Bamboozled: Is this Mercedes a 'lemon' under the law? – NJ.com

When Julie Sueta needed a car, she did her research.

Sueta talked to friends about brand recommendations, and she decided to shop for a previously owned Mercedes. 

Then she researched different dealerships. When she called Euro MotorCars Devon in Devon, Pa., the salesman said it was one of the largest dealers of certified pre-owned Mercedes in the area, selling more than 80 Mercedes per month.

The salesman told her all their cars meet very specific requirements.   

“This gave me a comfort level that they were not just selling any used Mercedes,” Sueta said.  

She went shopping at Euro and purchased a 2011 C300W4 on May 24, 2014. The cost was $28,672.20, including taxes and registration costs.

The car came with a warranty that would expire on Oct. 12, 2015, and Sueta bought an extended warranty that would both give her the full warranty that was received by the car’s original owner, plus an additional year after the first warranty ended. The actual cost of the extended warranty isn’t explicit in Sueta’s paperwork because it was rolled into her car loan, but the warranty itself says the cost runs from $2,395 to $2,995, depending on the model.

In less than a month, Sueta said, she started hearing grinding noises from the engine.

Julie Sueta has owned her 2011 Mercedes C30 Sport since May of 2014 and has taken the car back to the dealership twelve times for noise coming from the engine. Robert Sciarrino/NJ Advance Media 

Rather than take the car back to Pennsylvania, Sueta visited Mercedes-Benz of Morristown, an authorized service department for the brand.

Her first visit was in August 2014. The problems weren’t fixed, and over the months that followed, she took the car at least other 11 times, she said, to no avail.

And each time she left the car for service, the mechanics held onto it longer and longer to try to fix the issue, she said.

“The problem has been described to me as an engine issue where there is a problem with the belts, which have been repeatedly replaced and shimmed,” Sueta said. “Although the car is not currently making the noise, I have been advised that it will return.”

Sueta said the Morristown workers were sympathetic, but she said they told her that their hands were tied by Mercedes’ corporate office.

After about four months of trying to fix the problem, the dealership asked Mercedes USA to contact Sueta, she said.

“[The rep] was less than helpful and offered no solution,” Sueta said. “I spoke with her on numerous occasions and requested to speak to her supervisor. She indicated that there was no one above her which I know is not true.”

Sueta said finally, after one of the longer service appointments — some actually lasted weeks, documents show — the service manager said Mercedes USA would be sending “something.”

A few weeks later, Sueta received a check for $700 as a reward for her loyalty as a customer.

Sueta’s conversations with Mercedes Morristown continued.

“My service rep indicated that they had seen the issue before and that it had never ended up permanently repaired — that the issue just kept coming back,” Sueta said. “The only time they had seen it fixed was if the engine was replaced or the car itself was replaced –both of which happened on previous occasions.”

She said she was also told the mechanic was frustrated because he’s had to make the same repair over and over, but it hasn’t worked.

“I do not feel safe,” Sueta said. “I have been told road failure is an option at any time.”

Sueta decided to hire an attorney.

Lewis Cohn of Witman Stadtmauer wrote his first letters to Mercedes USA and the two dealerships on Sueta’s behalf in late May 2015.

Cohn said he requested relief under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act — commonly called the federal lemon law — and the New Jersey Used Car Lemon Law. 

For those of you not familiar with the federal and state lemon laws, Cohn offered an explainer.  

He said the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act protects consumers who obtain manufacturers’ warranties for consumer products — including motor vehicles — by requiring that manufacturers stand behind the products to assure that the materials used and the workmanship provided are defect free or will meet a specified level of performance over a specified time period. 

“Unlike other states which restrict their ‘lemon laws’ to new cars, New Jersey has adopted a separate Used Car Lemon Law to provide assurances that pre-owned motor vehicles are free of defects and malfunctions and are fit for normal use and personal, family or household purposes,” Cohn said. 

Julie Sueta’s paperwork related to her 2011 Mercedes C30 Sport. She said she’s taken the car back to the dealership twelve times for noise coming from the engine. Robert Sciarrino/NJ Advance Media 

In Sueta’s case, Cohn said, the manufacturer’s warranty that Sueta received at the time of purchase expressly provides for a replacement in the event that the Mercedes vehicle fails to perform as represented. 

Mercedes Morristown and Euro MotorCars Devon responded to Cohn’s letter, saying the responsibility lies with Mercedes USA.

Mercedes USA was silent.

Cohn wrote again to the three entities in July with a copy of a proposed complaint that he said Sueta would file in court.

In less than a week, documents show, Mercedes USA responded, saying the “vehicle’s repair history does not meet [the] requirement” of ‘a substantial amount of repairs to warrantable defects.'”

That doesn’t cut it to Sueta and Cohn.

“Mercedes-Benz USA should provide Julie Sueta with a replacement vehicle of comparable age, use type and mileage — approximately 22,000 miles — as the vehicle that she purchased in May 2014,” Cohn said. 

Second, the attorney said, the manufacturer should provide Sueta with warranty protection identical in scope and time of coverage as the warranties on the current car. Those warranties should run from the date of delivery of any replacement vehicle, he said.

They believe Mercedes should reimburse attorney’s fees, too.

If that doesn’t happen, Cohn will file suit on Sueta’s behalf.

Sueta said that while she still drives the car, she doesn’t feel safe.

“I basically feel stuck,” Sueta said. “I am not comfortable selling it privately or to another dealer. I would never misrepresent the condition of the vehicle which is obviously sketchy and unsafe.”

RESOLUTION OR LAWSUIT?

We reached out to both dealerships and to Mercedes USA.

Mercedes Morristown directed us to Mercedes USA.  

Euro MotorCars Devon did respond, saying it wasn’t aware of the service issues because it hasn’t seen the car since it was sold. That doesn’t seem right, given that we’ve seen a letter from Euro’s attorney in response to Sueta’s attorney’s letter on this very topic.

Then we heard back from Mercedes USA.

A spokesman said after a thorough review, it appears that all reasonable efforts were made to satisfy the customer. 

He said several “gestures of assistance” were provided, including complimentary loaner vehicles during service calls.

“To our knowledge, the customer never had to pay any out-of-pocket expenses for any dealer visit related to the original concern about engine noise,” spokesman Christian Bokich said. “Based on all available information, the dealership made many attempts to address the customer’s concerns, including a goodwill payment in addition to warranty coverage, and the customer was never in danger because the vehicle posed no safety risks.”

Attorney Cohn wasn’t satisfied with that response.

He said the spokesman made much of the fact that Sueta wasn’t charged for the repairs, but that’s specifically what the warranty calls for.

“On page 12 of the warranty, it is provided that, ‘Warranty repairs will be made at no charge for parts and labor,'” he said. 

Cohn also took issue with the spokesman’s statement that not all of Sueta’s service visits were for the engine noise.

“He is right. Ms. Sueta has records reflecting 15 visits to the Mercedes service center. Three of these visits were for general servicing or other problems. That leaves 12 visits to address the ongoing problem with the engine,” he said. 

And, Cohn said, even if there were fewer visits for the engine problem, the New Jersey Used Car Lemon Law says a manufacturer and its dealer are presumed to have had a reasonable opportunity to correct or repair a defect if the same issue was repaired three or more times without success, or if the car was “out of service by reason of waiting for the dealer to begin or complete repair of the material defect for a cumulative total of 20 or more days during the warranty period.” 

Cohn said his client’s car satisfies both of these tests.

Plus, we’d argue that Sueta being told “road failure” could certainly be interpreted as a safety risk.  

We sent Cohn’s comments to the spokesman, who said the company had no further comment. 

So it looks like a lawsuit will be in the works. We’ll let you know what happens. 

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com.

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Logan Co. man claims Ford Fiesta was a lemon – West Virginia Record

LOGAN — A Logan County man is suing Ford, alleging professional negligence in his automobile’s mechanical failure.

Larry Hensley filed a lawsuit in Logan Circuit Court against Ford Motor Company, alleging breach of warranty in the 2011 purchase of a 2012 Ford Fiesta manufactured by the defendant.

According to the filing, on Sept. 14, 2011, Hensley paid a Ford dealer in Charleston $17,300 for the vehicle and the purchase price included a three year/36,000 mile manufacturer’s warranty and an implied warranty of merchantability. The suit states the auto has been subject to multiple repairs for defects that remain uncorrected.

The lawsuit states the car has a defective transmission and engine, evidenced by noises, movements and vibrations. Hensley alleges he provided the manufacturer ample repair opportunities, that the defects have not been corrected, and that he could not have known of the problems prior to acceptance of the vehicle.

The complaint says Hensley provided Ford with written notice of his purchase’s condition. The plaintiff alleges breach of written warranty and implied warranty as per the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

Hensley seeks judgment in his favor to compensate for diminution in his vehicle’s value, other relief as the court deems just, attorney fees and costs. He is represented by attorney Michael Bailey of Bailey & Howard in Barboursville. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Eric H. O’Briant.


Logan Circuit Court case number 15-C-194-O.

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Lemon Law Can't Shield 2nd Owner: Calif. Appeals Court – Law360 (subscription)

By Jody Godoy

Law360, New York (July 17, 2015, 6:21 PM ET) —
A California appeals court denied a used truck owner’s right to sue Ford Motor Co. under the state lemon law, saying although the truck’s warranty hadn’t run out, the law expressly covered only new car purchasers in a published decision on Friday.

The three-judge appeals panel said that Greg Dagher didn’t have a claim under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as the lemon law, because the act’s definition of “buyer” and “seller” excluded his purchase of the truck from its original buyer. Because of those exclusions, the sale couldn’t confer the first owner’s rights under the act, the court said, upholding most of the lower court’s ruling. However, the appellate panel said the lower court should have allowed him to amend his suit to seek relief under other, broader warranty statutes.

“Where the seller is a retail seller engaged in the business of vehicle selling, the act contemplates coverage,” the state appeals court said. “Where the sellers are private parties who are not routinely engaged in such a ‘retail’ business, the fact that a plaintiff bought a vehicle with its remaining written warranty rights is not alone dispositive under the act.”

Dagher sued Ford under the lemon law in 2013, claiming the manufacturer had failed to live up to its responsibility to fix the engine in a 2006 Ford F-350 which was still under its original warranty when he bought it from the original buyers in 2009, according to the appeals court’s summary of the case.

The law allows consumers who buy new vehicles in the state to demand a refund or replacement if the manufacturer does not fix problems with vehicles covered under warranty in a reasonable number of attempts. The law applies for the entirety of the warranty period.

“Unless the seller is a retail seller within the meaning of the act, plaintiff was not a buyer under the act,” the court found in its analysis of the law. “And unless new consumer goods were bought, the act does not protect a consumer.”

The appeals court said that though the courts have upheld the rights of a consumer whose car was repossessed, and one who purchased a demonstration vehicle, those cases were not the same as Dagner’s claim.

The appellate panel also held that although the sale of the truck transferred its remaining warranty to Dagher, the initial buyer’s rights under the lemon law could not be transferred because of the restrictive definitions in the law and because the law conferred rights that were extra to and separate from the rights under the warranty.

But the San Diego County court overstepped its authority in denying Dagher leave to amend his complaint, the appeals panel ruled, allowing the plaintiff to refile under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or the express warranty provisions of the state’s commercial code.

Hal Rosner of Rosner Barry & Babbitt LLP, who represents Dagher, said while he disagrees with the ruling, it allows his client’s suit to go forward under federal statutes and that he plans to lobby Sacramento to get the state lemon law amended now that it is clear that the judiciary won’t interpret the law broadly.

“If the warranty fully transfers, so should the rights,” Rosner said, noting the judges had conceded during oral arguments that the exemptions in the law led to “absurd results,” but said that fixing the statute was a job for the state legislature.

Counsel for Ford did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Friday.

Dagher is represented by Hallen D. Rosner and Arlyn L. Escalante of Rosner Barry & Babbitt LLP and Susan A. Yeck of Lemon Law Associates

Ford is represented by Vickie E. Turner, Robert A. Shields and Robert K. Dixon of Wilson Turner Kosmo and John M. Thomas and Tamara A. Bush of Dykema Gossett PLLC.

The case is Greg Dagher v. Ford Motor Company, case number D065963, in the Court of Appeal for the State of California.

— Editing by Ben Guilfoy.

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Bill to Protect Farmers from Faulty Equipment Approved by Senate – Cape May County Herald (press release)

TRENTON — Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Whip Wilson, Gabriela Mosquera, Vincent Mazzeo and Bob Andrzejczak to help protect farmers from faulty equipment was approved 34-0 Thurs. by the Senate.

The bill (A-1812) extends the protections of the state’s vehicle lemon law to new motor vehicle farm equipment purchased or leased in New Jersey.

“Farming is vital industry for New Jersey, but it’s struggling against a tough economy and encroaching development,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Anything we can do to help protect farmers from extra costs is a good thing.”

“Tractors are expensive and vital to farming work,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Extending the lemon law protection to farm tractors ensures that farmers in the state will have some recourse when stuck with faulty equipment that could potentially threaten their business.”

“Farmers are at the mercy of the weather and other conditions that can impact their crops,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Add unexpected costs from a faulty farm vehicle and it could be enough to threaten their livelihood. Providing this protection gives farmers one less thing to worry about.”

“Tractors are costly investments. If a tractor turns out to be defective, it can have serious financial implications for its owner,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “Farmers should have the same protection afforded to regular consumers when they end up with a lemon.”

Specifically, the bill extends the protections of the “lemon law” to new motor vehicle farm tractors purchased or leased in New Jersey if a nonconformity is reported by the consumer within a period of two years following the date of original delivery to the consumer, regardless of mileage.

The bill also provide that under the “lemon law” protections, all repairs to farm tractors made after a period of one year following the date of original delivery to the consumer, regardless of mileage shall be recoverable as a cost in any action brought by a consumer against a manufacturer pursuant to that law.

The amended bill requires final legislative approval from the Assembly before going to the governor.

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Pets: The animals in our lives. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pet Tales: The woman behind the Petland complaints

July 25, 2015 12:00 AM

  • 20150721bwCercielloMag03-2

    20150721bwCercielloMag03-2 Katelyn Cerciello, 18, of McDonald with a couple of her family's dogs, Gracie, left, and Deliah. Ms. Cerciello posted a story on Facebook and photos about Petland in Robinson, where she had worked and questioned the care the animals were getting.

    Bill Wade/Post-Gazette

    Katelyn Cerciello, 18, of McDonald with a couple of her family’s dogs, Gracie, left, and Deliah. Ms. Cerciello posted a story on Facebook and photos about Petland in Robinson, where she had worked and questioned the care the animals were getting.



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What kind of person criticizes her former place of employment, creating a social media firestorm that attracts the attention of local and national media?

Katelyn Cerciello, 18, the online critic of Petland Robinson, is an animal lover with lots of experience caring for an Appaloosa horse and four dogs — a Labrador retriever, English springer spaniel, coon hound and Peke-a-poo. She also breeds and raises about 40 Silkie chickens as well as lionhead rabbits and Flemish giant rabbits.

After graduating from West Allegheny High School with a 4.5 grade point average, she’s going to Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., in the fall, where she’ll major in biology. She’ll live at her family’s McDonald home so that she can care for her animals. Her goal is to be a veterinarian.

One week into her summer job at Petland, she said she knew she couldn’t stay because the animals weren’t getting the care they needed. She thought about quitting, but after talking with her father, a wildlife conservation officer, Ms. Cerciello worked about three more weeks, taking pictures to document her concerns. Then she quit the job.

She put pictures and posts on www.petlandinrobinsonexposed.blogspot.com and on her Facebook page. Puppies would get very sick, she claimed, and Petland Robinson owner Jeff Koury would refuse to get them veterinary care. The most horrific picture she posted shows a bunch of white mice crammed together in a small space. Many of them had gaping wounds and large bloody patches where hair and skin appeared to be stripped away. 

To his credit, Mr. Koury invited local media to his store in Robinson Town Center on Tuesday. He didn’t attend the press conference, but store manager Joann Williams gave a tour and released written statements from him and from Petland headquarters in Chillicothe, Ohio.

“We want to assure the public and our customers that these allegations are not true,” Mr. Koury’s statement read. “All puppies are examined by a local veterinarian at least once a week. If they get sick, that veterinarian will treat them and they will be taken to a veterinary hospital, if necessary. Further, this individual’s allegation that puppies have died at the Petland Robinson store also is false.”

As for the bloody mice, Ms. Williams did not deny that the picture was real. Mice “were being moved from one tank to another,” she said, and they were briefly crowded together. Someone made “a mistake,” putting two females in with a group of male mice, who fought with each other because they wanted to breed with the females, she said.

For the record, reporters saw cute puppies that were clean and well-groomed and seemed to be well-socialized. They wagged tails and put their paws up on the cage bars “asking” to be petted and played with. Some of the puppies were sleeping and didn’t wake up during our tour.

I asked Ms. Cerciello if she’s a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or any other organization.

“No, I did this on my own,” she said, “I’m not really an animal rights activist.”

Like many people her age, Ms. Cerciello knows how to use social media, but she says she never expected such a big response. She’s especially touched by the many emails she received from people who said puppies they bought from Petland have had severe and expensive health problems. She’s also surprised by negative emails and social media posts that criticize her for being a hunter, which is evident from pictures on her Facebook page.

“I’m a strong advocate of the ethical hunt,” Ms. Cerciello said, and “an [National Rifle Association] shotgun instructor.”

Some people have a hard time understanding that hunters can be animal lovers and vice versa. I’ve never shot anything other than clay pigeons or paper targets, but I completely get the fact that many animal lovers also love to hunt.

I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls and emails about Petland Robinson, most of them negative. I received a few from people who said they bought wonderful puppies that never had health problems. 

The problem with pet store puppies is their point of origin. They usually come from what critics call “puppy mills,” which are large commercial breeding facilities. The adult animals are repeatedly bred, and they get little socialization or exercise. The puppies are shipped long distances to pet stores.

In 2012, a North Versailles family sued Mr. Koury after their boxer puppy racked up $5,200 in veterinary bills. District Judge Gary M. Zyra of Scott ordered Mr. Koury to pay Marsha Quinten and her family $1,499 toward Bowser’s bills. Pennsylvania’s Puppy Lemon Law allows for reimbursement of vet fees “not to exceed the purchase price” of the puppy.

Mrs. Quinten  said her family didn’t go to small claims court to try to get more. “It was never about the money. We just wanted people to know” about the perils of some pet store puppies.

At the 2012 hearing, Mr. Koury testified  that in eight years he sold more than 5,000 puppies that came from the Hunte Corp. The Missouri company is a “broker” that buys puppies from breeders and ships them all over the country to pet stores.

Pup Crawl 2015

This year’s Pup Crawl on the Roberto Clemente Bridge is next Saturday,  6:30-9 p.m. The Downtown event has a new feature. Organizers hope to set a world record for ”most dogs sitting simultaneously.“

Beneficiaries are the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center, and Animal Friends. You can pre-register on any of their websites — $25 per dog. It’s $35 if you register at the event. Your dog gets a bandana and goodie bag. There will be vendors, food, raffles and giveaways.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Magazine section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. 

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I-Team: Salvaged motor vehicles and the Lemon Law | WWLP.com – wwlp.com

cars parking theft

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – When you buy a used car, you want to know the car you’re getting is worth every penny and not a lemon! One woman in our area found out too late the car she bought had been totaled in the past.

The 22News I-Team checks out salvaged motor vehicles. Find out how you can determine if the car you want to buy has been totaled and what laws protect you if the car turns out to be a lemon.

If you’re shopping for a used car you’ll want to see this report, Tuesday, July 14 on 22News at 6pm.

  • More information about the Massachusetts Lemon Law

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I-Team: Salvaged motor vehicles and the Lemon Law – wwlp.com

cars parking theft

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – When you buy a used car, you want to know the car you’re getting is worth every penny and not a lemon! One woman in our area found out too late the car she bought had been totaled in the past.

The 22News I-Team checks out salvaged motor vehicles. Find out how you can determine if the car you want to buy has been totaled and what laws protect you if the car turns out to be a lemon.

If you’re shopping for a used car you’ll want to see this report, Tuesday, July 14 on 22News at 6pm.

  • More information about the Massachusetts Lemon Law

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Virginia has lemon law to protect buyers of farm equipment – Augusta Free Press

Virginia has lemon law to protect buyers of farm equipment

Published Sunday, Jun. 21, 2015, 12:30 pm

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virginia-newJust as there is a Virginia lemon law to protect purchasers of new automobiles, the state also provides protection for people purchasing new self-propelled farm equipment.

In the Code of Virginia, Title 59.1, Chapter 17.2 covers “Agricultural Equipment Warranties” and offers “protection against defective agricultural equipment.”

Wilmer Stoneman, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation associate director of governmental relations, looked into the issue after a Farm Bureau member experienced problems with a new tractor.

“I dug around a bit and found out that there is indeed a section of code that protects against defective agricultural equipment, and that virtually no one knew that this law existed,” Stoneman said.

“It is really important that farmers take action if they have any issues with newly purchased equipment. Too often they just find out a way to deal with defective equipment or simply don’t know there is a remedy for their situation.”

According to the code, when agricultural equipment does not conform to all applicable express written warranties, and it is reported to the manufacturer, its agent or an authorized dealer during the period of one year following the date of original delivery of the equipment to the consumer, repairs must be made to conform the equipment to express written warranties. To read the code in its entirety, visit law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode.

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Couple invokes lemon law in Chevy purchase – West Virginia Record

PINEVILLE — A Wyoming County couple is suing General Motors, demanding a refund for a vehicle that allegedly demonstrated atypical noises, smells, leaks and malfunctions.

LemonLawChristopher Morgan and Heather Morgan of Simon filed a lawsuit June 5 in Wyoming Circuit Court against General Motors regarding the purchase of their 2012 Chevrolet Equinox.

According to the complaint, on Aug. 18, 2014, the plaintiffs bought the vehicle from Thornhill Superstore in Chapmanville for a price of $27,350. The suit says the Morgans returned the vehicle to the dealer Sept. 2, 2014, and several dates thereafter due to engine anomalies, leaking, odors and noises.

The suit states that on March 17, 2015, the plaintiffs notified the dealership that the engine blew up. The vehicle was towed to Thornhill and remains stored there, the suit says.

The suit alleges continuing performance issues, multiple major repairs and loss of use. The Morgans says their vehicle’s nonconformities represent the likelihood of bodily injury if driven and that the manufacturer failed to correct its alleged defects. The plaintiffs, invoking the Consumer Protection/New Motor Vehicle Warranties Act of West Virginia, revoke acceptance of the vehicle via the lawsuit.

The Morgans seek a refund of the purchase price including taxes, fees and expenses, or alternatively, damages for loss of use, annoyance and inconvenience, interest, attorney fees and costs. They are represented by attorney David Thompson of Thompson Law Office in Pineville. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Warren R. McGraw.

Wyoming Circuit Court case number 15-C-114

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