Can I sue a car dealership for allowing false records to be used for lease?

by Mona
(Massachusetts)

My ex-husband, who was a car salesman at the time, gave my daughter a car as a gift when she was 18 years old. He stated that he was making the payments and that it was all in his name... "dont worry about it" is what I was told every time I asked about payments, insurance, etc. I asked for all paperwork involved but he never gave me anything.

Two years later she got a call from the finance company that SHE was three months behind on payments! This was when we found out that she was the primary holder of the lease, NOT my ex-husband. He signed her name without her knowledge on the paperwork, and obviously the finance office at the dealership allowed the lease to go through without her knowledge.

My daughter had NO JOB, NO MONEY, and no way of paying this loan. How could the finance office even consider allowing a lease? Now the car has been re-possessed and her credit has been ruined. She has experienced extreme amounts of stress over this.

Her father lied and took advantage of her, and caused her credit to be bad, which will cause all kinds of issues in her future. Can she sue the dealership for their knowledge of her father falsifying her name? Can we sue for the emotional distress this has caused?

She panics that she will never get a car loan or a mortgage or even possibly a job because he and the dealership screwed up her credit. She has anxiety attacks and can't sleep because the car repossession experience was very traumatic on her. She didn't even know it was going to happen. Is there any legal action we can take here? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Can I sue a car dealership for allowing false records to be used for lease?":

Mona (Massachusetts):

Your daughter can sue the car dealership if she can prove the dealership owner or manager knew, or should have known your ex-husband falsified and forged your daughter’s name, thereby placing her in debt.

Certainly, your daughter can succeed in a lawsuit against the dealership and your ex-husband if there is proof one or both were complicit in the forging of your daughter's name and falsifying of documents, especially bank documents.

Undertaking a lawsuit against the dealership and your ex-husband will require representation by an experienced attorney.

Unless your ex-husband has substantial assets, the attorney will likely pursue the owner of the car dealership because of his or her "deep pockets." The dealership more likely has substantial assets your attorney can rely on to obtain compensation for your daughter.

If you find an attorney to accept your daughter's case, the attorney will decide whether to work on a contingency fee basis, or on an hourly basis.

A contingency fee basis means your daughter will not have to pay any legal fees in advance. Instead, she will only have to pay the attorney if he or she succeeds in settling the claim or winning the case in court. Then the legal fees will be a percentage of the settlement or court verdict, usually about 1/3rd of the gross settlement or court verdict.

In the alternative, of you are unable to find an attorney to accept your daughter's case on a contingency fee basis, you may have to pay an hourly fee. That could be expensive.

Because most personal injury attorneys do not charge for initial office consultations, make appointments with several. After visiting with several attorneys, you and your daughter will have a better idea of the viability of the claim and probability of success.

You can also consider visiting with Massachusetts Legal Services. If your daughter's income is low, Massachusetts Legal Services may decide to accept the case on a "pro bono" basis. This means your daughter will not have to pay any legal fees, regardless of whether the case is settled or won in trial.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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