I have a question regarding property that was placed in trust with someone as they were trying to sell it for me and

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Customer: I have a question regarding property that was placed in trust with someone as they were trying to sell it for me and most of the property was missing when it was attempted to be retrieved. This occurred in FL
JA: Have you talked to a FL lawyer about this?
Customer: Not yet
JA: What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: None other than speaking to a police office, but have not filed a report yet
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: Yes. Much more. My ambulance which was converted to a mobile detailing unit was taken to my friends auction house so that they would have it local to be able to show as the wife of the couple is a real estate agent and said that she had seen small businesses listed on the mls and that she felt she could sell it on the mls. So I took the unit to them and it was locked up in a fenced in area behind their auction business so they would be able to show it to people interested in it. I am not certain if the business was ever actually listed on the mls but I was led to believe that it had been. Either way, the only interest they conveyed they received was people that wanted to rent to own the business which I was not willing to do due to the liability it would leave me with regarding damage one might do to the unit and/or equipment and then just never pay any more. I was not willing to take that risk on. In the midst of the unit being at my friends place, I moved out of state. We spoke about it at that time and they had someone interested in the ambulance but not the equipment as they wanted to use it for a carpet cleaning business. I told them to get me a $ amount of an offer and I would determine if it was worth my while to split the items and sell them separately rather than as a turnkey package. They never came back to me with a price from that individual. Before I moved, I had let them borrow the commercial generator out of the rig to use at their home when a hurricane was coming in. I was in the process of my fiancees son working out details so he could purchase it and start a side business with it when COVID hit. He decided that was not the best option for him due to the uncertainty with COVID, which I agreed with. My nephew contacted me earlier this year asking if I still had the "rig" as we refer to it. I said yes. He asked about all of the equipment and I provided that information to him and he wanted to buy it. So I reached out to my friends to let them know we needed to get a mechanic to look at it since it has been sitting for a few years and make sure there was nothing of significance wrong with it mechanically and also asked for pictures of it as it sat inside and out (my nephew wanted to see what the wrap looked like after sitting in the sun for a while and wanted inside pictures as well). I asked my friend (the husband of the couple) if he would be able to find a mechanic to take a look at it and if he would send me pictures of the inside front and back and the outside so we could see what shape it was in and he said yes. I asked again for pictures and to see if he found a mechanic about a week later and he had not found a mechanic or taken pictures but said the wrap looked bad. I asked for the photos again and he did finally send 2 photos - 1 standing in front of the rig so you see the windshield, hood (which was faded from the sun) and one from standing at the passenger side door with the door open (so the front seats and steering wheel). I found some old pictures I had of the interior that I provided my nephew to see the equipment and set up in the back so I didn't push my friend to take more of it at that time. It took a while for him to get a mechanic to look at it but he said he had someone come out (so I didn't have to tow it since the batteries were dead). After asking for the estimate for several weeks, my friend called me and said the mechanic said $4,500 or more. I asked for what exactly and asked him to get me an itemized estimate or give me the persons info and I would contact them. After multiple attempts, I was never able to obtain a detailed estimate or the individuals contact info so that I could ask them for it myself. My friend stated that the mechanic said he doesn't do estimates like that. There was no way I was going to use a mechanic that works like that as it seemed fishy to me. My friend kept telling me it was a piece of junk and not worth fixing. I told him that
Answered by EveLynn411 in 40 mins 10 months ago
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EveLynn411
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EveLynn411, Expert

Welcome to JustAnswer! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney with years of experience. The format here is a chat. So, feel free to respond with follow-up. If I do not respond quickly, I promise I will reply as soon as I can! It may take a little time to research and write your answer, so I appreciate your patience. Please note that our discussions on this site are for general information purposes and do not create an attorney-client relationship. I am happy to continue online with you until you are satisfied your questions or concerns have been fully addressed.

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EveLynn411, Expert

Thank you for reaching out to us. I'm sorry that you are dealing with these issues regarding your ambulance. It looks like you may have run out of space before completing your question. Please feel free to add more information here to complete your question.

Customer
I am not sure where it may have left off. Basically, I am wondering what legal options I have
Customer
I am out the equipment and chemicals and they are not admitting any culpability, in fact they say they are not responsible. The ambulance was not broken into as there was no evidence of tampering with the locks, broke locks, broken windows, or anything. They had the only keys to it.
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EveLynn411, Expert

The text cuts off after "My friend kept telling me it was a piece of junk and not worth fixing. I told him that"

Customer
Ok. Luckily I copied my novel. Give me a moment
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EveLynn411, Expert

No problem

Customer
My friend kept telling me it was a piece of junk and not worth fixing. I told him that I left the possibility open that there may be something more wrong with it that would make it not viable but my nephew wanted it and was willing to pay to fix it. So I told him I wanted to have a good mechanic look at it and give me an itemized estimate. Several weeks later my friend stated he had a customer come out and look at it and he said he could fix it. Again, no info and no detailed estimate. By this point, my nephew was extremely frustrated as he had already had to cancel a flight and lost the money on it to go get the rig when my friend said he would have it ready by (it was booked a month out). I was quite frustrated but doing my best not to show that as I have known and been friends with these individuals for quite a few years. I did begin pushing a little harder about getting it fixed and contacted a mechanic myself that I was going to have it towed to. Then my friend called me with a mechanic he has used and that guy said he could take a look at it, provide an estimate, and fix it if we chose to fix it. Perfect. That is what I wanted. That is the person that ended up fixing it. At this point since we had a mechanic that I had spoken with I felt we were close to getting it fixed so it could be picked up. I messaged my friend asking about the generator that I allowed them to borrow for that hurricane to make sure that it was put back into the rig. The first several times, I received no response. Then finally I got him on the phone and he said he had put it in one of his containers he has for products for the auction house. He said he would have to find it. I said well please do that now as I hope to get the rig done soon and we will get it picked up as soon as it is ready. He said ok. I followed up about a week later and received no response. I messaged several more times and called several time to no avail. Finally, he tells me that he will have to buy me another one as he leant it out to someone else and they did not know how to work it properly and they broke it. He said tell him what he owes for it. I told him I would have to talk to my fiancé about what he thought would be fair. The generator had not been used much. All of the equipment was only used a short time as my fiancé had a health condition that was found that required him to not work outside anymore which is why we were looking to sell the unit. I spoke to my fiancée and we agreed on what we thought was fair and I messaged my friend with that. No response. They always say they are so busy (and I know they are at times, but not always) so I try to be respectful and give them time to respond. I get a call that the rig will be ready in two days so my nephew gets a flight for his buddy who was set up to be working for him in the detailing business as he was picking it up for my nephew. Wade (my nephew’s friend) arrived in FL and arrived at the mechanics location to pick up the rig and opens the back to take pictures as my nephew had asked him to do that so he could see what everything looked like now. There was NOTHING in the back of the ambulance. No product, no equipment. It had been completely stripped. However, there was no damage to any lock or window. My nephew called me and I immediately called my friends (both of them as the call went straight to voicemail when I call the first one so then I called the other). I left a voicemail for them to call me asap. They knew we were picking the rig up that day. My nephew mentions to me it sounds like they blocked me. So I took my fiancés phone (which still has a FL number) and called my friend and......he answered. I told him there was nothing in the back of the rig and I wanted to know where the equipment and product was. At first he said, well, I don't know. I don't know what to say. I stated there is no forced entry on the vehicle and he had to have known it was empty atleast when the wrecker picked it up if not well before. He then said, well I threw all the product out as it was no good. I said, I didn't tell you to do that. As a matter of fact when the subject came up of the viability of the product (when the person wanted to buy just the ambulance) and I said we will have to see if it is viable and if now, I may have to just toss it but I will cross that bridge when we come to it. My friend said no, don't throw it out, it will sell for something at my auction. I can put it through the auction if you decided to get rid of it. I reminded him of that and he just responded well I thought you wanted it thrown out so I threw it out. He never gave a response on the equipment other than I don't know what to say. Then I asked what he was going to do and he asked what I wanted him to do. I said I need the equipment. My nephew had already spent quite a bit setting up his business and getting things ready for when he got the rig so he could start quickly. He already had clients waiting. This was not only a significant issue for me but more so for my nephew. My friend never agreed to pay for the equipment - just kept saying I don't know. There was over $11K in equipment in the rig (this number excludes the generator as it was known at that time not to be in the rig (generator was $3200). There was more than $2K in various chemicals (waxes, washes, polishes, waterless washes, etc). These are just the things that I am definitive about. I am sure there was more that doesn't come to mind but this is the vast majority. That is $16.2k total. I know the FL statutory max for small claims is $8k which is approx. half the total and I think that would be fair for both parties so I was thinking of just going that route but wanted some advice from a legal perspective. Sadly, I do feel they took the equipment and chemicals and anything else in the rig and likely sold it as the pressure washing unit had to be put into the rig using a forklift due to the weight. There was no visible drag marks on the floor in the back and I know they have access to equipment even though they do not own that type of equipment to my knowledge. Since I can not prove that I do not think there is a criminal element and it breaks my heart to have to do that to someone I once was close with but again, I am open to advice. I apologize for the novel but I felt most of the info was needed to have a full picture of what happened. Oh, they do have a ton of cameras on their auction house property and daily monitor activity on them. I asked about that when he kept saying I don't know what to say and the response was they only keep 5 days of recordings (the rig had been gone to the mechanic over 5 days). We did immediately ask the mechanic if they were aware of anything in the back and they said no and I do feel he was being honest as he was honest with us on fixing something that wasn't quite right when it was picked up and caused it to stop down the road without additional charge.
Customer
Oh, also, after 6 weeks of hounding I did receive a check for $1600 last week for the generator, however, the wife purposely did not sign her last name (only her first name) and it is a non negotiable instrument
Customer
I am just done with the bs but not sure what standing I have
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EveLynn411, Expert

Thanks for providing the additional information. There are several options available to you.

One option is to file a police report for theft of the equipment and supplies. Given the dollar value of the equipment and supplies, this would likely be a felony offense.

If you do not want to pursue this as a criminal matter, you can bring a lawsuit for damages. As you mentioned, the limit for claims in small claims court is $8,000. So, you will not recover the entire loss, but you will also not have the expense of attorney fees.

The last option is to sue in district court for the full amount. This will allow you to fully recover, but the process is slow and, because the process is more complex than small claims court, you should consider hiring an attorney as opposed to representing yourself. As most cases settle before trial, there is a good chance that you can reach a resolution without incurring the cost of a full blown trial.

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EveLynn411, Expert

I hope this information is useful. If you have more questions or if something doesn’t make sense, please let me know and I will try to clarify it for you.

Customer
in your professional opinion, will it work against me that the rig was there for a few years? Also, like I said, I have no actual proof they took the items, just circumstantial. However, I believe they would be responsible for the items even if they were stolen by someone else since they had assumed possession to sell, correct? If I file a police report for the stolen property does that automatically put the decision to charge or not in the DA's hands or would I have a say? As upset as I am with them for the way this has been handled, I don't want to ruin someone's life, I just want them to step up and take responsibility and pay restitution
Customer
Is there maybe a lesser offense in the non negotiable instrument?
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EveLynn411, Expert

They may try to argue that the rig was abandoned. However, it seems that you were in contact with them over the years.

They may also argue that it was not their responsibility to keep the rig secure. However, by taking possession of the rig, they also assumed the responsibility for its safekeeping.

Yes, the DA has sole discretion to make the decision to bring a charge. Having said this, the DA will likely take your wishes into account because he/she cannot proceed without a cooperating witness.

Sometimes, just the threat of criminal prosecution is sufficient to get results. You may want to consider hiring an attorney to send a strongly-worded letter to them which will let them know that you are serious. This may stop the game playing and bring about a quick resolution.

Customer
Also, one other thing, the husband had mentioned at one point that he called some storage facilities in their area and that storage facilities are not responsible for property stored on their property and stolen. So he is viewing this as the same. First, they are not a storage facility and second I had no contract with them to that effect or any other besides the verbal contract that they were to try to sell the unit. He then states that they were having to pay "storage" to their partner for the rig being on the property when they had a partner so it was a storage arrangement. They bought the partner out approx. 6 months after the rig was taken there. There was never a storage fee paid by me or any discussion ever of storage until now
Customer
Ok. Thank you for that info.
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EveLynn411, Expert

Storage facilities typically have contracts which release them from any responsibility for keeping item secure from theft or damage. It doesn't seem like there is a similar contract in your situation.

Customer
Ok. Thank you again for your time!
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EveLynn411, Expert

You are welcome. If you have any questions in the future, don't hesitate to ask! Simply respond to this message and I will be happy to continue to assist you. Thank you for using our site and for trusting me to answer your question.

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