GMAC Inc. has appealed a federal jury’s November verdict that it pay $4 million in damages to Donald M. Mente, whose Kutztown auto dealerships GMAC suddenly shut down in July 2007. In federal court filings, GMAC is asking U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez to order a new trial, arguing he improperly allowed Mente’s finance expert witnesses to testify at trial and improperly prohibited GMAC’s expert rebuttal witnesses.
In response, however, Mente’s attorneys said their witnesses were proper and GMAC missed several deadlines imposed by the judge to name its own expert witnesses. GMAC, once the auto-financing arm of General Motors Corp., now is a stand-alone bank offering many types of financing. On July 19, 2007, GMAC accused the dealerships – Mente Chevrolet in Richmond Township and Mente Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Maxatawny Township – of being in default to GMAC for the cars Mente bought from the automakers.
Rather than allow the dealerships to sell the cars at full price, GMAC immediately auctioned them off at reduced prices, causing the dealerships to go into foreclosure and 77 people to lose their jobs, according to trial testimony. The expert witnesses were used to summarize auto dealership financing practices and the value of the dealerships at that time.