My question involves a consumer law issue in the State of: South Carolina.
Okay folks. I really need some help on this one since I am being sued in Small Claims Court by the lienholder of a vehicle I bought from a young couple.
Here is my story:
I was looking for a vehicle under $3,000 for my Son which will be turning 16 soon. I had looked for 2 months and finally found one. It was for sale on Let Go for $3500 and I talked the guy down to $2500. They guy brought the vehicle to my home in Myrtle Beach and we agreed to pay him $2500 in cash for the vehicle. He handed me the vehicle title and the first thing I looked for was a lien on it but I did notice that Her name wasnt on the front of the vehicle but it was on the back with her signature so I figured it was okay since it had passed hands a few times on the back but not knowing the other transactions were Dealers, I was duped into believing that all she had to do was put my name on the bottom of the back of the paper title and she signed her name as well. Little did I know she had bought the vehicle a month earlier in Virginia and bought it from one of those buy here pay here dealerships in a podunk little town back in the mountains. She and her husband gave the guy checks for downpayment but they bounced and they fled to South Carolina and set up a cleaning business and tried to pass it off as a legitimate business (little did I know these people were petty criminals). I even did a title check and checked to see if it was stolen and those came back clean so my wife and I were both okay with the deal and we got a receipt of sale of the transaction and I even got a photocopy of the girls drivers license for my records. It all went south when I went to get the title in my name and the SCDMV person said that she didnt get the title in her name before she sold it to me. They said all she had to do was come into DMV and get it in her name and then in mine. Well I called them back repeatedly time and time again and they would never meet so I had no other choice but to follow the trail back to the previous owner and thats when things got really bad. When I called the dealership they said that I had been scammed by this couple and that he was going to come down and get his vehicle. I told him I had to go to the Police and commit the crime and I would get back with him. I filed a police report but because it was under $3,000 the local police would not bring them in so I could get my money back. They did however called these individuals and they promised to bring me my money back. That never happened and I asked the officer if he could speak to the local magistrate and see what I could do. He came back to me and said the judge told him that the dealership didnt have any jurisdiction in SC and that when he signed his name on the title without lien information that he legally sold her the vehicle and gave up his rights. By this time the dealership owner had called the police and the police told him what the judge said and he refused to listen and made a 6 hr trip down here and showed up at my door step demanding I return the vehicle. The police told him he needed to leave but said that if he thought he had claim to the vehicle to take me to small claims court. So now I have been to court already once and the original judge that told me that this guy couldnt take the vehicle retired a few weeks prior to the court date and a new judge heard the case and she didnt know anything about these types of cases. To make things worse the dealership went back to the Auction House that the vehicle was still titled to and he got them to issue a new title through West Virginia since it was still title in WV. The judge threw out the case but told the dealer that if he got it registered in VA and could bring proof that he could have the vehicle. He had to take me back to court again and that is where I am at now. Just so I could buy myself some time, I asked for a Jury Trial since I did not have any faith in the new Magistrate since she clearly did not know anything about cars and titles (She had to call around and get advise on how to rule on this). My wife and my friends dont want me to give up but so far the legal advise I got from a local lawyer didnt help me any. He told me to tell the judge that I bought the vehicle in good faith and that I did not know anything about the so called "Lien" and to ask the court for a ruling in my favor (which did not go in mine or the dealers) but it didnt help me. The new Magistrate also told me I needed to go after the people that sold me the vehicle. The only problem is they are living in and out of motels down here and I got just found out days ago that both of them had been in the local jail in Conway for Driving without a license, speeding, and shoplifting. They were in the jail for 5 days but have now gotten out and I dont even know where they live. If anyone has some advise, I really need it. I am almost to the point of throwing in the towel and let this guy have the vehicle back because of all of the stress this has caused me and I really do not want to go back to court again but If someone could convince me that I had a case to keeping the vehicle, I might change my mind and meet this guy in court and fight for the vehicle.