Is the dealership liable for my vehicle being stolen while it was in their possession?

UPDATED: Nov 25, 2011

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Is the dealership liable for my vehicle being stolen while it was in their possession?

I recently bought a used SUV from a large dealership. I brought it in 4 days later to have it repaired due to issues under the hood. The dealership had replaced my temperature gauge then a couple days later my battery was replaced and then they were fixing a tension pulley that operated the seat belt. I received a phone call the day it was getting replaced informing my car was stolen from the dealership. My car is under the 30 day limited warranty while in the shop at the dealership. What about federal lemon law or implied law regarding a limited warranty?

Asked on November 25, 2011 under General Practice, Missouri


L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for submitting your question.  There may be several areas of law that govern your situation, but this will generally be viewed as a “bailment.”  A bailment is when you give your property to someone else for safekeeping.  A bailment is when someone else has possession of your property, and does not person does not have legal title or ownership over the property. 

When a bailment is involved, there is not strict liability.  This means that just because someone else has your property and something happens to it that the person who had possession is automatically liable or responsible for the property.  The responsibilities placed on the person taking care of the property (in possession) will vary from state to state.  Each state has their own requirement for the duty of care that a person must take in order to protect and safeguard the property.  Usually, the duty of care is determined by what is reasonable under the circumstances.  Defining “reasonable” can also vary from state to state.  However, the person accepts some form of liability when accepting possession of the property. 

Federal lemon law deals with vehicles that have a continued defect.  The law specifically addresses defective cars, which is not what has happened in your case.  It appears that your issue is not that the car needed some repairs after your purchase, but that the vehicle was stolen while in possession of the dealership. 

If the dealership is not willing to work with you to replace your vehicle, you may want to contact an attorney in your area that handles general liability matters, and they will be able to further assist you.


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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