Am I responsible for a car that broke down while storing it for a relative?

UPDATED: Mar 29, 2012

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Am I responsible for a car that broke down while storing it for a relative?

My brother left a car in my custody while he went off to South America. My daughter was driving it and the engine seized. The mechanic said it was going to happen no matter what. Have notified my brother but no response. I am presently in the middle of moving and the car is a determent. I rent and my new landlord does not want a broken car just sitting on the property. What legal recourse do I have?

Asked on March 29, 2012 under Business Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If your daughter did not have permission (or  instructions) to drive the car (e.g. it was just supposed to be parked, not driven), then you are likely responsible for the damage if she is a minor (if she's an adult, she may be personally responsible if she took it without your  permission). When you use someone's property without permission, you are generally responsible for the consequences--even in the event that, as you say, the engine was likely to seize at some point, since the critical fact is that it seized now, during unlawful use.

If  your daugher had permission or authority to drive the vehicle, then you or your daughter would only be resonsible if she had done something wrong to cause the damage.

The above is in regards to your brother. In regards to the new landlord, if you do not have the right to put a broken car on the property, he can make you move it--you'd have to pay for the move, though you could then, if you were not responsible for the damage, seek to collect the cost back from your brother. However, the important point here is that regardless of how responsibility is apportioned between you, your daughter, and your brother, if you there is no right to park a broken car on the property (e.g. you don't have a parking spot or garage you can put it into), then you'll have to move it. The landlord does not have to allow it on his property unless you have paid for a space to put it into.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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