Benefits of Using an Attorney as an Escrow Agent to Protect Yourself in a Collector Car Sale or Transaction
Benefits of using an attorney as an escrow agent to protect yourself in a collector car transaction
By: Bryan W. Shook, Esquire
Using an attorney to act as an escrow agent is one of the most effective ways to safeguard yourself from the pitfalls of buying vehicles sight unseen from far away locations. In a perfect world collector car transactions would all be “above board” and transparent however as we all know this, unfortunately is not always the case. That screaming deal on eBay or Craigslist may be a great deal, but it may also be the biggest mistake you make this year. There are many hazards upon which a prospective buyer may happen, although most happen with the consummation of the sale, especially if the vehicle is not viewed, in person, by the buyer.
How can using an attorney as an escrow agent help protect you in a collector car transaction?
An attorney as an escrow agent has more inherent safeties as opposed to using a broker. Attorneys are regulated by their state’s bar association or their state’s supreme court. Brokers are usually not regulated at all and only subject to their state’s vehicle board, if regulated at all. Money placed into an attorney’s escrow account is subject to strict accounting oversight and may only be paid out with the client’s consent and agreement.
As an attorney familiar with the nuances and pitfalls of collector car transactions I can offer many safeguarding services, professionally, discreetly and unobtrusively to preserve the transaction and yet protect you the client throughout the sale.
I offer the following services:
- Pre-Purchase Inspection Review
- In-person auction assistance to both bidders and sellers
- Escrow Agent
- Sales Contract Drafting/Review
- Private Treaty Sales (start to finish)
- Independent evaluation of title documents prior to consummation of sale
- Vehicle research, including verification of provenance and pedigree
- Forensic investigatory services (number & stamp investigation, make and model investigation, production anomalies, etc.)
- Powers of Attorney
- Competing Claims of Ownership
- Title Defense
- Help safeguard against misrepresentations and fraud
By utilizing my services, you are not only protecting yourself in the transaction, but you are also making a further investment in the value of your purchase.
Bid with knowledge. Buy with confidence.
Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available throughout the United States for consultation, advice, and information. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@dplglaw.com
What’s the big deal???
(By: Bryan W. Shook, Esquire)
I’ve been getting quite a few calls lately seeking information on re-bodied vehicles. The term “rebody” is a term of art used throughout our hobby to denote a vehicle whose original factory body has been replaced with another “donor” body. The donor body is then given the original body’s VIN, serial number, data card, trim tag, cowl tag, etc. and then usually and most unfortunately sold to an unsuspecting buyer as the original, real deal automobile. This problem is complicated when the rebodied car is an “air car” which did not exist prior to the rebody. Specifically what happens is someone dreams up a car or has the paperwork from a desirable car and makes it from “thin air” using the donor body as the starting point. All of a sudden, the car has pedigree, provenance and history if the builder can dream up a good enough story. This is problematic as you can plainly see.
There are several legal issues when it comes to a rebodied automobile. The most important issue is whether or not the rebody was disclosed to you when you purchased the vehicle. If the rebody was not disclosed to you how can it be said you negotiated with the seller on equal footing. Another issue comes from the fact that rarely are rebodys done properly. Were the police notified of the body replacement as required under some state laws? Did the seller give you two Certificates of Titles? (Remember the best bodies come from good cars and in today’s day and age, good cars get restored … was the body stolen and the subject vehicle the product of a “chop shop”) Did the seller give you photographs of the original body to evidence the condition of the original body? Do you have confirmation that the original body has been destroyed? (This is usually where the State Police come in as this is where the stories start about two cars registered under the same VIN)
Without the safeguards outlined above, you can never been shore that the vehicle you purchased truly belongs to you. Under the law you would have a breach of the warranty of title claim if any third party were to ever come after you claiming you own the body to their car. The problem is that if you know the car has been rebodied and you can’t provide the above information to a new purchaser you could be just as liable as the seller who sold the car to you should you not disclose what you know to a prospective purchaser.
If you have a rebodied car or think you do, this is a serious matter. Rebodied cars can be nearly unsaleable and always have questions. There was way to rectify the situation and there are ways to unwind the transaction which unknowingly left you with the rebody. In any event, please call me and we can discuss your options and to what extent your car may have been rebodied.
Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market. Attorney Bryan Shook is available throughout the United States for consultation, advice, and information. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@dplglaw.com.
Bid with Knowledge; Buy with Confidence – Vintage Automotive, LLC
NCRS REGIONAL MEET IN GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA SCHEDULED FOR MAY 6-8, 2010
By: Bryan W. Shook, Esquire
Call all Corvette enthusiasts, after a long winter’s wait, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Corvette Restorers Society is hosting the Gettysburg Regional NCRS Meet on May 6-8, 2010. This is a can’t miss event for East Coast Corvette Enthusiasts.
Several special vehicles are scheduled to be on display including a low mileage, all original, Polo Green, 1994 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 formerly of the Chip Miller Collection. The car’s current owner, Andrew Saft of Harrisburg, is proud to offer this important ZR1 for flight judging. Corvettes released from the prized Chip Miller Collection have been known throughout the hobby for years for their quality, provenance and pedigree. This NCRS appearance represents a coming out of sorts for the current Saft Collection ZR1. While ANY ZR1 is exciting both to see and drive, this particular all original ZR1 is sure to please the spectators and enthusiasts that get an opportunity to view it at the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Regional Meet next week.
The NCRS flight process is not a process to be taken lightly, only the best cars are awarded flight awards and any owner who leaves Gettysburg with such an award has surely added much deserved province to his or her beloved Corvette. Best of Luck!
Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market. Attorney Bryan Shook is available throughout the United States for consultation, advice, and information. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@dplglaw.com.
NCRS # 51181
Bid with knowledge. Buy with confidence. – Vintage Automotive
Bryan W. Shook, Esquire
2132 Market Street
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania 17011
Des Moines, Iowa (1-29-2009) – Jury rules that seller breached contract when he did not disclose a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 (VIN 124379L524309) did not retain its original engine.
The case began in June 2003 when the Defendant, David Reyes, acquired the Camaro from a co-worker for $15,000.00. When the Defendant acquired the Camaro from his co-worker, he testified that it did not have its original engine and that another engine was given to him by his co-worker at the time of the sale. This other engine was the crux of the case.
The story goes that when the engine in the vehicle began to run poorly and smoke a little, the Defendant had the engine that his co-worker had given him rebuilt. Apparently, his co-worker had located the other engine and choose it because it was date coded appropriately for this particular December 1969 built Camaro. The story goes that the co-worker had the vehicle identification number of the Camaro stamped into this replacement engine, making the replacement engine look identical to the original engine, prior to the Defendant acquiring it.
In April 2004, Defendant placed the newly rebuilt, but non-original, restamped engine in the Camaro and placed the Camaro for sale through the internet auction website, eBay.com. The Defendant placed the vehicle up for auction with a “Buy it Now®” price of $35,000.00, over twice what he paid for the vehicle less than a year earlier. This may not seem to be a big deal, but in this case, the numbers on the non-original engine were stamped so well, that even the Defendant’s own expert witness on cross examination by Attorney Shook, at the trial could not tell they were restamped. No where in the description did the Defendant ever say the vehicle did not have its original engine and he never disclosed this fact.
Specifically, the Defendant advertised the car has being “Numbers Matching DZ302 Original,” “unmolested,” “low mileage,” and “as close to being a true survivor as any you’ll find.” The auction ended with the Plaintiff, Daryl Hansmeier of Davenport, Iowa buying the Camaro for $25,200.00.
It was never disclosed to Plaintiff that the engine in the vehicle was not the original engine, as a matter of fact, the engine restamping was not disclosed to Mr. Hansmeier until February 27, 2007 nearly three years after the sale of the vehicle.
In March 2007, the buyer, Mr. Hansmeier contacted noted classic car fraud attorney, Bryan W. Shook (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania) to help him resolve this matter. An inspection of the Camaro was performed by world-renowned Camaro guru, Jerry MacNeish (Eldersburg, Maryland). Upon inspection, Mr. MacNeish confirmed that while the Camaro was a genuine Z/28 model, it did have a restamped, non-original engine. Mr. MacNeish valued the car at $19,500.00 at the time of purchase, meaning that Mr. Hansmeier paid too much for the vehicle when he purchased it.
Local counsel, David Hellstern of the Kreamer Law Firm in West Des Moines, Iowa and Attorney Shook subsequently filed suit on behalf of the Plaintiff, Daryl Hansmeier and his wife for Breach of Contract, Fraud, Material Misrepresentation and Breach of Warranties.
A three day trial was held at the Polk County Iowa Courthouse on January 26-28, 2009 with the Honorable Chief Judge Arthur Gamble presiding.. The Defendant, Mr. Reyes’, defense was that he and the Plaintiff, Mr. Hansmeier, had different meanings of the terms of the contract, namely the term, “Numbers Matching DZ 302 Original.” The Plaintiff put on the testimony of noted Camaro historian and chief judge of concours judging at the Camaro Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Jerry MacNeish, who testified that the phrase, “Numbers Matching DZ 302 Original,” means, to someone in the market for a 1969 Camaro Z/28 that they are looking at a vehicle with its original 302 cubic inch engine with it’s original stampings. Mr. MacNeish stated unequivocally that a person without specialized knowledge would not be able to tell that the engine had been restamped and accordingly wouldn’t know that he had been deceived until someone told him.
The jury retired to the deliberation room early in the afternoon of Wednesday, January 28, 2009 and quickly returned a unanimous verdict finding that the seller, David Reyes was liable for breach of contract for failing to deliver to Mr. Hansmeier the 1969 Camaro he promised him, specifically, a 1969 Camaro Z/28 retaining its original, correct, numbers matching engine.
Attorney Bryan W. Shook, is a true car guy, in every sense of the work, he is not only an collector, restorer and hobbyist, but is also and attorney who devotes a large portion of his practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists when they find themselves the victim of receiving something other than how it was advertised. Currently Attorney Shook is involved in automotive deception cases and represents clients in nearly a dozen states. Attorney Shook had this to say about the case, “Let it be known, that misrepresentations in the collector car hobby will not be dealt with lightly, the court system proved this today by a unanimous jury verdict in favor of full disclosure and truthful dealings.”