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Opequon Motors to appeal verdict

August 27, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va - Lawyers for a Berkeley County car dealership plan to appeal a jury verdict that its pay practices for salespeople were illegal.

Following a trial last week in circuit court, the jury found Opequon Motors of Martinsburg violated the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act, said Robert Schiavoni, the attorney representing Lucille Robertson and Kelly Gloeckler in the class-action civil suit.

The women claimed Opequon Motors had "added a number of fake costs, reducing the commission to sales representatives," Schiavoni said. The commission was supposed to be 30 percent of the gross profit on each vehicle, he said.

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"We'll make the necessary post-trial motions within the 10-day period" to file an appeal, said Tom Price, a Charleston attorney representing the dealership. He said his firm would appeal the case to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

"There is no violation of the Wage Payment and Collection Act" by Opequon Motors, Price said.

Robertson and Gloeckler claimed in the suit that the dealership marked up labor and parts costs on used cars to reduce the commissions to salespeople.

Another method was improperly listing warranties to increase the cost of a vehicle, they claimed.

Schiavoni claimed the dealership also improperly reported higher wholesale costs for cars, something called a "bump-up." He cited one example from the trial in which a car's wholesale price was listed $600 higher than it actually was, costing the salesperson $180 in commissions.

Schiavoni said the next step is a penalty phase in which the judge will appoint a special master who will conduct "a full accounting of the actual amount to be paid in commissions on each sales transaction since March 1991."

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