Is there a legitimate legal justification for pursuing the recovery of costs of an emissions inspection and back taxes from the seller of a used car?

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Is there a legitimate legal justification for pursuing the recovery of costs of an emissions inspection and back taxes from the seller of a used car?

I recently purchased a used car from an individual. Other than verbally asking the seller about the following issues and verbally receiving a dishonest answer, proper due diligence on my part was not performed. Upon registering the vehicle I was informed that there was no current emissions test on the vehicle, and that back taxes on the vehicle from 18 months prior to the purchase were due. Do I have any legal justification to recover these amounts (totalling $361.81) from the seller through small claims court?

Asked on June 20, 2012 under Business Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You may be able to sue on one or both of the following theories:

1) Breach of contract: when one buys a car, one is usually considered to be paying for an unemcumbered vehicle with clear title (so no back taxes) and which is legal to drive (i.e. passed emissions tests). Failure to provide such could be considered a breach of contract.

2) Fraud--it is often considered fraud to omit to disclose information that any reasonable buyer would assume the seller would disclose, such as that a car is not presently legal to drive on the streets (emissions) and is encumbered (taxes).  It is also certainly  fraud to affirmatively lie about these things. Thus, the seller may have committed fraud.

Other fraud or breach of contract could provide a basis for recovering compensation.


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