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Thompson v. Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Great Falls, Inc.

Montana Supreme Court
185 P.3d 332 (2008)


Facts

Corey and Kimber Thompson (Thompsons) (plaintiffs) sought to purchase a truck from Lithia Jeep Dodge of Great Falls, Inc. (Lithia) (defendant). In January 2005, they made a down payment on a new truck, received a trade-in credit for their current vehicle, and intended to finance the rest. The Thompsons signed both a Retail Installment Contract and Vehicle Buyer’s Order relating to the purchase. The contract provided for an annual percentage rate (APR) of 3.9 percent and required that disputes be resolved by arbitration. The order likewise referred to an APR of 3.9 percent and required arbitration. The order further stated that the transaction would “not be a binding contract to the dealer” until the financing terms had been accepted by a financial institution. The Thompsons took the truck home. After a week, Lithia contacted them, demanding that they sign new papers reflecting a 4.9 percent APR or return the truck. The Thompsons left the truck at the dealership, but Lithia did not return their down payment or the trade-in vehicle. Lithia later submitted the initial loan application to Daimler Chrysler Financial Services Americas (Daimler Financial) (defendant), which accepted it. Lithia informed the Thompsons in January 2006 that it had made a payment to Daimler Financial on the Thompsons’ behalf in order to maintain the 3.9 percent APR. The Thompsons filed suit, to which the defendants moved to compel arbitration and stay discovery. The district court granted the motion, and the Thompsons appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Rice, J.)

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