Alpine, CA asked in Consumer Law, Personal Injury, Products Liability, Contracts and Small Claims for California

Q: I bought a truck at auction, paid $4200, drove 10 miles, it caught fire, total loss. Can I be compensated?

I was not burned but suffered smoke inhalation. I had the truck for one hour. An auction employee drove the truck to the front of the lot for me to take delivery. I was told it was driveable. The Fire Dept had to come put out the fire.

3 Lawyer Answers
Peter N. Munsing
Peter N. Munsing
Answered
  • Products Liability Lawyer
  • Wyomissing, PA

A: Sorry to hear that. Virtually every auction I've ever seen has a disclaimer both on the bidding number issuance paper and on the bill of sale that says that you buy it, you take any and all risks, that the auctioneer doesn't test or examine the vehicles and makes absolutely no guarantee as to functionality.

The only possible way to prove liability would be if it could be shown 1) what caused the fire 2) that that defect MUST have been known to the auction personnel--and again, that's an as is auction where presumably buyers can see the vehicles before they got to the auction ring) and 3) that they covered up the defect.

For them to have known, it would also have to be shown that no person looking at the vehicle could have discovered the problem but that they MUST have encountered it. It's no defense to say "well I'm not a mechanic--" the auction house isn't a mechanic either.

So unless you have someone ready to testify on a stack of bibles as to the above, I don't see it as a valid claim.

Please note: I am not a California Attorney. You should consult one for further questions. Note also, the Lemon Law (Magnuson-Moss) does not apply to used vehicles.

1 user found this answer helpful

Theodore Allan Greene
Theodore Allan Greene
Answered
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: As the previous person answers in detail you need to look at the terms of the auction. You most likely would have to prove they knew that the vehicle had a specific defect and sold it anyway without warning.

Dale S. Gribow
Dale S. Gribow
Answered
  • Palm Desert, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: this is not so much an accident question but rather a contract question.

a lawyer would want to read the contract and consider the year and history and condition of the vehicle.

if it cost $10,000 or less you can sue in small claims court

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