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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Oh, What a Tangled Web …

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - A car dealer defamed a good Samaritan and got him fired after the volunteer helped a wounded war veteran buy a car from another dealer, the man claims in court.

Justin Smith sued Dick Dean Economy Cars dba Dean Team Volkswagen and its manager Scott Roberts in St. Louis County Court.

The 9-page lawsuit unrolls a rather complicated yarn.

Smith says he was volunteering for the Wounded Warrior Project by helping a veteran buy a car in June 2013. The veteran suffered from anxiety/panic disorder that affected his financial judgment.

Smith claims they found a Volkswagen Jetta in Dean's lot that they were interested in, but felt that the price was too high.

So, Smith says, they went to another dealer, in O'Fallon, Ill., but didn't find what they wanted. They tried to work out a dealer-to-dealer trade, because the O'Fallon dealership offered to sell them the Jetta at Dean for $3,000 less than what Dean was asking, the complaint states.

Smith claims the Dean defendants canceled the trade when they found out about the deal with the O'Fallon dealership.

"Plaintiff subsequently contacted defendant Dean Team to advise that the veteran would still be willing to purchase directly from defendant Dean Team if it would sell the same car at the price quoted by the O'Fallon dealership," according to the complaint.

"Defendant Roberts responded to plaintiff on behalf of defendant Dean Team, falsely stating that the veteran was required to purchase the car in Ballwin [Missouri] because he was a St. Louis County resident, and that $29,649.00 was the absolute lowest price the car could sell for anywhere."

Smith says he and the veteran eventually found the car at the price they wanted at South County Suntrup VW.

Here's what happened next, according to the complaint: "After the transaction, plaintiff sent an email to defendant Roberts stating: 'Thank you for feeding us a whole bunch of bullshit and steering us toward Suntrup VW! They were fantastic, followed through with every term we asked for.

"'You all back that horrible reputation Dick Dean holds! There is a reason they are the #1!

"'Good luck to all you greedy morons!'"

Smith says he signed the email "Justin" and sent it from his personal email account.

"Defendants retaliated against plaintiff by sending a copy of the email to plaintiff's employer and stating the plaintiff sent the email from his email account at work," the complaint states. "Defendant forged plaintiff's signature block from work to the email they claimed to have received from plaintiff."

The defendants falsely claimed that they "intended to use plaintiff's employer for certain business dealing but decided not to do so in light plaintiff's email," Smith says in the lawsuit.

He claims he was fired immediately without getting a chance to explain.

Smith says he suffered emotional distress, a damaged reputation and economic loss.

He seeks exemplary damages for libel, intentional interference with a business relationship, and violations of the Missouri Merchandise Practices Act.

He is represented by Jeffrey S. Damerall of St. Louis.

Follow @@joeharris_stl
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