Consumer Protection Legislation: Consumer’s Immigration Status Can Not be Used as a Shield by Car Dealers for Dealer Fraud

A new California Assembly bill, AB1690, would add “consumer protection” to existing state law that makes a person’s immigration status “irrelevant to the issue of liability, and in proceedings or discovery” in labor, employment, civil rights and housing cases. A good article in the Daily Journal points out that this is really a clarification of existing law that was needed in light of a San Mateo Superior Court case, Bonet v. Khacho Enterprises, Inc., CIV537891 (Filed March 23, 2016). Bonet bought a used car and later sued the dealership and finance company to unwind the deal. Defense lawyers, Downey Brand LLP, countered with a since-rejected “unclean hands defense” based on the alleged use of a false SSI number on his credit application. The defense then sought answers from the consumer to such questions as whether he was a U.S. citizen, had a green card, and if he was in the U.S. illegally. Plaintiff’s attorneys objected that SSI number discovery was irrelevant and violated plaintiff’s privacy rights. Judge DuBois denied the defendant’s motion to compel discovery. He wrote “an unclean hands defense is inapplicable in consumer protection actions” and that “it does not appear the … issue played any material role in the issues raised in the complaint.”

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