It’s a typical ordeal at the dealership: you find a car you like, you talk, the salesman disappears to “talk to the boss.” The next thing you know, you’re waiting in a little room for hours, different people coming in, haggling. But you like the car. Or truck. And you wait. They’ve told you it’s in great shape, never had any problems.
So, you end up buying it. Almost immediately, things start going wrong — little things, then bigger things. Finally, the repair shop guy asks, “Did you know that this car was in a prior wreck and repaired?”
What? No possible way! The dealership would’ve told me that before I bought it. Isn’t there a law requiring them to tell me? I feel like I got ripped off!
Interesting scenario, but, unfortunately, it’s not that unusual.
Across the country, unscrupulous dealers and private owners sell cars and trucks to consumers every day without disclosing prior serious damage. Some have been in wrecks, some have flood or water damage, and some are even “lemons,” taken back by the dealership under the “Lemon Law,” and then re-sold without disclosing the fact they were prior “lemons.”
Simply put, the law is clear that a seller of a vehicle must disclose any significant information about the car or truck that is material to a buyer. To hide this information is called “Fraudulent Concealment” and also may violate provisions of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act. Violations of these laws could result in legal action and, sometimes, large verdicts against the wrongdoers.
Some lawyers I know in Oklahoma have been extremely successful in obtaining justice for folks who get cheated this way. They recently had a trial involving a man who had been sold a BMW that had been wrecked and repaired. The dealership never told him about the prior wreck.
To make matters worse, when the man found out he had been duped, the dealership refused to take the car back, and started creating false documents and lying about the whole transaction. The jury wasn’t fooled, and was apparently pretty upset with the shenanigans of the dealership and it’s lawyers. The verdict came in last week at over $250,000 to compensate the man for the whole ordeal and to punish the dealership for ripping off its customers. That’s a pretty strong message.
So, if you find out someone has hidden the truth from you intentionally, you may have legal rights and various remedies. Consult a lawyer who specializes in consumer law and protection.
As always, read everything before you sign, and put everything in writing!
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