TBochamp

Default Judgement Against Me - Where Do I Stand?

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Five years ago my father gave me a used car that was in slightly better condition than the one I owned. I, in turn gifted my car to a friend for her son. I stupidly did not release liability and last Summer the car (which apparently was parked on their street with 4 flat tires, and still in my name) was towed. 

When I received the bill (which was eventually followed by a summons) from the tow company for about $4000 I freaked out and called my friend. We agreed that she would complete the DMV paperwork and release me of liability back to the original date, but before we could meet she went radio silent on me and has never responded since. Everything I read said that I was liable and basically "SOL" and that doesn't stand for Statute of Limitations. I froze and with my oldest of 3 daughters (who I raise alone) graduating and going off to college I buried my head in the sand. Bad move.

Fast forward to today, I started a new job in January, I'm just about out of debt for the first time in... forever and hoping to buy a new car next year, but I'm worried about this haunting me. I'm hoping I can get some help with the following:

1. I don't understand the lines in the docket (attached) so I'm not sure what's happening and what comes next. Hoping for a translation.

2. Is there anything I can do on my own behalf at this juncture?

TBochamp.pdf

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I don't know what that last entry at the top is about, but everything else appears to just be the natural progression in a default judgment case. 

Before you can do anything in this case, you have to get the default judgment set aside. This is a huge obstacle since you don't have "good cause" for failing to appear. You can try to just throw yourself on the mercy of the court and see how it goes. 

If you're successful in getting the default set aside, you can present any documentation you might have showing that you gave her the car. Another option is to subpoena your friend. The problem is, if she knows you can't prove she took possession of the car, she could just lie and that's the end of it.  Did you ever look on any of your nearby court websites to see if she had gotten any moving violations while she had the car? Those would be public records so you could get a copy of the citation to prove she was driving the car.

Again, none of those things are going to matter unless you can get the default judgment set aside, so that's the first place to start. 

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1 hour ago, Harry Seaward said:

Before you can do anything in this case, you have to get the default judgment set aside. This is a huge obstacle since you don't have "good cause" for failing to appear. You can try to just throw yourself on the mercy of the court and see how it goes. 

I'm prepared to do that.

1 hour ago, Harry Seaward said:

If you're successful in getting the default set aside, you can present any documentation you might have showing that you gave her the car.

I have emails from the time of the original gifting, and texts from last Summer where she fully acknowledges the arrangement. Hoping that'll be enough. 

I tried to find a site where I could do a search for moving violation but I couldn't find one. Any recommendations?

Thanks for responding. Fingers crossed, and lesson learned...

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Give this a spin. I don't find a free way to search all California courts, so it looks like you just have to search each likely court individually. 

https://www.courts.ca.gov/find-my-court.htm?query=browse_courts

The other option is to pay for one of those services that do public records searches. I found a couple that charge ~$5. Might be worth it if you can't find anything otherwise. 

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You also can just pay the judgement so it shows as satisfied and no longer appears as a debt on your credit history and then turn around and sue this lovely friend for the full amount yourself.

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On 10/12/2019 at 1:57 AM, Harry Seaward said:

I don't know what that last entry at the top is about, but everything else appears to just be the natural progression in a default judgment case. 

Before you can do anything in this case, you have to get the default judgment set aside. This is a huge obstacle since you don't have "good cause" for failing to appear. You can try to just throw yourself on the mercy of the court and see how it goes. 

If you're successful in getting the default set aside, you can present any documentation you might have showing that you gave her the car. Another option is to subpoena your friend. The problem is, if she knows you can't prove she took possession of the car, she could just lie and that's the end of it.  Did you ever look on any of your nearby court websites to see if she had gotten any moving violations while she had the car? Those would be public records so you could get a copy of the citation to prove she was driving the car.

Again, none of those things are going to matter unless you can get the default judgment set aside, so that's the first place to start. 

With the car registered in OP's name, I am not sure that it would be a viable defense.  Usually it is a matter of the registered person being on the hook for city/towing/parking fees and then that person has a cause of action against the user of the vehicle.

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On 10/12/2019 at 8:00 AM, Harry Seaward said:

Give this a spin. I don't find a free way to search all California courts, so it looks like you just have to search each likely court individually. 

@Harry Seward - I wasn't able to look up any violations without a docket number. Great idea though. Thanks.

On 10/13/2019 at 7:29 AM, fisthardcheese said:

With the car registered in OP's name, I am not sure that it would be a viable defense.  Usually it is a matter of the registered person being on the hook for city/towing/parking fees and then that person has a cause of action against the user of the vehicle.

@firsthardcheese - I have emails wherein the paperwork was sent back and forth between us so we could both complete it. The title had been misplaced and we had a mutual friend who was a notary. In our correspondence she said we needed to all get together for her to notarize the section requesting a replacement title. The car was towed from basically in front of her house.

On 10/13/2019 at 7:27 AM, fisthardcheese said:

You also can just pay the judgement so it shows as satisfied and no longer appears as a debt on your credit history and then turn around and sue this lovely friend for the full amount yourself.

I could sue her but it's just not my style. I feel that my best bet is to hope that the court will see that I was trying to pay forward a kindness and show mercy, and if that's not good enough I'll have to go from there. Ugh...

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14 minutes ago, TBochamp said:

I feel that my best bet is to hope that the court will see that I was trying to pay forward a kindness and show mercy,

Courts work by law and there is no kindness law.

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4 minutes ago, fisthardcheese said:

Courts work by law and there is no kindness law.

Yeah well. Lesson learned... the hard way. 😕

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