Small Claims Question...

by Margaret
(Columbia, KY)

I borrowed my neighbor's car. She told me it would make it to Michigan. The car broke down in Lakesville, Indiana. It had major engine problems related to her brother (a non-licensed mechanic) putting on a head gasket without putting on the upper intake.

The intake cracked causing it to blow antifreeze and water back into the engine. I paid $580 out of pocket because I had to get home for work. She said she would pay me back, but lied. When I returned home, her story changed. I lost 4 days of work and endured tremendous emotional duress as a result. What are my options for making this right?

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Small Claims Question...":

Margaret (Columbia, KY):

Normally you wouldn't have a legal option for making the matter "right". If you borrowed her car and it simply broke down, regardless of the incompetence of her brother, you probably wouldn't have a case. You can't sue someone when you borrow an item and it breaks down.

There are some exceptions though...

There exists a legal theory which refers to "unfair and unjust enrichment". This basically means if someone benefits unfairly from your actions, and as a result are financially enriched, you may be able to pursue her under the legal theory of "Quantum Meruit".

Quantum Meruit is a Latin term meaning someone has received an unfair benefit from someone else's actions. Even though there may not have been a contract, fairness and good conscience says that a person should pay for the benefit they received as a result of another's actions.

In your case you may have a Quantum Meruit action in Small Claims Court against her. She received the benefit of your action in paying money to enable her car to be repaired. Under the theory of Quantum Meruit you may be able to recover the $580.00 dollars you paid to repair the car. You may have a more difficult time getting the courts to award you any other money for the trouble this whole matter caused you.

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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