Is this a case of buyer beware or did a woman who bought a car from a Mission resident get swindled?
That’s what a B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal judge was trying to find out in a case that should be a warning to anyone buying a used vehicle through a personal online sale.
The woman who sued bought a 1999 vehicle with 260,000 kilometres on it from a Mission resident on Craigslist for $2,500 after talking the seller down from $2,800.
The buyer said the seller only mentioned that the vehicle “burned a little oil.” She also said the vehicle “runs and drives great,” according to a ruling.
But when the woman was driving it home, the vehicle started making a “deafening knocking noise” before the engine basically blew up.
And so she sued for the $2,500, plus $376 in additional costs.
The seller, however, denies any liability and says she never misrepresented the car and the engine’s failure is not her responsibility, given the car’s age, mileage, and known oil leak problem.
When the vehicle broke down, she had it towed to a mechanic, who said it had suffered a “catastrophic” engine failure that would cost thousands of dollars to fix.
The buyer then texted the seller, upset at what had happened.
“The respondent texted back that she had no idea that the motor was bad and would never have sold it knowing that,” read the ruling. “The respondent wrote the car was ‘running great when you left’ and that she was very confused because she had no issues with the car.”
The buyer, however, wasn’t accepting this excuse and took the case to the tribunal.
The adjudicator was not sympathetic.
“While the applicant alleges the respondent fraudulently misrepresented the car, I find she has not proved this,” reads the ruling. “The case law is clear that due to the associated stigma, an allegation of fraud requires ‘clear and convincing proof.’ If a seller misrepresents the condition of a vehicle, the buyer may be entitled to compensation for losses arising from that misrepresentation. A ‘misrepresentation’ is a false statement of fact made during negotiations or in an advertisement that has the effect of inducing a reasonable person to enter into the contract.”
The ruling said that the buyer had not proven there was negligent misrepresentation, which occurs when a seller fails to exercise reasonable care to ensure representations are accurate and not misleading.
“The respondent says that at the time she sold the applicant the car the ad’s statements were true to the best of her knowledge,” said the ruling. “The applicant argues the respondent must have known about the engine issue. I find this is not established. Even if the respondent had said the noise was ‘probably the tailpipe,’ that does not prove the respondent knew the engine was about to fail. There is simply no evidence before me to support a conclusion the respondent knew the engine was faulty.”
The vehicle had been driven by the buyer before the sale during a vehicle test and the “knocking” noise was present.
“By the applicant’s own evidence, she heard knocking during the test drive and chose to buy the car anyway, without a professional inspection,” said the ruling.
In the end, the claim was dismissed.