South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Consumer Protection Statute Allows Recovery for Mental Distress

Ohio high court held that under the state’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, a jury could award damages for emotional distress to a consumer mistreated by a car dealer. The measure of damages is to be liberally construed.


Consumer Protection

Key Words

Consumer Sales Practices Act; Damages; Mental Distress; Vehicle Leasing

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Whitaker attempted to lease a vehicle from Montrose Toyota in Ohio. He was offered a “spot delivery,” which means the seller lets the buyer take a vehicle before financing approval is complete. The vehicle may be returned if financing is not approved. Payments would be $230 a month. He said would be back in two days, paid $1,537 as a deposit, gave Montrose a new stereo to install in the vehicle, and went out and sold his vehicle. When he returned, Montrose told him the best financing they could find was for $297 a month. He refused. The manager said the deal was off and that his deposit would not be refunded because he had broken the contract. He sued Montrose for violations of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA). Montrose returned his deposit but not the stereo. The jury awarded Whitaker $367 for the stereo and $105,000 for eleven violations of the CSPA. As allowed by statute, the judge trebled the damages to $315,000 and awarded $155,000 in attorney fees. The appeals court reversed. Whitaker appealed to the Ohio high court.


Reversed and remanded. All forms of compensatory damages, including non-economic damages, are allowed by the CSPA which “prohibits suppliers from committing either unfair or deceptive consumer sales practices or unconscionable acts or practices.” The statute is to be construed liberally. While the CSPA does not apply to personal injury actions, it can apply to emotional distress, as Whitaker claimed. The statute does not require the consumer to satisfy the elements of negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress in order to recover for emotional distress under the CSPA. The decision of the jury stands.


Whitaker v. M.T. Automotive, 855 N.E.2d 825 (Sup. Ct., Ohio, 2006)

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