In HENDERSON v. SECURITY NAT. BANK (1977) 72 Cal.App.3d 764 (1977) , the 1st District Court of Appeals explained the law concerning vehicle repossession:
- (5a) Viewed in the light most favorable to Henderson, the evidence discloses that his car was obtained by the repossessor by means of an unlawful entry, i.e., the breaking of the lock on his garage door. (The employee who actually did the repossessing could not be found and was unavailable as a witness.)
- Although there appears to be a paucity of authority on the subject in this state, we are of the opinion that where one is otherwise entitled to take possession of property, its repossession by such means constitutes a conversion. The leading case in support of our conclusion is Manhattan Credit Co. v. Brewer, 232 Ark. 976, 978 [341 S.W.2d 765, 766, 99 A.L.R.2d 354, 356], where, as here, the party charged with such a conversion had a right to repossess a hypothecated vehicle. Upholding a finding of conversion the court said: "The applicable rule (briefly stated) as set forth in many of our decisions, appears to be that there is a conversion if force or threats of force are used to [secure] possession of the automobile." To the same effect see A.B. Lewis Company v. Robinson, (Tex.Civ.App.) 339 S.W.2d 731, 735; Thrasher v. First National Bank of Miami (Fla.) 288 So.2d 288, 289; Victor v. Fairchild Motor Corporation, (La.) 8 So.2d 566, 567-568; Douglas Motor Co. v. Watson, 68 Ga. 335 [22 S.E.2d. 766, 767]; and Thompson v. Ford Motor Credit Company,324 F.Supp. 108, 115, where the court said, "`if the mortgagee finds that he cannot get possession without committing a breach of the peace, he must stay his hand, and resort to the law, for the preservation of the public peace is of more importance to society than the right of the owner of a chattel to get possession of it.'"
The above-quoted case law demonstrates that proof of the application of fear or force in the repossession of a motor vehicle operates as a conversion and makes the repossessor liable for the value of the vehicle to the repossessed owner. There is also case law that permits liability to be imputed to the lender, even though the repo company is an independent contractor. See, e.g., Loughan v. Harger-Haldeman (1960) 184 Cal.App.2d 495.
So, the answer to your question depends on whether or not you can prove that the second episode, which resulted in the repossession of the vehicle, was accomplished by force or fear of physical injury. If yes, then you have a case. Otherwise, not.
Note: I do not ordinarily present "black and white" answers to customers, because there are almost always shades of gray in any legal action. However, the manner in which you describe the events leading to the repossession, suggest that this really does come down to exactly what you can prove occurred during the second repossession -- and whether or not that proof shows that your efforts to prevent the repossession were thwarted by affirmative acts by the repo agent to cause you to be in reasonable fear of serious physical injury.
Please let me know if my answer is helpful. Thanks in advance.