CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION
Gonzalo Rojas appeals from the court's judgment sustaining without leave to amend the first demurrers filed by defendants. We reverse as to defendants Platinum Auto Group, Inc., and Topaz Financial, Inc., affirm as to defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, and remand for further proceedings.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
On September 20, 2010, appellant Gonzalo Rojas bought a car from respondent Platinum Auto Group, Inc., doing business as Platinum Motors (Platinum), a car dealership in Marina Del Rey. Appellant put no cash down the day he bought the car. Instead, he made a deferred downpayment over the next three months consisting of four payments totaling $2,000: $1,000 on
When appellant bought the car, Platinum filled out a retail installment sales contract, a form required by the Rees-Levering Motor Vehicle Sales and Finance Act (Rees-Levering) (Civ. Code, §§ 2981 et seq., 2981.9).
Six months later in April 2011, appellant filed his complaint at issue here. He alleged Platinum's mischaracterization of his downpayment violated Rees-Levering, which requires a detailed and truthful itemization of appellant's downpayment. (§ 2982, subd. (a)(6).) Appellant's complaint named as defendants respondents Platinum and Topaz Financial, Inc. (Topaz), the lender to whom Platinum had assigned the sales contract.
The trial court sustained the demurrers without leave to amend. The court concluded Platinum's mischaracterization of appellant's downpayment was not actionable. The court's order sustaining the demurrers stated the "Court finds that PLATINUM's sole fault was in failing to list [appellant's down] payment as `deferred' three lines above in Item 6(d) instead of 6(g), a defect which, under these circumstances, may properly be characterized as `trivial'." Additionally, the court concluded appellant suffered no actual loss from the mischaracterization. The court found, "There is no allegation that PLATINUM's alleged mischaracterization of the down payment ... resulted in any damage or monetary loss to [appellant]." The court reasoned that "even if the parties' agreement had properly listed the $2,000 as a `Deferred Down Payment,' [appellant] would be in the exact same position as he is now. There is nothing to show how listing the $2,000 as a `Remaining Cash Down Payment' versus a `Deferred Down Payment' altered the parties' deal to [appellant's] detriment." This appeal followed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
"A demurrer must assume the truth of a complaint's properly pleaded allegations." (Century-National Ins. Co. v. Garcia (2011) 51 Cal.4th 564, 566, fn. 1 [120 Cal.Rptr.3d 541, 246 P.3d 621].) "`We treat [a] demurrer as admitting all material facts properly pleaded, but not contentions, deductions or conclusions of fact or law. [Citation.] We also consider matters which may be judicially noticed.' [Citation.] Further, we give the complaint a reasonable interpretation, reading it as a whole and its parts in their context. [Citation.] When a demurrer is sustained, we determine whether the complaint states facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. [Citation.] And when it is sustained without leave to amend, we decide whether there is a reasonable
A. Complaint Stated a Cause of Action for Violation of Rees-Levering
Second, in addition to misstating the downpayment's nature, Platinum misstated the downpayment's amount. Rees-Levering defines a downpayment as money paid before the buyer's second scheduled loan payment. Section 2981, subdivision (f) states a "`[d]ownpayment' means a payment that the buyer pays or agrees to pay to the seller ... at or prior to delivery by the seller to the buyer of the motor vehicle .... The term shall also include the amount of any portion of the downpayment the payment of which is deferred until not later than the due date of the second otherwise scheduled payment [under the buyer's car loan] ...." (Italics added.) Appellant's second scheduled loan payment was December 4, 2010. Appellant made the first three of his four deferred payments before December 4: $1,000 on October 11, 2010; $500 on October 27, 2010; and $250 on November 20, 2010. Those three payments totaled $1,750. He made his final payment of $250 after December 4 on December 23, 2010. This last payment did not satisfy the statute's definition of a downpayment. (§ 2981, subd. (f), see § 2982, subd. (a)(6)(D) [not a downpayment if after second scheduled loan payment].) Thus, regardless of whether appellant's downpayment was cash up-front at the time of sale or deferred, his total downpayment under the statute's definition was $1,750, not $2,000 as Platinum stated in the sales contract.
Stasher involved an earlier statute less demanding of car dealers than Rees-Levering. The version of the Automobile Sales Financing Act in effect in the mid-1950's at the time of Stasher's car sale required only the following
Stasher explained that "[s]ubstantial compliance ... means actual compliance in respect to the substance essential to every reasonable objective of the statute.... [W]hen there is such actual compliance as to all matters of substance then mere technical imperfections of form or variations in mode of expression by the seller, or such minima as obvious typographical errors, should not be given the stature of noncompliance ...." (Stasher, supra, 58 Cal.2d at p. 29, italics omitted.) Here, the trial court found no actionable violation of Rees-Levering because Platinum's mischaracterization of the downpayment was, in the court's view, a "trivial" technicality. In the trial court's view, Platinum had substantially complied with Rees-Levering's disclosure requirement regarding appellant's downpayment notwithstanding Platinum's mislabeling and misstating of the downpayment.
A recent amendment of Rees-Levering reveals the Legislature's rejection of Stasher's substantial compliance defense except for the narrowest circumstances. Rees-Levering requires an auto seller to disclose in the sales contract certain governmental fees, including licensing, transfer, registration, and new tire fees. (§ 2982, subd. (a)(2).) Before the recent amendment took effect in 2012, many car buyers had begun suing dealers who lumped those fees into one entry in the sales contract. (Sen. Com. on Judiciary, Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 238 (2011-2012 Reg. Sess.) as amended Sept. 2, 2011, pp. 1-2.) To prevent such lawsuits, the Legislature narrowed Rees-Levering's remedial statute, which ordinarily made sales contracts that do not comply with Rees-Levering's disclosure requirements unenforceable. The Legislature added subdivision (b) to section 2983 to carve out an exception for improper disclosure of the foregoing governmental fees. The amendment stated: "A conditional sale contract executed or entered into on or after January 1, 2012, shall not be made unenforceable solely because of a violation by the seller of paragraph (2) or (5) [(amounts paid to public entities for licensing, registration, and other fees)] of subdivision (a) of [Civil Code] Section 2982...." (§ 2983, subd. (b).)
The Legislature's statement of intent in enacting the amendment underscores that a car buyer need not suffer economic damage to rescind a sales contract that does not comply with Rees-Levering. "The Legislature finds and declares as follows: [¶] (a) The Rees-Levering ... Act ... sets forth a statutory scheme to regulate the retail sale and financing of motor vehicles. The act contains detailed disclosure requirements intended to protect the consuming public and includes provisions that render a conditional sale contract unenforceable if any of those disclosure requirements are violated, regardless of the nature of the disclosure violation or any consumer harm." (Assem. Bill No. 238 (2011-2012 Reg. Sess.) § 1, italics added.)
The judgments following the orders and sustaining the demurrers of respondents Topaz Financial, Inc., and Platinum Auto Group, Inc., doing business as Platinum Motors are reversed, and the court is directed to enter a new and different order overruling their demurrers to appellant's cause of action for violation of Rees-Levering, and sustaining with leave to amend the demurrers to appellant's causes of action for violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act and unfair business practices. The judgment following the order and sustaining the demurrer of State Farm Fire and Casualty Company is affirmed. Appellant to recover his costs on appeal against Topaz and Platinum, only.
Grimes, J., and Sortino, J.,
We disagree. Appellant bears the obligation of demonstrating the trial court erred. To do so, appellant must provide a sufficient record and legal argument, supported by citation to legal authorities. Appellant's conclusory statement about State Farm's demurrer fails that obligation (Walker v. Sonora Regional Medical Center (2012) 202 Cal.App.4th 948, 952, fn. 2 [135 Cal.Rptr.3d 876]), and we affirm the trial court's ruling as to State Farm.