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Jury awards driver $314,300 over car’s bad case of BO

November 18, 2010

Some stories are odd, and some are even odder for resembling a 1993 episode of "Seinfeld" in which the lead character’s car developed a case of BBO—beyond body odor.


August "Gus" Doppes always wanted to own a Bentley, but something about the one he bought four years ago didn’t smell right. And if there’s one thing Doppesknows it’s smell. His company, California Scents, makes car air fresheners.


Bentley Motors Inc. and its local dealer could not satisfactorily eliminate the stench of burning oil whenever Doppes warmed up his 2001 Bentley Arnage. But after four years of legal wrangling, Doppes is enjoying the sweet smell of victory.


An Orange County (Calif.) Superior Court jury agreed this month that Doppes was right about the odor, and he won a verdict of $214,300 for the car and $100,000 for damages.


"I’m happy about the award, but I wish they’d taken the car back four years ago," said Doppes, who has driven the car only 3,000 miles. "It’s been a monumental pain in the (rear)."


Doppes’ attorney said his client stands to recover an additional $650,000 in fees from the manufacturer and dealer to cover the cost of the case, bringing the total award to nearly $1 million.


Doppes said he recalls the big grin on his face when he bought the Arnage. But the smile disappeared after he started sniffing "an oily, greasy, chemical smell" before he even reached his Newport Coast home. "You couldn’t open the window or the sunroof," he said, "because it would smell worse."


Doppes learned during court proceedings that Bentley itself referred to an "obnoxious odour" in its four-door cars and advised its dealers about a repair kit in 2001, months before Doppes bought his car.


The problem occurred after BMW sold Bentley to Volkswagen, leading Bentley to use a different rust inhibitor, also called "wax oil," to coat the body. Doppes’ attorney said Bentley failed to bake the gelatinous oil to the body properly.


Despite his troubles, Doppes has not lost his love for Bentley. "I’d consider going back and buying another Bentley," he said. "It’s a great car."