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Bought a Car With a Title That Had not Been Signer over to The Seller Etc.

The plaintiff had purchased a used vehicle from the defendant (dealer) for a little over $2000. At the time of sale, it had not yet been revealed that the defendant did not legally own the vehicle as the rightful owner had not legally signed the title over to the defendant. To add to that, the defendant had advertised the vehicle as having a 90 day bumper to bumper warranty as well as warranty coverage as outlined in the Massachusetts Used Car Warranty Laws. After having possession of the car for less than 100 miles, the vehicle began manifesting a grinding noise when the clutch pedal was fully depressed. When the defendant was notified of the malfunction, the defendant claimed that there is no warranty because the full asking price had not been paid. Additionally, the defendant claims that there is no warranty because the vehicle has over 125,000 miles on the odometer. The plaintiff claims that the defendant unfairly and deceptively advertised, and then sold a warranty-covered vehicle and then failed to follow through with warranty coverage in Good Faith.

According to page 13 section III of 'A Dealer's Guide to The Massachusetts Used Vehicle Warranty Law', the defendant refused to honor the basic guarantee of the Implied Warranty of Merchantability "which applies to the sale of all consumer products, including automobiles even if they have 125,000 miles or more on the odometer. This law states that a purchased vehicle should function properly for a reasonable period of time. If the vehicle does not, the dealer must fix it at no charge."

As you can see, the Implied Warranty of Merchantability Law stated above contradicts what it says in the Lemon Law regarding the mileage.

Given the fact that the title had never been signed over to the dealer, does that nullify or compound all other infractions committed by the defendant?

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Submitted Sun, 02/25/2018 - 00:31

Good Evening:

First, understand that I am offering some thoughts on this question, but not legal advice, as I have very limited information based on your summary above.

Let's try this chronologically.

1. The Purchase: You purchased a car which the deal advertised included a 90 day bumper to bumper warranty and the Massachusetts used car warranty.

First, the dealer claims that since he had not paid for the car in full and did not have a title, he is not responsible for any of his own warranties nor state warranties made to you.

There is an old property law adage that "you can't sell what you don't have"; meaning you only transfer or sell whatever rights and interests that you have in the property and if you have no rights (title) you transfer nothing to the next owner. I think some have called it the "Brooklyn Bridge Rule". However, this applies more to real property and based on your facts this is a nonsensical argument for the Plaintiff to make for reasons as follows:

A. If the Plaintiff did not have good or real or complete title, how did he sell/transfer the vehicle to you?
If he did not have good title, did he fraudulently sell the car to you?

B. Massachusetts has such a consumer focused auto sales law under Lemon Law, Used Car Lemon Law, Warranty Law, and the all encompassing G.L. 93A, that no court in the Commonwealth would allow this dealer to hold itself out as the true owner the vehicle, sell it to you, and then deny they have true title and try to nullify all warranties they made to you by the contract and those by statute.

C. Let's assume you did get the true title despite the dealers attempt disclaim any liability because he had not fully paid for the car when he sold it to you. He would have to honor all express warranties (90 day bumper to bumper) made to you or be held liable in common law, warranty law, G.L. 93A unfair and deceptive, and false advertising.

D. Under Mass used car lemon law it is true that cars with over 125K miles are not covered. However, by advertising that you would get coverage under the Mass Warranty law, which in truth is, no coverage at all, is not a clever, lawyerly way out of liability. In Massachusetts this almost certainly a G.L 93A violation to lure an unsuspecting (unsophisticated" ) consumer in with that express written promise and then unfairly and deceptively use the Mass law to deny liability to the consumer.

E. It may seem contradictory, but you may have rights under the Implied Warranty of Merchantability even if the used car warranty does not cover you. The implied warranty of merchantability cannot be waived. The dealer must sell you a car this is fit for its ordinary purpose, that is to be driven safely. If the dealer failed to do this, which it seems it did, they breached that implied warranty and may be liable for the full replacement value of the car.

D. This is almost impossible to imagine, but let's pretend the dealer prevailed by law that he was not the true owner of the vehicle, that he sold you only what he had (no rights) and that you have no rights under Mass used car lemon law nor by the Implied Warranty of Merchantability, nor by his express written 90 -day warranty.

You would almost certainly find relief somewhere in that broad and encompassing consumer protection Goliath of a statute G.L. c. 93a section 9. The statute protects Massachusetts consumers from "unfair and deceptive trade practices", false advertising, bait and switch, and every shade and color or deceptive, fraudulent, act known to man.

If the dealer is found to have willfully violated G.L. c 93A, and you prevail at trial, the dealer could be liable for triple damages plus your attorney fees.

You would begin a G.L. 93a action with a 30- day demand letter. When the dealer receives the letter, it has 30 days to respond with a reasonable offer of resolution. Usually the parties come to some agreement at this point. If the parties cannot resolve the matter, the next step would be for the Plaintiff to file a complaint in small claims with award limits (under 7K), district (up to 25K), or Superior (over 25K). If the court determines the dealers offer was reasonable, you could be limited to that amount if you prevail at trial, if the court determines the dealers offer was unreasonable, it could be considered a serious and willful 93a violation exposing him to possible triple damages and your attorney fees.

I hope this made sense and was helpful.


Attorney Kidd

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