I lent my nephew my old car, already paid for, so he could get to work. He crashed it into a small wall, and tried to drive it to a repair shop I told him to go to, but it didn't make it. He had to stop at another repair shop--one I would never go to. He was made to sign a paper so he could leave it there overnight. This was without my authoriztion. They will not release the car now, saying he authorized $3000 of work to be started---the car was barely worth $1000 IF THAT. They say since I gave him the car, and he "authorized" repair, they will not release the car un til he pays up. He has no money, which is why I lent him the car for his use for as long as he needed it. Can they keep my car--the title is in my name. He said all he was made to sign was a blank sheet of paper with a "w" .How can I get my car back, as I will not pay a cent for work I did not authorize?
This sounds like some kind of scam in order to relieve people of their car ownership. I think you need to consult with an attorney. While I agree with the other response in general, it sure sounds like something wacky is going on here. Why would anyone authorize $3,000 in repairs on a car worth $1,000?
If the paperwork he signed was for him to leave the property there overnight, it does not follow that that same paper is the "contract" that would justify them charging you for thousands of dollars in repairs and keeping the car.
The car may not be worth fighting this. On the other hand, the shop should not be allowed to steal people's cars. I agree with Attorney Koslyn, however, and if repairs were made, then they are owed the reasonable value of those repairs. Whether that is $3,000 or not, there is no way of knowing, based on the information provided in your summary.
I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.
Your nephew made a contract and without more facts (like him being a minor and unable to contract, for example), it seems like it would be enforceable against him, although not against you. Basic agency law doesn't apply here, since your nephew wasn't acting on your behalf, he was apparently acting on his own behalf. The repair shop was entitled to rely on his authority, and if they've already done so and done the repairs, you're going to have to pay for this, and then get the money from your nephew.
If your nephew signed "w" for you, agency law would say that the shop would still be entitled to rely on his ostensible authority to bind you for the cost.
The answer might be different if the shop has not undertaken the work.
As for holding the car until payment is made, that depends on what the contract says. I find it hard to believe that all your nephew signed was a blank sheet of paper. But why your nephew would sign a blank sheet of paper is also a mystery.
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