United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
OPINION AND ORDER
A. O'TOOLE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, Daniel Aguiar, proceeding pro se, sued the
defendants, Santander Consumer USA Inc., and CCAP Auto Lease
Ltd., after they repossessed Aguiar's leased 2015 Dodge
Durango. Aguiar asserts claims of wrongful repossession in
violation of his rights under Massachusetts consumer
protection laws and regulations. Massachusetts General Laws
Chapter 93A, Section 9; (see Compl. ¶ 6 (dkt. no. 1)).
defendants moved for summary judgment and filed a statement
of undisputed material facts on April 2, 2018. After Aguiar
did not timely oppose the motion, on May 18 the Court by
order extended the time for his filing any opposition until
June 1. (Order, May 18, 2018 (dkt. no. 17).) To date, Aguiar
has neither opposed the defendants' motion nor disputed
the defendants' statement of material facts. Accordingly,
the Court is entitled to take "as uncontested all
evidence presented with" the defendants' motion.
Perez-Cordero v. Wal-Mart P.R., 440 F.3d 531, 533-34
(1st Cir. 2006). The following facts are thus derived from
the defendants' statement of undisputed material facts
and supporting documents.
6, 2015, Aguiar entered into a Motor Vehicle Lease Agreement
(the "Agreement") with Herb Chambers Chrysler to
lease a 2015 Dodge Durango (the "Vehicle"). The
lease called for Aguiar to pay $6209.25 as a down payment,
and to thereafter make thirty-six monthly installment
payments of $527.12. Aguiar's total obligated payments
under the Agreement amounted to $25, 053.45. The Agreement
listed the Vehicle's agreed upon value as $42, 461.00,
and established its residual value (its value at the end of
the lease term) as $22, 368.50. The Agreement contains a
number of additional terms, including an option for Aguiar to
purchase the Vehicle for its residual value upon the
lease's expiration, a clause stipulating that late
payments constitute a default, and a clause allowing the
lessor to take back the Vehicle upon the lessee's
default. The Agreement was assigned to defendant CCAP Auto
Lease Ltd. ("CCAP"), and serviced by defendant
Santander d/b/a Chrysler Capital on CCAP's behalf.
July 6 through March 1, 2016, Aguiar made eight payments of
or about $527.12, totaling $4216.96. His last payment
satisfied a delinquency for a missed payment that was due the
previous month. He made no further payments under the lease.
March 31, 2016, Aguiar filed a voluntary petition under
Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, In re Aguiar, No.
16-40534-CJP (Bankr. D. Mass. Mar. 31. 2016), and received a
discharge on March 9, 2017. The following June, the Vehicle
was repossessed at Chrysler Capital's request without
prior notice to Aguiar.
judgment is properly awarded if "the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits ... show that there is no
genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). Although "[i]n most cases, a party's failure
to oppose summary judgment is fatal to its case,"
Perez-Cordero, 440 F.3d at 534, a district court
"is still bound to review the case on the merits based
on the uncontroverted facts before [it],"
Cordi-Allen v. Halloran, 470 F.3d 25, 28 (1st Cir.
defendants contend that they are entitled to summary judgment
as a matter of law because (1) the plaintiff defaulted under
the Agreement, (2) they were entitled to repossess the
Vehicle due to the default, (3) they were not required to
provide any notice to the plaintiff prior to repossessing the
Vehicle, and (4) the plaintiff failed to serve a written
demand for relief on the defendants prior to filing his
Chapter 93A claim.
Defendants' Duty to Notify Aguiar of Default or Intent to
defendants assert that they were lawfully permitted to
repossess the Vehicle without prior notice because the
Agreement was a true lease, and under Massachusetts law a
lessee "is not entitled to notice of default or notice
of enforcement from the other party to the lease
agreement." Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 106, § 2A-502.
Further, upon the lessee's default, a lessor is entitled
to "take possession of goods previously delivered if the
lease contract so provides." Id. §§
defendants point out, Aguiar might have been entitled to
pre-seizure notice if his agreement to lease the Vehicle had
been of a different legal type, such as a retail installment
contract subject to regulation under Massachusetts General
Laws Chapter 255B. A defaulting lessee in a retail
installment contract is granted the right to receive written
notice of default and an opportunity to cure before a
creditor may "proceed against the collateral."
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 255B, § 2OA; see Wilder v.
Toyota Fin. Servs. Ams. Corp.. 764 F.Supp.2d 249, 256
(D. Mass. 2011). An automobile lease agreement may meet the
definition of a motor vehicle retail installment contract if
(1) the total lease payments are substantially equivalent to
or greater than the full value of the vehicle, and (2) the
lessee is bound to become, or has the option of becoming,
owner of the vehicle after full compliance with lease terms
at no cost or for a nominal price. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 255B,
§ 1; see Philibotte v. Nisourse Corp.
Servs., Co., 793 F.3d 159, 165-66 (1st Cir. 2015);
Saia v. Bay State Gas Co., 41 N.E.3d 1104, 1107-8
(Mass. App. Ct. 2015). Neither of those circumstances is
satisfied in Aguiar's case.
Agreement obligates Aguiar to make lease payments totaling
approximately 57% of the Vehicle's agreed upon value,
which is not "substantially equivalent" for the
purposes of a retail installments contract. See
Philibotte, 793 F.3d 165-66. The Agreement also
stipulates that Aguiar must return the vehicle after the
lease term expires unless he exercises the $22, 368.50
purchase option. The option purchase price is equal to the
stipulated residual value at the time the option would be
exercised. An option to purchase for 100% of the
Vehicle's residual value cannot constitute "nominal
consideration" under the retail installment sale
statute. See Saia, 41 N.E.3d at 1108 (holding that
option purchase price of approximately 66.5% of item's
total price was not nominal); Marine Midland Bank, NA v.
Moran, No. 9274, 1994 WL 475336, at *3 (Mass. App. Div.
Aug. 23, 1994) (holding that option purchase price for 100%
of vehicle's estimated wholesale value was not nominal).
no reasonable jury could find that the Agreement constituted
a retail installment contract and not a true lease. As a
result, Aguiar was not entitled to notice by the defendants
before they repossessed the Vehicle, and therefore summary
judgment for the defendants is appropriate on Aguiar's
claim of unlawful repossession without prior notice.
Effect of ...