Legal Question in Civil Litigation in New Mexico

My daughter is 17 years old. While in high school she took a guitar class and with the permission of my parents was allowed to use a guitar that belonged to my deceased brother. When the guitar class was completed for the semester she took it upon herself to give away the guitar, which did not belong to her, to a classmate at school. When we contacted the classmate he informed us that he had put $60.00 into repairs and if we paid him for the repairs he would in turn give us the guitar. The story has now changed and he is stating that in actuality he has put in at least $200.00 into the repairs for the guitar and also refuses to give back the guitar. If he indeed used $200.00 of his money to repair the guitar I have no problem paying but he also refuses to show proof of the expenses incurred for repairs. I have the serial number of the guitar and would like your opinion in knowing whether or not this is a lost cost or would I stand a chance in civil court? Thank you for you time.


Victoria Daņe

Asked on 6/08/12, 10:22 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

John Watson John Watson, Attorney at Law

I think you should sue him in Magistrate Court for the illegal conversion of another person's property. That is one legal theory but there are about 2 or 3 different theories you could go under in this matter. It will cost you about $50 (maybe an additional $35 - $40 for misc. costs and service fees) for Magistrate Court. The problem you have, but is easily remedied, is that you have not stated what is the value of the Guitar. Since it sounds like the item is of sentimental value more than monetary value I would say that you place the value at a high amount in the court papers. Make clear to the judge you want the property returned. The theory here is that the guitar was not daughter's give and she made a mistake in fact. This does not give ownership rights to the recipient; it does, in fact, make the recipient a "bailee" of the property. That is to say, he has an obligation to take care of the property. He should not be making improvements to it and may do so at his peril.

There are some alternatives you should at least consider before you start suing. Goto one of the older and more respected lawyers in town and ask if they'd make a phone call for you and try to get the matter resolved without a law suit. It is very likely if a lawyer calls the kids parents then you may get the matter resolved informally. However, if you get rebuffed from the parents then your only recourse may be to sue.

Good luck.

Law Guru.

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Answered on 6/08/12, 10:56 am

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