Can You Sue A Dealership For Failing To Remove Branding From A Vehicle Trade-In?

Law Articles

As a business owner, there may come a time when you need to trade in your existing vehicle for a new one. While dealerships buy and sell traded vehicles all the time, sometimes they make mistakes that can have severe consequences for customers. Case in point, if a dealer sells your old vehicle with your business brand on it and the new owner uses it in a way that hurts your company's reputation, can you hold the dealership liable for damages? It depends on the circumstances of the case. Here's what you need to know.

Elements of Negligence

In this type of case where someone fails to perform an action that later results in harm to the victim, the plaintiff would most likely sue for negligence. There are four elements that must be true to win a negligence case in court:

  • The defendant had a duty to the plaintiff
  • The defendant breached that duty
  • The plaintiff suffered harm
  • The defendant's actions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries

When it comes to a dealership failing to remove a company's branding and then selling it to a third-party who used it in a harmful way, one of the challenges here will be showing whether or not the dealer owed a duty to the plaintiff to remove the signage. At first glance, it may appear as though the dealer has a duty to strip the vehicle of identifying information, but that's not always the case.

The laws and regulations dealerships must adhere to focus primarily on making sure these companies protect consumers' personal information and to keep them from using it in harmful ways. For example, the Disposal Rule requires companies to dispose of customer records in a way that prevents unauthorized third parties from accessing the information they contain (i.e. shred files before throwing them away).

Company branding on a vehicle that is shown to the public at large wouldn't fall under the purview of these laws. Therefore, you would have to show you and dealership agreed the company would remove your branding before putting it on display or selling it to another party.

For instance, a Texas plumber traded in his vehicle to a local dealer. However, somehow, the vehicle ended up in Syria being used by Islamic extremists. The vehicle still had his company's branding information on it, which lead to him being subjected to significant social backlash when a picture of the vehicle being used by the extremists began circulating on social media. The plumber claims the salesperson assured him the decals would be removed. The dealership disputes this claim. The case has since been settled for an undisclosed amount.

Other People Who May Be at Fault

If you're unable to prove your case against the dealership, you may still be able to collect compensation for damages and losses from the person who actually used the vehicle and tarnished your company's reputation. Depending on the circumstance, you may have a case for defamation, negligence, or intentional harm. For instance, if someone used your company vehicle to pretend to work for you and scammed people out of money in the process, you could sue for defamation of character and fraud.

If the dealership put in an order to have the company branding removed, but the auto body shop who was supposed to do the work didn't complete the order, you could file a lawsuit against that business for negligence.

There are many ways a lawsuit like this can go. It's best to consult with a personal injury attorney for advice on how to pursue compensation for damages. For more information, contact a local lawyer, such as those at Bennett & Sharp PLLC.


13 April 2017

Dealing with Estate Planning When You're Single

Too many single people assume they don't need to plan their estate. My brother fell into this category, and his unexpected passing left our entire family struggling to deal with his home, belongings, and financial accounts. It took nearly three years for the courts to set up a deal because he left no paperwork detailing how he wanted his estate divided. The situation immediately convinced me to work on my own estate, even though I'm still in my early 30's and don't have children or a spouse to worry about. Since it's a little harder to pick beneficiaries and estate managers when you're single, I collected the resources I used for making my own decisions and decided to publish them here on my blog. Use these resources before talking to an estate planning attorney so you're prepared for making hard decisions.