The Classic Caddy Conundrum

One 1973 ragtop Cadillac. One seller. One buyer. One's got the title, the other's got the car. Who owns the Eldorado?

Schiefer was livid. "I couldn't believe it," he says. "I have the title to my car, I haven't received any money for it, it was listed as a stolen vehicle, and Patrick Sessions has it in his possession. He's driving it around, putting mileage on it, and decreasing the value. You would think they would at least impound it or something until this is settled."

To make matters worse, on January 3 Schiefer was notified that Sessions had filed a lawsuit demanding the title to the car, and including a July 12 purchase order that indicates Sessions bought the car for $12,000. (At the same time, Sessions left his 1988 Chevrolet Corvette to be sold.) Because Schiefer consigned the car to Autoputer, the lawsuit alleges, Sessions is now the rightful owner. "It's a shame because no one is at fault here," observes Sessions, who had done business with Autoputer before. "[Schiefer] authorized them to sell the car, and I bought it. Unfortunately between the time I paid the money and the time I was supposed to get the title, they went under. I had to do what I could to get it. I feel sorry for him, but I did what I was supposed to do and I think the law backs me up."

Schiefer's attorney, Mark Kamilar, says Florida case law dealing with consigned vehicles is not clear-cut. In some similar cases, the courts have found for the buyer. In others, they have found for the seller. "There is some legal precedent to suggest that people who acquire autos without checking the title do so at their own risk," Kamilar says. "But there is also some precedent showing that those who consign their vehicles stand the risk of having the vehicle sold without them receiving compensation. If this goes all the way through the courts, it will be a discussion about which of those two precedents wins out." Although he plans to fight the suit, Schiefer says he'd settle the case for part of the sale price of the car. "I don't know what Mr. Sessions's intentions are, but I would like to settle with him and the both of us go after the owner of Autoputer. That's the person who is really responsible here."

Regardless, Schiefer says he already has learned a valuable lesson. "What people should be aware of is, if you buy a car or a boat, you should definitely see the title or at least check to see if there are any problems. The other thing is that if you put anything up on consignment, there is a chance the person you leave it with can look legitimate but is actually just ripping you off. I just hope everybody who has a car on consignment goes and picks it up today and sells it themselves." Which is exactly what Sessions did with the Corvette he had put up for sale at Autoputer. Entirely by chance, he says, he decided to pick up his car - before the company went out of business.

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