Property I, Pages 150–156

West v. Roberts

Supreme Court of Colorado, 2006

Judgment:

Affirmed.

Facts:

West sold his 1974 Corvette to a man calling himself Robert Wilson, who gave West a fake cashier's check. West in return gave the title and car. West filed a stolen vehicle report with the police when he learned the check was a forgery, but the police did not find the car or the man. Two years later West asked the police to check the VIN again, who found it in the possession of Roberts. Roberts bought the car from her brother who bought it from a newspaper ad. West this filed this action to recover the car under Colorado's stolen property statute.

Procedural History:

The trial court determined that the stolen property statute did not apply in this case, instead finding that the UCC determined Roberts was the rightful owner. The district court upheld the trial court's decision.

Issues:

  • Does Colorado's stolen property statute apply or the UCC?

  • Who gets to keep the car?

Plaintiff's Argument:

  1. UCC § 2-403 only protects those who purchase from merchants.
  2. Plaintiff did not pass a voidable title to Wilson.

Reasoning:

The UCC is the newer law and is more specific, so it should apply. Treatises say fraud and force should be treated differently. The seller had more of an opportunity to safeguard against the fraud than the subsequent buyer did.

Rule/Holding:

Under the UCC, the good faith purchaser for value keeps the item when it was stolen by fraud rather than force.

Dissenting Opinion:

Eid: While the statutes conflict, the UCC is actually more general and should not apply here. It is also arguably older than the stolen property statute, which is what should should govern this.