Asked in Consumer Law, Contracts, Car Accidents and Civil Rights for Texas

Q: Is it worth sueing this girl? Will i win? I doubt she will show up.

I financed a Honda Civic back in 2013 thru a dealership in Garland. I had bad credit at the time so my mom was owner of the car, i was the “co-signer.” I drove it until April 15 when i could no longer afford the vehicle since i moved to OK to go to school. My mom let her fiancé drive it around4awhile, he decided to give it to his friend he worked with & let her make pmts on it, whilst it was still in our names. I told my mom that was unacceptable & i wanted my name removed. She ignored me. I pushed her to try to get the vehicle back between November 2016 & April 2017. The woman was making late pmts on the car & i told my Mom I’d take it back&figure it out. A wk before i was going to get it back, the girl totaled it with only liability&almost $7000 balance left on it.i have screenshots of her Facebook posting pictures of the car Totaled,police report, convos of her threatening2put a mechanic lean on it when my mom threatened to take it back bc she was making pmts late. What do i do?

1 Lawyer Answer
Steven Pate Harrelson
Steven Pate Harrelson
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Little Rock, AR
  • Licensed in Texas

A: There are a lot of issues here. The short answer is that even if you do win, it’s unlikely that you will ever be able to collect anything on any judgment that you get against the woman who wrecked the car. However, if she does have some easily identifiable assets that are subject to collection of a judgment you obtain, it may change things. Still, that will require hiring and paying an attorney to help navigate the issues described later in this answer...and that’s likely to cost more than the actual payoff of the vehicle.

If she does answer the petition you are considering filing against her, there could be issues if you/your mom don’t have a written contract with her that outlines the obligations and responsibilities between all the parties as to payments, insurance, taxes, ownership, etc. For example, was this a sublease, or was she financing the vehicle as a purchase since you could no longer make the payments? This type of agreement (to pay off the debts of another) is required to be in writing pursuant to the statute of frauds in Texas for these very reasons: in the event of disaster, these agreed-upon terms could be easily determined by looking at the contract.

Further, I’m sure the financing agreement that you/your mom signed when you purchased the car required a full collision insurance policy to be in effect until the car is paid off, so you’re likely to be in breach of that contract. Also, there might be a provision in the original contract that prevents you from this type of “sublease” arrangement.

Lastly, you’re going to have to share in some of the blame for undertaking this commitment in 2013 and then bailing on it. Honestly, it appears as though your mom is the true victim here. This is likely going to have to be a learning experience for both you and your mom. I would make demand upon the woman for the appraised KBB value of the car minus its salvage value and see whether you could arrive at a negotiated lump sum payment from her. That would allow her to avoid a lawsuit and would help you and your mom pay off the lienholder and put this problem behind you.

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