Friday Files: Lawyers and Cars

Lawyers pop up in the strangest places. There I was a couple Monday nights ago, watching Top Gear, a fabulous and (in Britain) wildly popular TV show about cars. Well, it’s about cars the way Car Talk is about cars. But the accent is better and the show much funnier.

So the Top Gear guys decided to come to America about a year after Katrina and see if they could prove that it was easier and cheaper to buy a car, rather than rent one, for a long trip. The plan was to buy the $1,000 car in Miami, drive it to New Orleans, and then try to sell it.

Yes, there is a lawyer in this story, but she comes in at the end.

So off they went. Sadly, I did not catch the first part, in which they bought said cars. (Three hosts each got to make his own best deal for a car: one bought a 15+ year old Camaro, no AC; another, an equally old Caddy; the third, a pickup truck also sans AC.) When I caught up with them, they were in Alabama, and had decided it would be a laugh riot to “decorate” (their word) their cars a bit. The Caddy had a simple “I’m BI” on either side of the hood ornament. The white truck had pink lettering down either side agitating for gay rights. I believe the Camaro had something about Man Love emblazoned on the hood.

They stop in a gas station just off the interstate in rural Alabama. Let’s just say that the station owner, a woman, did not care for their message. So she called some local toughs, who actually chased the guys, and their very visible film crew, down the highway. Even on the interstate, they’re not safe, as some 18-wheeler drivers bear down on them. Eventually, they pulled off onto the shoulder and quickly expunged their decorations. It actually scared me to watch this part; I don’t think it was staged. Shades of Matthew Shepard and all that.

But I digress.

They approach New Orleans, and are in shock at the still evident devastation, one year after Katrina. “My God, you would think in the world’s richest country, this would all be tidied up quickly. But look at it!” Indeed.

So, they abandon their plan to sell the cars (“it just wouldn’t be right”) and decide to give them away. They find a non-profit agency and ask for some help finding good candidates to give the cars to. The pickup location is somewhere in the Ninth Ward, I think. Their cars are not exactly the most desirable things you’ve ever seen, even minus the gay pride decorating. It takes some persuading, but eventually two of the cars are indeed given away.

But after the cameras stopped rolling, an attorney shows up. She is there from the agency. She says that the show had promised to give the agency’s client a 1991 piece of crap car, but instead delivered a 1989 piece of crap car instead (the Camaro). So she wanted $20,000 on the spot to make up for the misrepresentation.

Just for kicks, I checked out the cost of a 1991 Camaro on Edmunds: between $1,500 and $3,000.

Fortunately, the neighborhood toughs showed up in the midst of this discussion and told them all to get the hell off their street. So it all worked out in the end.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer, writer, and collector of good lawyer stories. If you have one you’d like to share, email her at jennalvey AT gmail DOT com.

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