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Small claims court for a vechicle that was given to me.

Centerville, MA |

My ex & I made a verbal agreement while we were together, that he would give me the extra car (he was driving his own & was going to sell the extra one) he had (title is in his name) if I paid the monthly car payments & insurance. He was also to sign the title over to me once the car was paid. He is a drunk & unreasonable so I am leaving. He is now taking the car back. I have no vechicle to get around in. What is my best course of action? I have put a lot of $ in to this car & I don't make very much money. Can he do that even though I have been paying & made the verbal agreement with him?

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Attorney answers 4


You may have a problem convincing the court that a contract existed between you and your ex since you have nothing in writing, but you may be able to argue what is called quasi contract in that you relied on his promise to your detriment. Alternately, you can argue unjust enrichment in that your reasonable actions unjustly increased his equity in the car. Normally, small claims court would be an appropriate venue for such an action, but if the value of the car, or your claim, is greater than $7,000.00, you will be forced to take the suit to the district court where the rules of procedure are more closely followed, litigation can be expensive, and representation by attorney strongly encouraged.

This is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should speak to an attorney for further information.


I agree with Attorney Mason's answer. It is unclear from your question whether you are still married, separated or divorced. If you are separated or divorced you may want to review the terms of your separation agreement or other agreements that may speak to the issue of who gets what or consult your divorce attorney. If not, like Attorney Mason suggested, you can file suit to try and enforce the oral agreement either by arguing breach of contract or unjust enrichment (quasi contract theory of recovery) and the amount of the car will determine what court you can bring your claims in. This can be costly so you may want to consult an attorney to review the facts with you and see what rights or remedies you may have before filing suit. Best of luck.

Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. (It lets us know how we are doing.) Attorney Kremer is licensed to practice in Massachusetts. Please visit her Avvo profile for contact information. In accordance with Avvo guidelines, the following disclaimer applies to all responses given in this forum: The above is NOT legal advice, and is NOT intended to be legal advice. No Attorney-Client relationship is created through the above answer.


As the above attorneys have stated the situation you are describing is a little confusing and as such any answers will change. First, it is important to ascertain the marital status. Are you married, divorced, separated, or simply dating? If you are married, and looking to get divorced then when the divorce is filed a temporary order can be filed requesting the return of the car.

If you are already divorced, and the car is covered by either a judgment or separation agreement, and your ex is not following said judgment or agreement, then an action would be for contempt.

If you have never married, then the action would be in civil court. If the claim is less than $7000 then you may file in small claims though cars often have higher values and then district court would be the appropriate venue. If you have an interest in the car through title, ie your name is on the care in whole or in part, then you might have a claim for quantum meruit (otherwise known as unjust enrichment). If in addition or instead there was an agreement between you and your ex, either verbal or written, for you to take possession of the car then the cause of action will be a breach of contract.

Kyle Piro is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts. All answers are based on Massachusetts law and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed by Attorney Piro answering your question. It is advisable to consult with an attorney about your personal legal concerns.


I agree with Attorney Mason. You will probably have difficulty convincing the court that a verbal contract existed, as this often turns into a "she said" "he said" affair. However, it may be possible to recover under what's called an unjust enrichment theory. You should consult an attorney to help you out with this.

Also, going forward it is always prefereable to reduce your agreement to writing and have the contract drafted by an Attorney. Massachusetts has a law called the statute of frauds, which says that if certain contracts are not in writing and signed by the parties they are not enforceable.

The foregoing answer does not establish an attorney client relationship, is not confidential, and should not be relied upon in place of an actual consultation with an attorney. Attorney Samiotes is licensed to practice in Massachusetts, the Federal District Court of Massachusetts, and the Court of International Trade. Most initial consultations are free. Further information is available on my profile and at

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