Originally Posted by TommyCoffeeCake
I've actually sued a guy in GA for selling me a stolen bike via eBay. Like your situation, the bike was assembled from two stolen motorcycles: a engine from one bike, the frame another.
Although I sued in small claims court, once in court the judge told me I had to act as an attorney does in formally presenting evidence and calling witnesses. I couldn't just tell my side of the story because I can't act as my own witness. I'm not a lawyer and had no idea how to proceed properly. I did my best assuming that since the bike was stolen and I was deceived, he did not have the "right" to take my money, thus I should be compensated.
Long story short, the guy simply said he was not aware it was stolen and I was awarded nothing--stolen engine, stolen frame, he put it together and somehow had no idea. So much for justice.
So... don't assume your case is a slam dunk unless you can cite the law in your jurisdiction that states that an unknowing buyer of stolen property has a legal right to recovery his money.
It seems like that should obviously be supported by some law, but unfortunately no. I've seen people refer to a stolen motorcycle as a hot potato... the person caught holding it will be the loser.
It might be worth it to consult an attorney. In hindsight I think I should have presented the angle that I was deceived because I thought I was buying a used bike, not a pieced together salvage bike. I'm still not sure what I could have done differently.
Anyways, thanks for enduring my advice/rant. Good luck! Keep us updated.
What you should have done is sue for breach of contract - specifically, breach of warranty of title. Warranty of title is a warranty that exists when an individual is selling a vehicle. The only time it does not apply is when a specific disclaimer is agreed upon at the time of the sale, and there was no disclaimer stated or in writing. Warranty of title means that the seller is the legal owner of the item being sold and has the right to pass title and legal ownership of the item to the buyer. I have already consulted an attorney (a very big famous name in my area, who I am already a client of due to another situation). Because the police had a stolen report filed before the transaction took place, the seller did NOT have legal ownership of the vehicle and thus did not have the legal right to sell the vehicle, though he, by the act of selling the vehicle and signing the bill of sale as the seller, asserted that he did have legal ownership of the vehicle.
The short story is - I am not going to just go to court and say "he sold me a stolen motorcycle and I want my money back." I have a civil suit against him in small claims court because he violated a contract/warranty that existed between him and I concerning the legal ownership of property sold. I can clearly demonstrate that he did not have legal ownership of the vehicle, and I can clearly demonstrate that he did not pass legal ownership of the vehicle to me. Even by signing the title as the seller he asserted to both me and the state that he was the legal title holder and that he had the legal right to assign the title to me. I have notarized, signed statements from witnesses present for every contact with him before the sale and during the sale. I have the report from the original officer who put out the stolen hit. The preponderance of the evidence shows clearly, without a doubt, he was not the legal owner of the vehicle, nor did he have the right to sell, trade, assign title to, or even possess the vehicle that he sold to me - which is the textbook definition of "breach of warranty of title." His failure to disclose the details concerning his acquisition of the motorcycle when asked also demonstrate a lack of scruples and consideration for the protection of the buyer.
According to the code of Virginia, 8.2-312,
(1) Subject to subsection (2) there is in a contract for sale a warranty by the seller that
(a) the title conveyed shall be good, and its transfer rightful; and
(b) the goods shall be delivered free from any security interest or other lien or encumbrance of which the buyer at the time of contracting has no knowledge.
(2) A warranty under subsection (1) will be excluded or modified only by specific language or by circumstances which give the buyer reason to know that the person selling does not claim title in himself or that he is purporting to sell only such right or title as he or a third person may have.
What the above means is that unless by SPECIFIC LANGUAGE (there was none) the seller disclaims that the item sold is in good title and with a rightful transfer, or if I had reason to know that the person selling was not the title holder or that he is selling for someone else (also not the case here because he was in possession of and signing as the seller of the title IN HIS NAME)... THE MOTORCYCLE MUST BE DELIVERED WITH A GOOD TITLE, RIGHTFULLY TRANSFERRED, WITHOUT ANY ENCUMBRANCE OF WHICH THE BUYER HAS NO KNOWLEDGE.
Did I have knowledge that the bike was stolen? Nope. Is that an encumbrance? Yep. Was the vehicle delivered with good title, rightfully transferred? Nope. If the judge wants specifically worded law, there it is.
I don't want to come across as cocky, but I'm confident that this won't be a difficult case to win.
Can anybody play devil's advocate and try to argue the opposite point? I'd love to see some opposing views and defenses so I can have answers for them if it comes to that in court!