A lawsuit against BMW of North America by a Highland Park woman who claims she bought a used car the automaker knew was a lemon has settled out of court on the eve of trial.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Jonathan C. Scott, the attorney for the plaintiff, Whitney A. Walker, would say only, “My client is satisfied with the settlement.” Walker’s suit, filed in February 2020, sought millions of dollars in compensatory and exemplary damages.
Jacob B. Kring, a partner in the Dallas firm of Hedrick Kring Bailey and the head of BMW’s trial team in the case, declined to comment on the settlement.
Walker’s suit contended that a used 2014 BMW i3 she bought from a third-party dealer in 2017 was offered for auction on the used-car market by BMW even though it “had a long list of defects and problems” that the automaker concealed.
The i3 was an all-electric hatchback no longer in production. Since she purchased the car, Walker’s lawsuit said, it has been out of service “for substantial periods of time,” including nearly half of 2018, when it was in the shop at BMW of Dallas. Among other problems, the suit said, she and others experienced electrical shocks if they were touching the car’s door sill while its charging cable was unplugged.
In a sworn statement filed with the court last month, Walker said the car is sitting in her backyard, unusable and unsaleable, while she continues to pay off a loan on it, as well as keeping up its insurance and registration.
The settlement came about after Dallas County District Judge Eric V. Moyé, before whom the case was to be tried beginning June 6, publicly accused BMW and its counsel of “a sustained, concerted, bad faith effort” to “to throw obstacle after obstacle in front of the plaintiff” to deny her a day in court.
In a blistering April 28 order, Judge Moyé sanctioned BMW and Hedrick Kring Bailey, ordering them to pay Scott more than $773,000 for his firm’s fees and expenses to fight what the judge called an endless string of “frivolous and groundless” defense maneuvers intended to thwart the production of records through discovery.
“The court finds that virtually every pleading filed in this case by HKB on behalf of BMW related to responding to plaintiff’s discovery requests was made in bad faith,” Judge Moyé wrote.
“This case is an example of a wealthy client and its law firm using delay, misdirection, and both rejected as well as frivolous arguments to make litigation unfairly difficult and expensive for its opponents,” he added. “Unfortunately, this sort of conduct is not uncommon in our court system. Sadly, it was unusually egregious and persistent here.”
Scott, who married his client after signing on as her lawyer, contended in pretrial filings that he could show BMW regularly — and fraudulently — resells its lemons to used-car dealers without disclosing the extent of the vehicles’ problems or the complaints of their original owners.