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Kersey v. American Honda Finance Corporation

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 20, 2018

GEORGE E. KERSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN HONDA FINANCE CORPORATION and HERB CHAMBERS 1189, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS

          F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge

         This is an action arising out of the attempted repossession of a vehicle. Plaintiff George Kersey is a former attorney proceeding pro se.[1] He leased a vehicle from Herb Chambers 1186, Inc. Financing was provided by defendant American Honda Finance Corporation (“AHFC”). Kersey eventually defaulted on his lease payments, leading AHFC to begin the process of repossessing his vehicle. He brought suit, contending that AHFC breached the lease agreement and violated Rhode Island's Automobile Repossession Act. AHFC then counterclaimed for the remaining amount due under the lease agreement. The parties have cross-moved for summary judgment. In addition, AHFC has moved for sanctions for Kersey's failure to comply with a court order. For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment will be denied, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and defendant's motion for sanctions will be denied as moot.

         I. Background

         The following facts are as set forth in the record.

         A. Factual Background

         George Kersey is a citizen of Rhode Island. (Compl. ¶ 1).[2] On December 13, 2013, he signed a vehicle lease agreement to lease a 2013 Honda Civic from Herb Chambers 1186, Inc., a Massachusetts corporation. (Id.; Def. Ex. 3 ¶ 17). Under the lease agreement, he was obligated to make monthly payments of $221.00 for 36 months. (Def. Ex. 3 ¶ 6). The contract also included a provision that provided him the option to purchase the vehicle outright either before or at the end of the lease term. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 25). Herb Chambers 1186, Inc., as lessor, assigned its interest in the lease to AHFC. (Id. ¶ 43).[3]

         The lease also included a default provision, which provided in relevant part: “[The lessee] will be in default if: (a) [the lessee] fail[s] to make any payment when due under this lease and any required period before a default may occur has elapsed . . . .” (Id. ¶ 34). The provision further stated: “In the event of default, lessor may do any or all of the following . . . (b) terminate the lease and [the lessee's] rights to possess and use the vehicle; (c) take possession of the vehicle by any method or manner permitted by law; (d) determine [the lessee's] termination liability on an early termination basis which [the lessee] agree[s] to pay immediately; . . . and (f) pursue any other remedy permitted by law.” (Id.).

         Two months into the lease, Kersey failed to make timely payments and defaulted. (Def. Ex. 7 at 19). On April 18, 2014, AHFC mailed a pre-repossession letter titled “Rights of Defaulting Consumer under Rhode Island General Laws” to Kersey's Rhode Island and Massachusetts addresses. (Def. Ex. 12). The letter stated that Kersey would have 21 days to cure his default, or AHFC would repossess the vehicle. (Id.). On April 25, 2014, AHFC mailed Kersey a “Past Due Account” letter, again requesting immediate payment. (Def. Ex. 15). It is undisputed that Kersey received these letters. (Kersey Dep. at 111).

         On May 13, 2014, more than 21 days after AHFC mailed the pre-repossession letter, AHFC assigned the vehicle for repossession. (Andrews Aff. ¶ 13). The next day, Kersey's account was billed a $105 repossession fee. (Id. ¶ 14). Despite Kersey remaining in default, the vehicle was never recovered. (Id. ¶ 16). It appears that over the next two years, Kersey made intermittent payments in an attempt to remain current on the lease. (See generally Def. Ex. 7).

         On April 13, 2016, AHFC mailed Kersey a second pre-repossession letter titled “Rights of Defaulting Consumer under Rhode Island General Laws.” (Def. Ex. 17). Again, the letter stated Kersey would have 21 days to cure his default. (Id.). On April 25, 2016, AHFC mailed another “Past Due Account” letter. (Def. Ex. 19). An invoice generated on June 21, 2016 stated that Kersey owed: (1) two past monthly payments; (2) the June 2016 monthly payment; (3) seven late fees; (4) an outstanding Rhode Island registration fee; and (5) the $105 repossession fee charged to his account on May 14, 2014. (Andrews Aff. ¶ 20; Def. Ex. 7 at 4).

         Although the lease was scheduled to end in December 2016, Kersey failed to return the vehicle or inform AHFC of its location. (Andrews Aff. ¶¶ 21, 24-25). Presumably, at this point Kersey has stolen the vehicle. AHFC has calculated the total amount owed by Kersey to be $13, 408.80. (Id. ¶ 24).

         B. Procedural Background

         Kersey filed suit on December 27, 2016, against AHFC and “Herb Chambers 1189, Inc.” His complaint appears to assert two counts against defendants: a claim for breach of contract and a claim for violation of R.I. Gen. Laws § 6-51. The complaint stated that plaintiff sought to recoup five repossession charges of $105, monetary damages in the amount of $10, 000, and punitive damages in the amount of $1 million. (Compl. at 3-4).

         On June 1, 2017, AHFC filed a motion to amend its answer to assert a counterclaim against Kersey for breach of contract. The ...


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