assuming liability when purchasing a business
I work for a US Customs contractor. One of our vendors that stores seized property recently sold his business. When the new owner did a 100% inventory, it was discovered that approximately $5,000 worth of seized property had been stolen by employees of the previous owner. Since the new owner signed the same purchase order with the same terms & conditions stating that they are liable for lost or stolen property, is it the new owner's responsibility to reimburse Customs for the loss?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: assuming liability when purchasing a business
I expect that everyone would be potentially
liable... the workers themselves, the old owner,
and the new owner. Customs would go after
whomever is easiest to find and whomever has
assets that are easiest to find. Customs would
just want "someone" to pay them.
However, in all of those cases, that does not
end the story.
If Customs goes after you, you can turn around
and sue the old owner. Either the old owner
or you, or both, can turn around and sue the
workers who actually did the stealing.
So your liability to Customs says nothing about
who ULTIMATELY will end up paying for it. It
only affords Customs the opportunity to get
some immediate payment, and get out of the picture
and let everyone else sort it out on their own.
Customs is going to want someone to repay it
(assuming the bureuacracy can shake itself out
of a coffee break long enough to get interested
in the topic). But who ultimately ends up
paying is a completely different story. Customs
would ask someone to pay, and then leave all of
you to sort it out amongst yourselves later on.
However, I would have to see the document you
are talking about to see exactly what it says
legally to be entirely certain of who would be
legally liable to Customs. I would not make any
final decisions without actually looking at that
document and any related documents.
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