What recourse do I have against a used car dealer who sold me a car but never provided me with the title?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What recourse do I have against a used car dealer who sold me a car but never provided me with the title?

The title was supposed to be sent via overnight mail but never arrived. After

weeks of calls in which they made excuses and promises, we filed a complaint with consumer affairs and discovered up to 30 other people are in the same boat. Apparently the dealer didn’t own the cars he sold us and never paid the previous owners after he took our money. We are unable to register the car. Our phone calls to the dealership are no longer answered, and the building is locked up. As I mentioned, we have filed a complaint with the county consumer affairs office and state motor vehicle commission but they haven’t taken any action so far. I’m concerned that whatever assets remain in the business may be going to others while we’re being overlooked. Should we retain a lawyer to sue the business owner or the salesman who sold us the car, or would that be a waste of money?

Asked on September 9, 2016 under Business Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If the business was an LLC or corporation, you can only sue the business itself, not the owner(s) or the employees. That in turn means that if the business is closed, out of business, has no assets or is insolvent, etc., then even if you sue and win, you are very unlikely to be paid--you can't get money where there is none, even with a court order or judgment. 
However, if the business was not an LLC or corporation, you can sue the owner(s) directly; in that case, you would have recourse against their personal assets (e.g. their homes, bank accounts) as well as business assets. You could also sue any employees who where "at fault" (e.g. who knew that the business did not have title to the cars) in defrauding you. Of course, any or all of the people whom you sue might file for bankruptcy, which could result in you only getting a fraction (if any!) of the money owed...but if they don't file bankruptcy, in this case, you'd have a chance to at least recover some money.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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