A woman and her father have filed a lawsuit against Saratoga Springs Nissan claiming the car dealership forged their signatures on paperwork identifying the father as a co-signer on the daughter’s car loan.
Kristen M. Hitchcock of Loudonville and Michael D. Hitchcock of Albany filed the suit in late September in the state Supreme Court in Saratoga County against the dealer, which is located on Route 9 in Malta just off Exit 13.
Kristen Hitchcock bought a 2012 Rogue from Saratoga Nissan in March. According to the lawsuit, when she took possession, staff at the dealership told her she wouldn’t need a co-signer but was being charged more than the cash value of the SUV to help her get financing. Her attorney calls that “unethical at the very least.”
She borrowed $31,334 to pay for the car, loan fees and vehicle taxes and fees. But numbers on the paper document that she signed March 27 are different from ones that appeared on an electronic form submitted to lender Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. on April 25, she alleges in the lawsuit.
Hitchcock’s attorney, Michael Bruno, alleges that the dealership sent in those electronic forms later, doctored the numbers to sell Hitchcock a maintenance agreement and service agreement that she didn’t want and forged her signature.
On the electronic version, she was charged $2,500 each for an extended warranty and a maintenance contract and the base price for the car is lower than on the paper document — $23,153 vs. $26,605.
Bruno said it appears the dealership “backed into” the borrowed amount and then changed around some of the numbers after she signed the paper document.
“The initial cash price was inflated, we believe to hide the fact that they were going to add the service contract,” he said.
The lawsuit alleges that after selling the vehicle to Hitchcock, staffers called her later and said she would need a co-signer after all. She asked her father but he refused, the lawsuit states.
She never heard any more about it until Michael Hitchcock tried to buy a Ford truck to use for his business and couldn’t get a loan because he was listed as a co-signer on his daughter’s vehicle, the lawsuit alleges.
That’s when Kristen Hitchcock demanded copies of the documents relating to her loan and found that the signatures used on the electronic version were not hers or her father’s, the lawsuit said.
Michael Hitchcock is still trying to get his credit cleared so he can buy a business vehicle, Bruno said.
Bill Dreyer from the Dreyer Boyajian law firm in Albany, which represents Saratoga Springs Nissan, said his office is reviewing the lawsuit. “Hopefully the matter will be resolved shortly,” he said.
The Hitchcocks’ attorney also represented cousins Tashanna Jones of Albany and Daquetta Jones of Troy in a May lawsuit against Saratoga Springs Nissan alleging that the company made false promises to get them to buy cars they initially didn’t want, inflated prices without explanation and submitted paperwork to the lender with fake signatures.
Bruno said he has since discontinued that lawsuit because the company has settled with his clients.
But since the Joneses’ case was publicized in the spring, Bruno has gotten other complaints from Saratoga Springs Nissan customers, and he is considering filing a class-action lawsuit against the company.