged for dings is grossly overstated and even if there were a few dings it can be attributed to ordinary wear and tear.
The lawsuit alleges Nissan does not repair leased vehicles upon their return to the dealership for damages “attributable to the arbitrary, bogus and fabricated excessive wear and use charges that [NILT] customarily imposes[.]”
On October 9, 2018, the automaker sent a second statement and indicated it would “take action” if the charges were not paid. The plaintiff declined to pay the charges and instead filed the lawsuit. Two months later Nissan waived the $1,194 charge.
Nissan filed a motion to dismiss the class action after the plaintiff argued he "suffered an ascertainable loss" based on the $1,194 charge assessed against him, the $182 he spent in fees to file the lawsuit and the several hours of his time.
Nissan told the judge the plaintiff suffered no "ascertainable loss" because he wasn't required to pay the $1,194 end-of-lease charge and won't be required to pay anything in the future. The judge agreed and ruled the plaintiff hasn't suffered an ascertainable loss.
The judge also ruled the $182 paid to file the lawsuit and the time the attorney (plaintiff) worked on the case does not constitute ascertainable losses under New Jersey laws.
Judge Katharine S. Hayden referenced the New Jersey Supreme Court which explained that "attorneys’ fees, filing fees, and the costs of suit are 'non-damages' that are separate and apart from the 'ascertainable damages' required to establish a New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act claim."
The Nissan lease wear and tear fee lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey: Hoffman, et al., v. Nissan-Infiniti LT.