September 13, 2019 • By Dennis Beaver
Who hasn’t heard these two proverbs? “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.”
“Experience is the best teacher.”
For parents, they are important teaching tools, appropriate to state when our kids have done something that merits an Academy Award for impulsiveness and failure to think things through.
Today’s story is an example of a father who stubbornly refuses to tell his son, “Accept the consequences of your own actions.” Our story began in May with a phone call from “Brian” needing advice about a used car purchase his son made that went south.
Saw an Internet Ad – Red Flags Waving From the start
“My 21 year-old son, ‘Luke’ saw an internet ad for a used Chevy Camaro that really interested him. He phoned the sellers–who were a young couple in San Diego–and they sent him links to videos about the car. The vehicle really looked beautiful and well-maintained.
“It was agreed that they would drive the Camaro to Hanford, where we live, the very next day. However, it was clear they would be very disappointed if Luke did not buy it,” Brian explained.
A very excited Luke was given the opportunity of driving the car and even taking it to a mechanic to be evaluated.
“Did he do that? Did he take the car to a repair shop and have a mechanic put it up on the rack, evaluate it mechanically or do a computerized data check to see it had been in an accident?” I asked Brian, but knew the answer even before he replied.
“No, he did not. It was love at first sight. Luke agreed to buy it then and there after driving it around the block once.” Red flags went unseen.
My readers were informed the couple spotted the vehicle at a “low life used car lot” and realized that it was “a diamond in the rough.” They needed to sell it because of medical bills. Or, at least that was the story.
Purchased “AS IS” Pays $13,000 Cash And Then…
So, Luke buys the Camaro, signs an “As Is No Warranty Contract,” hands the sellers $13,000 cash, and they all go to a DMV office to register the vehicle in his name.
Off into the sunset did happy 21 year-old Luke drive? Well, not exactly, as within days it became clear something was wrong. The car was handling oddly and there was evidence of uneven tire wear and other signs of a bent frame, confirmed when it was taken to an alignment shop. Clearly the vehicle had been in a bad accident.
“The frame damage can be repaired but will cost around $5,000, so we need to sue the sellers!” exclaimed Brian, to which I replied, “Why are you calling me and not your son?”
His answer was typical of a father who fights his children’s battles for them, never allowing them to grow up:
“Oh, he’s at work.”
–OK, then have him phone me later.
“But he procrastinates and I know more about this than he does!”
Can You Prove the Sellers Knew of the Damage Before Selling it?
Brian wanted a referral to a lawyer who would sue the seller. “But how are you going to prove they knew the car had a bent frame?” I asked. His answer? “They had to!”
“Really? Perhaps they did not know, and then, there’s the teensy-weensy issue of your son given the chance to discover that issue–which he refused to do–combined with signing an As-Is purchase contract,” I said, trying not to sound sarcastic.
“Listen, Brian, if the car is otherwise ok, then have Luke just pay the $5,000 to have the frame straightened, and get on with life, having learned what could be the cheapest lesson of his life. LET HIM GROW UP AND FIGHT HIS OWN BATTLES!”
Click! Gee, I wondered, “Was it something I said?”
Three Months Later
In early August, guess who should call our office? Brian, of course, having forgotten the warm and fuzzy phone call we had in May.
He had spoken with many lawyers, and none of them either had the time or handled cases like this. Now, lawyers do not reject good cases, but often are afraid to come right out and say, “Your case stinks! You will lose in court, so forget it!”
Finally, I asked, “Why is your son not on the phone with me instead of you? Oh, don’t tell me. He’s out of town, procrastinates, and besides, you know more about this than he does. You don’t have to tell me that because you already did, months ago.
“Let Luke solve his own problems. You are crippling him!”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.