Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Massachusetts Case Finds Lender Liable for Repossession Company's Breach of the Peace

Motor vehicles may be repossessed in Massachusetts without legal process so long as there is no 'breach of peace'. Massachusetts lenders hire independent contractors to repossess motor vehicles for them. Lenders doubtless take the position that since their repossession companies are independent contractors, the lenders have no control over them and therefore the lenders are not liable for the repossession companies' bad acts, if any. In Doucette v. Belmont Savings Bank, a Superior Court judge said the claimant did not need to show an employer-employee relationship between the lender and the repossession company in order for the lender to be liable for the repossessor's bad acts. Citing Massachusetts G.L. c. 106 s. 9-609, and cases in other jurisdictions that have enacted UCC 9-609, the court said the statutory language itself conferred on the lender a non-delegable duty not to breach the peace in effecting repossessions.
A question in this case is where was the repossession company's insurer, or was the lender represented by its own insurer? While not a license to commit bad acts, from a strictly business perspective, liability is much less of a concern where there is adequate insurance.

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