Can I be Sued over an eBay Auction?

July 17, 2008

One of the great features of the Weblog is, you can see search terms that people use, to find your blog. While this is not a blog about online auctions, and since there are plenty of those all over the web, I don’t plan on this becoming another one of those. However, this seemed to be a fitting subject, regardless of the type of auction.

Of course, the short answer to the question is YES. Why, of course you can. Especially in today’s litigious society, where people sue anyone for anything at the drop of the hat, or should I say, hot coffee spilled in your lap, as one seeks to blame the restaurant for serving coffee that’s “too hot” and causing light scalding on their leg when the clumsy individual caused the injury to themselves. Why do people always seek to blame others for their own faults? Money and greed are usually the culprits that answer that question.

However, if someone does cause real problems and losses to someone else and the individual at fault refuses to provide relief to the damaged party, then that was the intention of providing legal recourse for addressing the situation. I don’t think it was ever meant to be used by crooks to sue the victims for hurting them when catching the crook in the commission of a crime or other silly actions that should never waste our taxpayer’s dollars to misuse our legal system.

So, I have to wonder, what did this person do to have someone consider bringing a lawsuit against them? We continually hear of the seller’s that scam buyers and buyers that scam the sellers. There are also those that think they can run an eBay style auction and claim “as-is, where-is” and be absolved of all legal responsibility for what they represented. While Live Auctioneers also use those terms, at least the buyer can see what they are buying and determine their own suitability. But that may not even be a viable defense if the auctioneer made a specific claim about an item.

I had a friend that bought a motorcycle on eBay from a seller in a different state (well over 1000 miles away). When he received a box of junk parts, he contacted the seller and the battle was started, as the seller claimed it was all there in the box. Well, this certainly wasn’t what was envisioned from the description and the seller wanted to make things difficult, so my friend found a lawyer in the seller’s home state and filed suit. Now, that’s the bad part, as you normally have to file suit in the other person’s jurisdiction, at least in most cases (there are exceptions, like when it’s spelled out in a specific contract, for one). Of course, now the seller wants to try to negotiate and refund his money. Well, this is likely to cost the seller a whole lot more than he was going to make on the scam, as my friend is going to pursue him in court, even though it means he will have to take off work and travel over 1000 miles when it’s scheduled for a court date. I’m sure he’ll be seeking reimbursement for those costs, as well, not to mention his lawyer’s fees.

The best way to avoid a lawsuit is to be as honest as you can, with those you deal with. While it’s no guarantee that someone won’t find something as a perceived wrong and try to sue you, it should lessen your chances.