Should I take an individual/business to small claims court or federal court for odometer fraud?

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Should I take an individual/business to small claims court or federal court for odometer fraud?

I will be filing a lawsuit against a family for odometer fraud. The title of the car was listed under their business name but a family member signed the title, odometer reading and bill of sale. Should I sue them in federal court since what they did is a federal offense or in small claims court? Also, I have planned to move cross-country for grad school and just learned of their wrong doing. Can I still take the car to my destination and fly back to Oregon for court when the date is issued? I am seeking value loss of the car with the additional miles, not necessarily to return the car.

Asked on January 15, 2012 under General Practice, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The real question is how much money do you think this claim is worth? As you indicate, you are seeking only the loss of value for the additional miles; figure out what that number is, and then decide whether its even worth bringing an action under these circumstances (moving cross-country) and, if so, where. For example, if you think that the difference in value is, say, $2,000, it's hard to imagine that justifies the cost of round trip air fare, since even if you win, you may end up at most only a few hundred dollars ahead, after having spent hours or days in travel and court. (You cannot recover your travel costs.)

Unless the loss of value is unusually high (consult the "Kelley Blue Book" and the like), I suspect that if *any* action is justified, it would be suing in small claims court and representing yourself on a pro se basis. Note that the filing cost alone for a lawsuit in federal court would be significant.


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