SAN DIEGO - A Camp Pendleton Marine believes his post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis was exploited after he was sold a pricey motorcycle in the middle of a severe PTSD episode.
Brett Smith joined the Marine Corps in 2006. Deployed with Special Forces in Afghanistan, Smith saw plenty of combat.
Just before leaving the Marines in 2010, he began suffering daily panic attacks, nightmares and other issues. He was eventually diagnosed with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury.
This past April, after five days of not sleeping, he said he began hallucinating.
"I was having conversations with my wife, even though she was not there," Smith said.
Smith, who was unemployed, said he suddenly decided he had to buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and drove to a dealership in Irvine.
"I know I was sweating fast. I was talking fast. I know I was jittery, and I kept misplacing personal items like my wallet all over the dealership," said Smith.
Smith said the salesman asked if he was OK and gave him water for medication.
He said he told the salesman he had severe PTSD and planned to ride to Georgia with no motorcycle license.
After several hours, Smith signed a loan agreement for the nearly $17,000 Harley.
According to Smith, after he signed on the dotted line, the salesman said riding the bike may ease his symptoms.
Smith then drove off with his new bike.
Smith said he packed some fruit, his T-shirts and his PlayStation, and started driving to Georgia with no wallet.
Eventually, he realized something was wrong and drove back to his home in Mission Viejo.
The next day he saw the bike.
"I didn't know if I was having a delusion. I didn't know if I was dreaming. The whole previous day seemed like a dream," said Smith.
Soon after, Smith was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for 10 days.
Now, Smith is suing the dealership to get the deal canceled. His attorney, Dan Gilleon, claims the dealership took advantage of his condition.
Smith's case may be among the first-ever cases involving PTSD and an alleged unfair purchase.
"Did he understand the concept of money and signing his name? Yes. But did he understand the big picture? The answer is clearly no," said Gilleon.
10News reporter Michael Chen asked, "Some would say you have buyer's remorse and you are using PTSD as an excuse. How would you respond to that?"
"It's not buyer's remorse if you don't know you are doing something. I was there physically, but not mentally. It's definitely outrageous. They just wanted that sale," said Smith.
Smith said his family members tried to return the bike the day after and were told to call the financing company in five days. They called in four days and said they were told they should have called earlier because the sale was final.
The dealership declined to comment.