Liability For Misrepresentation When Selling A Vehicle

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Can A Seller Be Held Liable For Misrepresentations When Selling A Vehicle?

A seller may be held liable for injuries sustained as a result of an alleged defect in a used car if he has been guilty of fraud or deceit in connection with the sale of the vehicle.  Generally, claims fall into two categories:

Fraud

To recover for fraud, you must show there was an intentional false representation of a material fact which the seller knew to be false and which the buyer relied on to his detriment.  Representations generally involve direct, specific, declarative statements.  However, any speech which is intended to communicate a fact or create an impression, illusion, or belief may constitute a representation.  A representation may include an answer to a question as well as an unprompted statement.

An example of a successful case for fraudulent misrepresentation is where a dealership represented that a used car had not been in a wreck and that was a material factor in the buyers' decision to purchase the car.  The dealership was subject to liability for fraudulent misrepresentation because the car was actually fabricated out of two different vehicles, one of which had been in wreck.

Negligent Misrepresentation

If you cannot establish all the required elements of fraud, you may nonetheless be able to establish that the seller made certain negligent misrepresentations.  The advantage of negligent misrepresentation is that you need not establish that the seller knew of the falsity of the representations. Instead, you must establish only that the seller made the representations under circumstances indicating a reckless disregard for the truth, or that seller ought to have known that such representations were not true.

For example, if a seller represented that the tires of a used car were good, he has a duty to know that they were good.  If he made the representation without having sufficiently inspected the tires to know whether the statement was correct, he is subject to the same liability as though he had made a thorough inspection of the tires, knew they were defective, and stated they were good.

A seller will never be held liable for misrepresentations if there was no reliance or if the statements were mere "puffing" and not representations.

Should I Consult An Attorney About Misrepresentation When Selling A Vehicle?

If you bought a defective vehicle because you relied on the misrepresentations of the seller, you may have legal recourse.  An attorney can advise you of your rights and represent you if you have to take the seller to court.  If you have sold a vehicle and now the buyer is accusing you of making misrepresentations, an attorney can explain defenses you may have so that you can avoid liability.

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Last Modified: 01-23-2013 02:45 PM PST

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