Question: In Nov 2004, just before leaving home for military service, my son sold his car. The title of the car was in both he and his father's names. They, and the buyer, all signed a Bill of Sale, and signed over the vehicle title to the new owner. We also mailed the Notice of Vehicle Sale to DMV.
In August 2005 we received notice from a collection agency regarding a towing bill. I phoned the collection agency and was told that the car had been towed from a city street. I told them that we no longer owned the car, and faxed over a copy of the Bill of Sale.
Three days ago my son was served with a summons naming him and his father for a Small Claims Court case brought by the collection agency. We checked with DMV and found that the buyer did not register the car, and that DMV has no record of our sale notice. Per Carfax the title to the car was transferred in March 2005 and the car was crushed in June 2005; all before we were informed of anything.
My question is when did the Statute of Limitations start for this? When we sold the car, when the tow occurred, the date on the notice from the collection agency? Thank you for any advice.
Answer: Dear Kellie, keep in mind I am not an attorney and you should seek legal advice. But I would say the statute of limitations in this matter began when you received the towing bill and did not make the payment. If August 2005 is the date you received the first towing bill and did not make any payment on that bill then August 2005 is when the statute of limitations began.
As you know Oregon’s statute of limitations on debt is 6 years and in most states, the statute of limitations starts after you stop making payments on a debt. So basically the Statute of Limitations begins to run on the date of the last activity. In your situation, August 2005 was the date of last activity. No type of payment or other activity has occurred since that time.
It’s most likely your son and his Dad received the small claims complaint because the 6 years from August 2005 is closing in and the collection agency needed to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitation passes.
Although your situation is unfortunate, you seem to have good documentation to support your position. Please do not ignore the small claims lawsuit and allow the collection agency to win by default. In a timely manner answer the lawsuit and have the answer served on the collection agency. You can probably answer the lawsuit on your own if you do not have an attorney at this time.
You may be able to get some free advice from an attorney. A good place to start is www.naca.net where you can search for a consumer law attorney in your area. Also, your local courthouse may have good resources for legal aid in your area. The best of luck to you and your family.