Myles M. Mattenson
5550 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Suite 200
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Telephone (818) 313-9060
Facsimile (818) 313-9260
"A Car Dealer’s Nightmare: The Advertised Price Was Wrong!"

      Myles M. Mattenson engages in a general civil and trial practice including litigation and transactional services relating to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, franchising, business, purchase and sale of real estate, easements, landlord-tenant, partnership, corporate, insurance bad faith, personal injury, and probate legal matters.

      In providing services to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, Mr. Mattenson has represented equipment distributors, coin laundry and dry cleaning business owners confronted with landlord-tenant issues, lease negotiations, sale documentation including agreements, escrow instructions, and security instruments, as well as fraud or misrepresentation controversies between buyers and sellers of such businesses.

      Mr. Mattenson serves as an Arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He is also past chair of the Law Office Management Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Mattenson received his Bachelor of Science degree (Accounting) in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University School of Law in 1967.

      Bi-monthly articles by Mr. Mattenson on legal matters of interest to the business community appear in alternate months in The Journal, a leading coin laundry industry publication of the Coin Laundry Association, and Fabricare, a leading dry cleaning industry publication of the International Fabricare Institute. During the period of May 1995 through September 2002, Mr. Mattenson contributed similar articles to New Era Magazine, a coin laundry and dry cleaning industry publication which ceased publication with the September 2002 issue.

      This website contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's New Era Magazine articles which can be retrieved through a subject or chronological index. The website also contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's Journal and Fabricare articles, which can be retrieved through a chronological index.

      In addition to Mr. Mattenson's trial practice, he has successfully prosecuted and defended appeals on behalf of his clients in various areas of the law. Some of these appellate decisions are contained within his website.

                   A Car Dealer’s Nightmare:
                The Advertised Price Was Wrong!

     Have  you  ever  wondered  whether an  advertisement  for  a
specific  used car, at a particular price, constitutes  an  offer
that can be accepted by simply tendering the purchase price?  The
California Court of Appeal recently had to wonder about that very

     In  this  adventure,  we  find our  hero,  Brian,  searching
through  his Saturday local newspaper, the Daily Pilot, for  used
automobiles.  Brian discovered a number of used cars for sale  by
a  dealership in Westminster, California, one of which was for  a
1995   Jaguar   XJ6   Vanden  Plas,  with  a   specific   vehicle
identification number, which for $25,995.

     The   following  day,  Brian  and  his  wife  drove  to  the
dealership  to see the automobile described in the advertisement.
With  the  permission of a dealer representative, Brian  and  his
wife took the car for a test drive and returned to state that  he
would take the car for the advertised price.

     The representative, however, immediately told Brian that the
price  was a mistake.  An exchange ensued in which Brian  accused
the  representative of engaging in a bait-and-switch  advertising
scheme.  He was thereafter referred to the sales manager.

     Brian  offered to write a check for the full amount  of  the
advertised  price  of $25,995.  The manager,  however,  indicated
that  he  would  only sell the vehicle for $37,016.   After  some
correspondence, Brian filed suit.

     During the trial, the dealer’s advertising manager testified
that the weekend preceding the Saturday upon which Brian had read
the  advertisement, the car had been advertised without a  price.
During the intervening week, on Tuesday, she instructed the Daily
Pilot to run the same advertisement again.  On Thursday, however,
the  manager called the Daily Pilot to instruct that  the  ad  be
replaced with one for a 1994 Jaguar XJ6 for $25,995.  The manager
did  not  see  a  proof sheet available on  Friday  for  the  new
advertisement scheduled to run on Saturday because  she  did  not
work on Fridays.

     The  composing  room  of  the newspaper  apparently  made  a
typographical error which resulted in the 1995 Jaguar Vanden Plas
being advertised at the price intended for the 1994 Jaguar XJ6.
     Brian  lost  at trial and appealed to the appellate  courts.
The  Court of Appeal observed that advertisements are customarily
treated  as  invitations to bargain, and not offers.   The  Court
noted, however, as follows:

          “The  advertisement did not  merely  indicate
          that  a  generic  lot of  1995  Jaguars  were
          available  for  sale at $26,000;  rather,  it
          offered  a  specific, unique  automobile  for
          that price.  There was nothing to indicate in
          the  advertisement that the prospective buyer
          needed  to do anything other than tender  the
          purchase price.”

     In addition, the Court of Appeal noted a code section buried
in  the deep recesses of the California Vehicle Code, which makes
it unlawful for an automobile dealer to “[f]ail to sell a vehicle
to any person at the advertised total price . . . .”

     The  California Motor Car Dealers (CMCD), with  concern  for
one  of  its  members,  and the Times Mirror  Company,  similarly
concerned  for  a fellow publisher, each filed a brief  as  amici
curiae   (friends   of  the  court,  but  in  this   case,   more
specifically, friends of the defendant car dealer) .

     The   CMCD   argued,   in  support  of   the   theory   that
advertisements are invitations to bargain, that

          “a  number of non-price issues, such  as  the
          amount   of   the  down  payment,  financing,
          warranties,  trade-in allowances,  insurance,
          delivery dates, service contracts, title  and
          registration   issues,   pollution    control
          certificates,  taxes, and  statutory  notices
          and  warnings  are  normally  negotiated   in
          connection   with   the   purchase   of    an

     The Court of Appeal responded, however, as follows:

          This  may be true in general; it was not true
          in  this  case.  If plaintiff had  sought  to
          negotiate  any  such matters, he  would  have
          been  making  a counter offer.   He  did  not
          attempt  to  negotiate any terms;  he  merely
          indicated   a  willingness  to   tender   the
          advertised purchase price.  If he was willing
          to  buy the car without financing, without  a
          trade-in,  without warranties,  there  is  no
          principle   of  law  requiring  him   to   do

     Although the error was determined to be in “good faith,” the
Court of Appeal concluded that the defendant car dealer’s

          “negligence  contributed to the placement  of
          the erroneous advertisement.  The evidence is
          uncontradicted   that   defendant   had    an
          opportunity  to review a proof sheet  of  the
          advertisement and chose not to review it.”

     The  Court  of  Appeal thus concluded that  because  of  the
obligations  under the Vehicle Code “pertaining to advertisements
placed  by  automobile  dealers .  .  .  a  dealer  has  a  heavy
responsibility to ensure that advertisements are error-free.”  As
a  result, the case was sent back to the trial court to determine
Brian’s damages (most likely, the price differential between  the

     The  moral of the story?  If you are advertising a  car,  or
for  that  matter, anything else, in a newspaper for  sale,  with
apologies to Martha Stewart, proofreading is “a good thing!”

[This column is intended to provide general information only  and
is  not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have  a
specific  question  regarding the  law,  you  should  contact  an
attorney  of your choice.  Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]

Reprinted from New Era Magazine
Myles M. Mattenson © 2000-2002