As previously reported on the internet and through the Division of Consumer Affairs, specifically, four Sansone dealerships signed a consent agreement with the State to cease various business practices. Interestingly enough as part of the settlement, there is a complaints program. The defendants in the lawsuit are required to submit a copy of the consent judgment to its officers, directors and owners within 30 days of the settlement and then, within 45 days, the defendants shall provide the state with proof that they have been supplied a copy of the consent judgment with an alphabetic list of the names.
Then, within 60 days, the specific Sansone dealership shall provide the plaintiff with a memorandum detailing the specific policies and procedures within the advertisements and websites required by the motor vehicle advertising regulations as compliance as part of the consent judgment. The dealerships are required to make available for inspecting and copying, at no cost to the plaintiffs, all policies and procedures applicable to this portion of the settlement.
This is significant. If now a consumer were to institute suit against Sansone for one of the actual or legal theories which were covered as part of the state investigation and settlement, Sansone would effectively be on notice and, in essence, have committed an intentional violation of the law. If the officers and directors are required to know and required to review the appropriate compliance procedures and policies to make sure that the program is followed, the only reasonable conclusion would be that Sansone would be aware of any of the appropriate violations. You would think that this would be necessary as part of running a dealership, but apparently it is not.
There is consent judgment. There has been extensive information in the news about the four Sansone dealerships in the Sansone Auto Network who have recently signed a consent judgment with the State. What is this? Consent judgment is in essence a settlement agreement. Apparently the subject dealerships and the State have agreed to a settlement of the matter. In an ordinary lawsuit, there would be a settlement agreement signed between the parties and the payment of moneys. That is for an individual lawsuit between individual parties, not a state entity. However, in this matter, the state is an entity and I must assume that the state would not go with a simple settlement agreement but wanted a consent judgment.
In my opinion, the difference is that it is an official matter of public record rather than a settlement agreement, which many times can be confidential. Nonetheless, a “judgment” under the law gives a significantly greater effect than just a regular settlement agreement. But for practical purposes, they are the same thing.
What usually occurs in these cases is that the Division of Consumer Affairs or the State gets various complaints from numerous consumers against a particular dealership. The State then investigates these complaints risen or filed by the individual consumers. After these complaints are accumulated, the State will file a lawsuit against the particular dealership or entity and ultimately try the matter if it cannot be resolved. Obviously the resolution of one of these claims is by a consent judgment.