TAMPA -- A Florida's Second District Court of Appeal has reversed a $15,000 judgment to Kristopher Doughty and Katarzyna Dziewiecien after a jury found Kia Motors America Inc. liable for breaching a motor vehicle warranty.
In 2016, the couple purchased a new 2012 Kia Optima from a Pennsylvania dealership with a limited warranty that provided free repairs by Kia in the event of a malfunction during normal use.
Following a jury trial, Kia appealed the $15,000 judgment on the grounds Doughty and Dziewiecien didn’t provide sufficient evidence of the car’s diminished value. The appeals court affirmed and remanded the case with instructions to enter a judgment for nominal damages.
In the six years since the car was purchased, two major instances of power failure resulted in two Kia dealerships being unable to fix the vehicle. In addition, Doughty and Dziewiecien, on separate occasions, unsuccessfully tried to both trade in the car to a dealership and privately sell it for $5,000. The couple argued that these experiences prove the car’s diminished value, a point the appeals court ultimately did not agree with.
Although the trial court did see the merit in the single count of breach of warranty, Kia Motors and the court itself found the jury’s $15,000 valuation for damages to be based on “speculation, conjecture or guesswork,” paving the way for nominal damages instead of the original jury determination.
The lack of expert testimony or any other evidence to prove the defective car’s value at the time and place it was sold made it impossible to prove its value. Despite that, the court does not deem it is required to establish the value of a good, and emphasizes the fault lied in Doughty and Dziewiecien’s failure to produce evidence of that value.
Going forward, car owners would do well to keep the most accurate and detailed records they can on their vehicles to benefit as much as possible in these sorts of warranty claims.