You may have a misrepresentation claim in this particular situation. Step one is to find out which of these conflicting reports that you were given is correct. It is unsafe to assume that the current dealer is the correct dealer without substantiation. Make sure you get ALL documentation related to the car, then contact an attorney to review the documents for you so a determination can be made as to whether you have a case, and against whom.
You may have a claim for fraud, misrepresentation, and violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. Contact an attorney not afraid to try cases as this one based solely on the facts given should not be settled unless you are made 100% whole.
Dealers often will hide behind a supposedly "clean Carfax" even though they know the vehicle they are selling was previously wrecked (and sometimes they look for these vehicles because they know they can still be sold at a premium). Carfax itself says that its reports are not to be relied upon.
A dealer that knows or reasonably should know about prior damage to a vehicle (especially a prior total loss), and that fails to disclose this to a purchaser, touches on many legal areas: unfair and deceptive practices, fraud, and warranty to name a few. Whether you have a claim (and how strong that claim is) depends on a lot of things: what took place during the sales process, the nature of the prior damage (total loss obviously indicates the damage was severe - although states have varying definitions of what constitutes a total loss); whether the damage was repaired properly; how obvious the damage was; and what the dealer knew at the time it sold the vehicle (where did the vehicle come from, were there any disclosures made to the dealer, or pre-sale inspections made by the dealer, etc).
You will certainly want to have the vehicle looked at by a competent body shop who can tell you the nature and extent of the damage and prior repair work, and whether the vehicle is currently safe to drive. Needless to say, these cases get complicated. I recommend speaking to an experienced auto fraud attorney in your state who can look at the sales paperwork and other facts, advise you of your options, and help determine what steps need to be taken to investigate your issue.
You are fortunate to live in a state with some highly experienced auto fraud attorneys who may be able to help. Check out the National Association of Consumer Advocates (www.naca.net) for referrals.
Thanks for the question, and best of luck on getting this resolved.
The attorney responding is licensed only in the state of North Carolina. This response does NOT constitute legal advice and does NOT create an attorney/ client relationship! Rather, the response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter in question. Although a response is provided to the specific question, there may be other facts and law relevant to the issue that the questioner has left out and which would make the reply unsuitable. Therefore, the questioner should not base any decision on the answer, but should confer with an attorney in person about the specifics of his or her case.
There is definitely a case against the dealer. Contact an attorney here on avvo to discuss.
My answer to you question does not constitute legal advice. Only an in person or telephone consultation will result in an attorney/client relationship. Call me at (313)402-0853 to discuss your matter further.