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Borena v. Jacocks

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 12, 2017

WONDIMU BORENA
v.
JASON JACOCKS, ET AL.

          Session March 22, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 15C2783 Thomas W. Brothers, Judge

         This is a mechanic's lien case. Appellee/auto repair shop agreed to repair Appellant's vehicle for $5, 267.30. Appellant paid this amount, but Appellee raised the estimate to $9, 489.30. Appellant did not pay the additional costs. Under a purported mechanic's lien, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 66-19-103, Appellee sold Appellant's vehicle for $4, 500.00. Appellant filed a complaint, seeking damages for conversion and for violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The trial court dismissed Appellant's Tennessee Consumer Protection Act claim. Concerning the conversion claim, the trial court held that Appellee did not have a valid mechanic's lien and had converted the property. The trial court awarded $10, 000.00 in damages to Appellant. Appellant appeals, arguing that the damage award is insufficient. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed and Remanded

          Wondimu Borena, Nashville, Tennessee, appellant, Pro Se.

          Renard Astaire Hirsh, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Jason Jacocks and Greenleaf Collision, Inc.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE

         I. Background

         On January 3, 2014, Appellant Wondimu Borena purchased a 2012 Honda Odyssey minivan from an online car dealer for $7, 041.93. The vehicle had been totaled, and Mr. Borena took the vehicle to Limon Auto Repair.[2] After extensive repairs to the vehicle, Mr. Borena received a rebuilt title for the automobile on April 17, 2014. However, Mr. Borena noticed that the tailgate was not closing properly. On June 7, 2014, he took the minivan to Greenleaf Collision, Inc. ("Appellee" or "Greenleaf") for further repairs. Greenleaf prepared an estimate of $5, 267.30 for the repair. Mr. Borena agreed to the estimate, and, on June 12, 2014, made a $2, 000.00 down payment and left the vehicle to be repaired. On September 2, 2014, Greenleaf contacted Mr. Borena and requested that he come to the shop. Appellant testified that when he arrived, he was informed that the total price of the repair had increased to $9, 489.20, allegedly due to additional defects that were discovered after Greenleaf had given the initial estimate. On September 2 and 3, 2014, Mr. Borena made payments to Greenleaf of $2, 000.00 and $1, 500.00, respectively, for a total of $5, 500.00. However, he refused to pay the full $9, 489.20.

         On January 8, 2015, Greenleaf allegedly sent notice to Mr. Borena that he owed $19, 241.10 for repairs, storage fees, and processing fees, and informed him that, if the balance was not paid in full within ten days, Greenleaf would sell the vehicle to satisfy the debt. Appellant testified that he never received a letter from Greenleaf. On or about March 17, 2015, Greenleaf sold the vehicle for $4, 500.00.

         On June 3, 2015, Appellant, acting pro se, filed a warrant in the general sessions court against an employee of Greenleaf, Jason Jacocks, seeking a return of Appellant's vehicle, which he valued at $29, 000.00; this warrant was dismissed, without explanation. Appellant refiled the case against Appellee Greenleaf. On July 13, 2015, the general sessions court dismissed the Greenleaf warrant, again without explanation. On July 17, 2015, Appellant filed a notice of appeal of the general sessions' judgment.

         On August 3, 2015, Mr. Borena, who was represented by counsel at the time, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Davidson County ("trial court") against Jason Jacocks and Appellee Greenleaf. Mr. Borena sought damages, costs, and attorney's fees, alleging: (1) violation of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 66-19-104(a)(1)(B), which requires an automobile repair facility to inform a consumer of his or her rights; (2) violation of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 66-14-102, which requires notice to the owner of a vehicle prior to sale on a lien; (3) violation of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 66-14-106, which requires the proceeds of a sale on a lien, if a balance remains, to be delivered to the former owner; (4) violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), Tennessee Code Annotated Section 47-18-104; and (5) conversion of Appellant's property. On January 20, 2016, Appellee filed its answer to the complaint, alleging that it was entitled to sell Appellant's vehicle because Appellant had not paid the $9, 489.20 repair cost. Appellee denied Appellant's statutory claims and claim for conversion and sought damages for the repairs and storage charges.

         On January 20, 2016, the trial court heard the case. Appellant voluntarily dismissed Jason Jacocks as a party. At the close of proof, Greenleaf moved to dismiss Appellant's claims. The trial court dismissed Mr. Borena's TCPA claim, on the ground that Tennessee Code Annotated Section 47-18-104(b)(27) does not provide a private right of action and vests enforcement solely in the attorney general. The trial court denied Greenleaf's motion as to all other claims. On February 2, 2016, the trial court entered its order, finding:

1. For the reasons announced from the bench, the court finds that [Appellee] violated [Tennessee Code Annotated Section] 66-19-101, etc., it[s] statutory lien against [Appellant]'s vehicle was nullified[, ] and [Appellee] committed conversion when it sold [Appellant's] vehicle;
* * *
4. [Appellee]'s counterclaim against [Appellant] is dismissed; and
5. A judgment is entered against [] Greenleaf Collision, Inc. for Ten Thousand Dollars and No Cents ($10, 000.00) plus the costs of this action, all for which execution may issue if necessary.

Appellant appeals.

         II. Issues

         We restate Appellant's issues, as follows[3]:

1. Whether the trial court erred in finding that Appellee violated Tennessee Code Annotated Section 66-19-101 et seq. and ...

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