Can I be sued for selling a car that did not pass smog for the first time?

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Can I be sued for selling a car that did not pass smog for the first time?

I sold my car to a private party. At the time, I provided them with a smog certification that would expire the next day. As far as I knew, the car was smog compliant. I did know of a few mechanical issues with the car, which I disclosed to the buyer at the time. A week later, the buyer tried to transfer the title at the DMV office but was told they needed to get a new smog certification. The car will now not pass the smog test.Can I be sued for the costs of repairing the vehicle to bring it up to code?

Asked on April 19, 2012 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The buyer can almost certainly at least initiate a lawsuit from what you write. Whether the buyer could prevail depends on whether he could show that you knew (or reasonably should have known) 1) of the mechanical problems which are causing a failure to meet code, and/or 2) that the smog certificate was about to expire, and that knowing of either (or both) of these things, you misrepresented (or lied about) them to the buyer. Note that a "misrepresentation" does not always require an active lie; it can sometimes be found from a material omission, or failure to state something which you would be under a duty to disclose (sellers, for example, have to disclose mechanical problems of which they are aware). If the seller could show this, he could potentially win a lawsuit; even if couldn't show it and would ultimately lose, as stated, he can almost certainly make out a "prima facie" case, or a case good enough to start a lawsuit, and force you to defend yourself.


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