January 11, 2005
ALLEGED FRAUDULENT USED CAR TRANSACTION
By: Mary M. Janicki, Director
Daniel Duffy, Principal Analyst
James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst
Helga Niesz, Principal Analyst
Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney
You asked about the options a person has who believes he was defrauded in the purchase of a used motor vehicle in a private transaction (as opposed to a purchase from a dealer). You want to know the avenues to pursue in addition to small claims court and whether special services are available for senior citizens. You also want to know if the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does safety inspections on cars.
SMALL CLAIMS COURT
A person can file a claim in Small Claims Court when the amount of the damages claimed does not exceed $3,500 (CGS § 51-15(d)). A higher amount applies in cases involving security deposits. Generally, a person can file any type of claim in Small Claims Court except for libel or slander. Magistrates hear the cases and simple rules of evidence apply. Attached is information from the Judicial Branch on Small Claims Court. This information is also available on the Internet at http://www.jud.state.ct.us/faq/smallclaims.html#q12, along with additional information on the Small Claims process and court locations (copies attached).
The Department of Consumer Protection does not oversee sales from one individual to another. The department's primary consumer law is the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. The act prohibits “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive trade acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce” (CGS § 42-110b). It does not apply to sales between individuals that are not made in the course of business.
Similarly, the law establishing warranties on the sale of used cars applies to cars sold by licensed dealers and does not apply to private sales (CGS § 42-221).
CHIEF STATE'S ATTORNEY'S ELDER ABUSE UNIT
The Chief State's Attorney's Elder Abuse Unit prosecutes cases of elder financial abuse. When we called them, we were informed that there is generally a $50,000 threshold for their involvement, but depending on the situation they might also handle lesser amounts. They recommended first making a complaint to the local police department, or if there is none in their area, the resident state trooper. If that does not work, a person could contact the prosecutor John DiMattia at the elder abuse unit to see if they would take the case.
CGS § 53a-123(a)(5) makes it larceny in the second degree (a Class C felony) if the property involved, regardless of its nature or value, is obtained by embezzlement, false pretenses, or false promise and the victim is 60 years of age or older, blind, or physically disabled. A Class C felony is punishable by imprisonment of one to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
The address and phone number for the elder abuse unit is:
Elder Abuse Unit
Office of the Chief State's Attorney
300 Corporate Place
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
Phone (860) 258-5800
FAX (860) 258-5838
More details on the elder abuse unit are available at
DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES' SAFETY INSPECTIONS
By law, the motor vehicle commissioner and public safety commissioner or their designees, and any local police officer may examine any motor vehicle, its number, equipment, and identification. These inspections generally take the form of roadside checks. In practice, only certain types of vehicles are subject to mandatory safety inspections. These include:
1. Grey Market Vehicles (certain imported vehicles not required to comply with U.S. standards) that are 10 or more years old;
2. Composite Vehicles (assembled from parts of vehicles but not resembling any particular make—i.e., modified antique or street rod);
3. Totaled Vehicles Rebuilt for Highway Use;
6. Service Buses;
8. Driver Education Vehicles;
9. Commercial Vehicles Over 18,000 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and Commercial Trailers over 10,000 lbs. GVWR if 10 or more years old;
10. Homemade Trailers;
11. Noncommercial Trailers over 10,000 lbs GVWR if 10 or more years old;
12. Vehicles Subject to Equipment Warnings Issued by Law Enforcement; and
13. Vehicles that must be assigned a Vehicle Identification Number.
Safety inspections are performed at three Department of Motor Vehicle offices—Enfield, Hamden, and Wethersfield. Commercial vehicles and commercial trailers may be inspected at authorized motor vehicle dealers instead of at DMV. The first time a taxi is inspected, it must be at DMV. The inspection required at registration renewal may be done through a licensed dealer or repairer. Although vehicles brought into Connecticut from other states do not have to get safety inspections prior to registration, DMV must verify their vehicle identification numbers.