Can my friend sue me for dropping his motorcycle that he didn’t legally own?

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Can my friend sue me for dropping his motorcycle that he didn’t legally own?

I was riding a friends bike and unfortunately I dropped it. Instead of letting me fix it he took it to a dealership and stuck me with the bill ($4,100) and I said that was way too much. He is taking me to small claims court for the money. But he didn’t own the bike when any of this happened, so can he legally sue me? He had just bought it and it was still registered to the old owner who was still paying it off (so the bank actually owned it). It was registered after. Is there a law stating that you must legally own to sue?

Asked on September 26, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Yes, there is such a law but it is termed a bit differently.  It is called legal "standing" to sue.  Having "standing" means that you have the legal right to bring the lawsuit in question.  Your claim here is that here that he did not own the bike is contradicted by your own statement "he just bought it."  The court will have to sort through the issue here of who, what, where and when, but I do think that it is an issue that you need to bring up as what is known as an "affirmative defense."  I do not know how much stock the court will put in the matter or if they will put a lot of sock in the matter.  So think of a different defense here.  Like that the estimate and repair was inflated. But good luck to you.


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