$256 million verdict awarded to defunct Newport Beach-based auto group vacated; new trial ordered – Orange County Register

A jury verdict that awarded $256 million to a defunct Newport Beach-based auto group has been vacated by a Superior Court judge who cited improper procedures and juror misconduct in his October decision.

Judge Thierry Patrick Colaw granted a motion by Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp., a lending division of automaker Nissan Motor Ltd., seeking a new trial.

The lawsuit against NMAC stretched back to the Great Recession in 2009, when Michael Kahn, owner of Superior Automotive Group, lost his businesses and sued, claiming NMAC defaulted on his dealerships after payments for inventory missed guidelines stipulated by the lender.

Kahn operated seven Nissan and Toyota dealerships in Los Angeles and the Bay area.

Colaw noted an irregularity of jury proceedings and juror misconduct, writing “Juror No. 5 was very probably biased against NMAC from the outset of the trial. Such irregularity in the jury proceedings and misconduct by No. 5 deprived NMAC of its ‘constitutional right to trial by a jury consisting of 12 unbiased unprejudiced individuals.’ ”

The judge also stated Juror No. 5, a woman, had been sued multiple times in civil actions and that several unlawful detainer actions had been filed against her. None of these were clearly stated in her voir dire (juror vetting) questionnaire. The juror also had a stepson who worked for several years at a car dealership, owned at one time a wholesale car dealership business, and that her daughter-in-law since
2012 worked for an exotic car dealership in Ontario.

NMAC in a statement Friday said it was pleased the court vacated the prior verdict and “the court’s decision is clearly warranted and necessary to rectify the impact of juror misconduct that NMAC brought to the court’s attention.

“We also remain confident that NMAC will ultimately prevail in any future proceedings.”

NMAC issued the following statement to the Register on Friday, Dec. 1:

Attempts to reach Kahn’s trial lawyers at Miller Barondess in Los Angeles went unanswered late Friday afternoon.

A jury in a May retrial in Orange County Superior Court awarded $121.9 million in compensatory damages and $134.55 million in punitive damages to Kahn and Superior Automotive Group.

According to Kahn, his automotive group once was one of NMAC’s leading dealers. Superior Automotive, his law firm said in a press release in May, sold more than $1 billion worth of cars from 2001 to 2008.

The case was initially filed in 2009. NMAC was awarded a $40…

Read the full article from the Source…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *