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Equitable ownership of a car: In re Brenda Dufoe

In re Brenda Dufoe (Bk 08-20468; decision August 27, 2008) (Judge Ninfo). New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 2108 says that the owner listed on the title certificate of a motor vehicle is presumed to be the owner of that vehicle. In this case, the debtor and another were co-owners in a business which included buying and selling high-end cars. The debtor's name was on the title certificate, but the business partner claimed to be the sole "beneficial" or "equitable" owner of the vehicle. Judge Ninfo decided that the V&T Sect. 2018 presumption of ownership can be rebutted in the right circumstances, but that the business partner did not rebut it in this case. However, the judge did indicate that it was possible that the other party might have a partial beneficial interest in the vehicle, and advised the parties to negotiate a settlement. This concept of a partial beneficial interest in a vehicle titled to another person may be the subject of future bankruptcy litigation in New York.

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Peter R. Scribner, Esq.
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