What to do if my newly purchased car was repossessed for a previous owner’s default?

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What to do if my newly purchased car was repossessed for a previous owner’s default?

I purchased a vehicle this year. The gentleman that I made the purchase from reassured me the vehicle title was clean. I registered my vehicle in my home state and received a clean title from the state. About 6 weeks ago, my vehicle was taken by a recovery service due to the fact a loan company said there was a lien on the title in another state. I no longer have my vehicle for something that I had no knowledge about and I’m out of my cash money as well. I would like to know who do I take to court to get my vehicle back or my money? Also, the recovery service is with holding my belongings and will not release them to me unless I hand over my keys and title. Are they allowed?

Asked on December 3, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If the title were not clean--that is, if there was a lien on the vehicle--then you would sue the prior owner for breach of contract (he did not sell you what you paid for) and/or fraud (he made material, or important, misrepresentations, or lies, in selling you  the vehicle). If the title were clean and the vehicle were taken improperly, you would sue the recovery service.

Legally, they cannot hold onto your personal belongings; practically, there is no way to get them back without suing. One option is to file suit against them for your car's return, which will force them to turn over your belongings and, more importantly, prove in a court of law that they have legal right to the vehicle--and if they don't you should get the vehicle back. Then if they do have legal right, you might then sue the seller.

It would be best, however, if you retained an attorney to help you with this case. An attorney will almost certainly know to verify who in fact does have the legal right to the vehicle, and how best to proceed against them.


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