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CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: CA Real Estate
Satisfied Customers: 10238
Experience:  I have experience representing HOAs, homeowners, businesses, and other individuals in real estate matters.
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Based in California. I have posted on here regarding this

Customer Question

Based in California.
Hello, I have posted on here regarding this situation, but now I have officially been served. Two years ago my now ex boyfriend purchased a car for me. The loan and registration are both in his name only. My name is ***** ***** with the car what-so-ever other than being a driver on the insurance. The agreement we had was that I would continue to make the payment on the car, which I have, until it is paid off. Originally the car was to be signed over to me once the bank loan was satisfied. Since the break up a year and a half ago he has, on a consistent basis, sent me a barrage of late night emails containing name calling, rude comments, and what-not. He also recently graduated from law school and uses this as a bullying and intimidation tactic. (This information will come into play in a bit) We had no written contract, however there are several emails exchanged regarding the car payments, registration, and future transfer. Last Sep/Oct he sent me an email demanding the car either be pain in full or refinanced in my name. I did not respond to the email and began to consider my options. He then again started sending me his usual harassing emails. It was at this point that I started speaking to an attorney regarding the option to simply surrender the car to him and what the possible consequences could be. I would not have been able to get a personal/car loan for the remaining balance of the vehicle, $16500, however I had several auto loan offers from local dealerships to buy off their lot. It was made clear by not just one attorney, but three seperate attorneys, that I would not owe him any money for the car at all and that since it is in his name I can return it with no obligation. Subsequently I mailed and emailed a statement that the car would be delivered by a specific date to his home. I paid all the transportation fees, the loan was current, and there was not a payment due until the following month. The car was delivered in excellent condition.
Yesterday I was served. He is taking me to small claims court here in CA and is seeking $7500, which is the maximum amount allowed to claim. He is claiming that the following statement in an email will be considered a binding contract (Please note that at the time he and I were negotiating who owes whom for what and that he had made previous promises to put my name on the registration once he received reimbursement. It was a messy break-up.):
"Will you please put in writing that when all checks and balances are satisfied that you will be adding my name to the registration. Also, will you also put in writing that when the car is paid off, which I anticipate will be within 10-12 months, that you will sign the car over to me. I don't want to pa for it and then you take it."
What he got from that email was what he perceives to be a promise to pay the car off within the year. What it obviously asks is what assurances do I have that he will follow through if and when the car is paid off. We negotiated the amount of money he felt I owed him since the breakup and I obliged due to the fact that I wanted to have my name on the registration and assurances that he would honor our verbal agreement and not do anything crazy such as reporting the car as stolen. He never did anything crazy, but he also never put my name on the registration.
At the end of the day, I wanted to sever all ties with this man. He is irrational, a bully, and although he is a law school grad, he isn't all that bright. He's made many verbal threats against me and this car was the final tie. I severed the tie and now he is suing me. I'm sure whomever answers this complicated question will have questions for me as well. I've got two months before the court date and I would like to know what to expect and how I should prepare. I have attached what has been sent to me. I was planning on my defense being that the loan was never in my name and that he never followed through with adding my name to the registration. In addition, I was going to add that due to his erratic and harrasing behavior, I had reason to believe that 1. He would not sign the car over when the loan was paid and that 2. He would become angered over something and report the car as stolen. I did not feel safe and secure while the car was in my possession.
Thank you
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: CA Real Estate
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 10 months ago.

Dear Customer,

I am sorry to learn of this situation.

As you have 3 separate formal legal opinions on the matter, I would go with them (obviously we cannot provide you with that same level of assurance, but in general, I would agree with their assessment of the matter).

His understanding of the law (even with his degree) is somewhat tortured - CA small claims actually has a cap of $10,000.00 (while I am sure you don't want to bring this to his attention, I only raise it to illustrate the fact (and confirm) that he is only trying to bully you into paying for his car.

Fortunately, small claims court is relatively informal and the California Courts have a lot of information to help you.

The small claims self help site has information on how to defend yourself in this matter (the most important thing is to make sure that you actually file an answer - you don't want to ignore the summons and let him win "by default").

The self help site (here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-smallclaims.htm) has all of the forms you will need - along with a great deal of information about how to represent yourself at your hearing ("trial").

I also recommend trying to go to the courthouse a week before your own hearing and sitting in on the small claims docket, this gives you a much better idea of what to expect of the hearing and help you better understand the process and procedure for your own hearing.

The hearings are fairly informal, but there are rules and procedures (the self help site describes these fairly well).

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
okay, so based on the info I have provided you would agree with prior advice that he doesn't have a leg to stand on in small claims court? I am assuming that he sought the advice of an attorney and they told him he doesn't have a case, therefore he chose this route in hopes that I would either panic and offer a cash settlement or that I would not show up at all. He is not the type to surrender the option to receive the full amount plus legal fees if he believed he would win. As one attorney put it "he is off the reservation".
Also, I did not include them here as it does not really pertain to the case at hand, but I have countless emails in which he has been harassing and verbally threatening. He has called me names and made deliberate and hateful digs every chance he gets. He has also reached out to my family and personal friends in an attempt to tarnish my reputation. While in small claims court can I ask the judge to issue a cease and desist as well as a restraining order?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 10 months ago.

You can file a cross-complaint against him for his behavior (again, the small claims link above will tell you how).

You can file a request for a TRO (civil restraining order) against him in a separate action. Information on how to do that (along with forms) can be found here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-domesticviolence.htm

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