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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
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Experience:  Lawyer
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If I owned a vehicle (normal market value $4,000) that had

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If I owned a vehicle (normal market value $4,000) that had a hidden defect that was about to cause a catastrophic engine failure that would render the vehicle totally worthless, (due to the cost of repair, $10,000), would I be legally bound to disclose that defect prior to sale, or could I seek out a sucker/buyer to sell to without disclosure and let him take the loss. Note; A normal, pre-purchase, buyer's inspection would NOT reveal this defect. Also, the defect exists due entirely to my having failed to do regular, prescribed maintenance during my term of ownership. If sold to a sucker, would that buyer have legal recourse against me for damages?
This IS an actual event scenario, but I will not reveal to you now whether I am the buyer, or seller.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 2 years ago.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

In this scenario, should I presume that the person selling the car is a dealer or a private individual? Also, does the vehicle have more than 75,000 miles on it?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

The seller is private, NOT a dealer.

It has more than 75,000 miles on it.

The engine design defect that leads to this failure is well known to the manufacturer, but little known to the general public. Even "Consumer's Reports" magazine has failed to describe or warn consumers of the engineering flaw that causes and precedes this failure.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I should also add:

For people who own one of these cars and ARE aware of the potential, eventual, inevitable mechanical failure, there are ways of knowing (in advance) that the complete engine failure will soon occur, thus providing them with the necessary lead time to;

a. Stop using the vehicle.

b. Take remedial action to temporarily forestall the engine failure.

c. Thus allowing them time and the opportunity to find an uninformed buyer to off-load the worthless junk.


Note: Once the motor has reached this stage, it cannot be repaired, it must be replaced, at a cost that is well beyond the value of the vehicle once restored to good working condition.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Any potential cause of action against the manufacturer would be separate. If they're selling a car with a known defect, they could be held liable for the cost of repairing that defect. Strict liability claims need to be brought within four years of when the problem or defect is discovered.

Putting that aside, Minnesota law does not provide any warranty for used cars with more than 75,000 miles on them. The sale is as-is. That means that the general rule is, absent any fraud or misrepresentation, the buyer has no recourse if there is a problem. You said that a normal inspection wouldn't disclose the defect. If you mean that a mechanic examining the car prior to the purchase could not have discovered it due to something that the seller did to hide it, that's fraud. If the seller didn't do anything to hide it, then the buyer has to prove what the seller knew, which could be difficult. If you just mean that the ordinary buyer looking in the car and driving it wouldn't find the problem, that doesn't make it the seller's responsibility - the law puts the burden on a used car buyer to have it examined by a mechanic prior to the purchase.

Stating that there are no known problems with the vehicle is misrepresentation, if the seller is aware of the problem. Taking steps to hide the problem is fraud. For example, if I know that I did not do scheduled maintenance on my car and I give you records I made up to show that I did, that's fraud. If I say, "I did regularly scheduled maintenance," and I didn't, that is misrepresentation. In either of those scenarios, the buyer would likely be able to get a full refund.

Now, if I put an ad in the paper saying "Car for sale. $X, no warranties, as is, I make no promises or guarantees as to the condition of the vehicle. Buyer should take car to a mechanic, etc., etc." and I refuse to make any statements regarding the car's condition while talking to a buyer, no, I wouldn't be liable for a problem that occurred later. If I sold the car with an ad specifically stated that I was selling it only for parts, then I also wouldn't be liable for a problem later. But it doesn't sound like you're talking about a situation where the seller makes a full disclosure.

If you have any questions or concerns about what I've written, please reply so that I may address them. It's important to me that you are 100% satisfied with the service I provide. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so that I get credit for answering your question. Thank you.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I'm not quite sure you've answered what was my original question. Now, knowing the other peripheral details that might qualify your answer, here it is again;



If I owned a vehicle (normal market value $4,000) that had a hidden defect that was about to cause a catastrophic engine failure that would render the vehicle totally worthless due to the cost of repair ($10,000), would I be legally bound to disclose that defect, or could I seek out a sucker/buyer to sell to and let him take the loss.

And for purposes of answering this question (as originally framed) you must assume the seller IS aware of the defect and prefers NOT to disclose, obviously, or any perspective sale would be impossible. (dah)

I'm not asking you to "prove" anything. Just a yes or no answer to whether the seller would be required to disclose?

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
No, a person is not legally bound to disclose a defect, as long as he doesn't take steps to hide it or lie about it.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.


And IF that seller (who IS aware of the defect) opts NOT to disclose that information, and instead responds to buyer inquiries re the mechanical integrity of the vehicle by insisting it to be in "good condition" and a "very reliable" used vehicle, all around, he could THEN BE HELD LIABLE FOR DAMAGES when, after the sale, the motor disintegrates 10 miles down the (buyers) road?


(Realizing, of course, that a liability claim/award would be subject to the buyer's ability/burden to show evidence of the seller having had awareness of the defect prior to sale)

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Usually, things like "good condition" and "reliable" are matters of opinion, which makes them non-actionable. The law calls them "puffing." The buyer would have to try to establish that a known defect that was likely to cause the car to stop working at any moment is, per se, not reliable or in good condition. That's unfortunately not what the law says - it may require some time spent in a law library, looking for any case law that carves out an exception to the as-is rule, even if it's narrow and fact-based.

But if the seller said anything factual that turned out to be untrue, that could be the basis for a misrepresentation case.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I think I understand. You've been very patient, and I'll happily post "excellent" on your services. Obviously, I AM the BUYER in this scenario and I do intend to sue for damages. I hope you'll allow me a closing thought and one final question relative to that effort.


The Seller is Vietnamese, so is his mechanic. Seller was compelled by me to take me to his mechanic's place of business so I could query him re the vehicles general condition, maintenance history and any known defects. It's obvious to me now, they were both lying to facilitate a sale.


In retrospect, I'm also now convinced it was the mechanic who had advised the seller of the need to stop using the vehicle and sell ASAP. I would never have made the purchase without his involvement, lies and active participation.


Final question, I promise; Since he was an active participant, couldn't the mechanic be an also named along with the Seller in the expected legal action for damages?



Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Having a mechanic tell you that the car is fine when it isn't really makes it much easier to prove fraud. Essentially, you're talking about two people who conspired to take your money. The mechanic isn't' a party to the contract, but he could be sued for misrepresentation and fraud along with the seller. In some cases with fraud, the judge can award punitive damages to make a person think twice about doing this sort of thing again. That may be something that can be requested.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
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