Asked in Small Claims for Washington

Q: I was selling a bike to a friend for 3500. She made payments up to 1500 and stop making payments. Do I pay it back?

She said she would make payments after holidays and never did. Asked if she still wanted mortocyle she never responded. So I sold the bike. It's been a year and she is now asking for bike or money back. Do I have to pay her back?

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: I don't see any legal basis to hold onto the entire amount of the $1500 since you sold the bike. Did you have any contract that discussed failure to continue making consistent payments? Typically, where there are installment payments, the buyer takes possession of the item up front. Since no possession ever changed hands as you imply you held onto the motorcycle while also receiving payments, then arguably there was no contract formed. The payments can be classified as a deposit on the motorcycle. Absent a contractual agreement to the contrary, the $1500 can be deemed fully refundable. If you actually lost money as a result of your friend's promise to purchase the bike, you may have an argument under promissory estoppel theory to recoup losses. One basis for determining the money you lost, if any, would be the diminished value of the bike in the interim between the commencement of your agreement with your friend to accept the deposit payments and the time you sold the bike. Did the value decrease in that time period? How much did you sell the bike for? Did you pay additional advertising costs to sell the bike after your friend stopped making payments? If no decrease in value, if you sold the bike for at least $3500, and if you didn't pay any additional advertising costs, then I see no basis to not refund the entire $1500 to your friend, plus interest at the legal rate. More details are necessary to provide a professional analysis of your issue. The best first step is an Initial Consultation with an Attorney such as myself. You can read more about me, my credentials, awards, honors, testimonials, and media appearances/ publications on my law practice website, I practice law in CA, NY, MA, WA, and DC in the following areas of law: Business & Contracts, Criminal Defense, Divorce & Child Custody, and Education Law. This answer does not constitute legal advice; make any predictions, guarantees, or warranties; or create any Attorney-Client relationship.

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