Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, January 11, 2022


Page 1


Court of Appeal:

Car Thief Properly Ordered to Pay Victim for Tarnishing of Title Based on the Pilfering


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for this district, in a 549-word opinion, yesterday affirmed an order to a car thief to pay the owner of an Audi as restitution, representing the diminished value of the automobile based on it having been stolen.

A theft of a car, Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr. of Div. Eight explained, is reflected in title notes, creating a “branded” title which reduces the resale value of the vehicle—in this instance, from $18,000 to $20,000 down to $15,000.

In his opinion affirming an order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Lee Smerling to car thief Paulette Newsom to pay $3,000 in restitution based the lowered resale value (in addition to uncontested repair costs), Wiley rejected Newsom’s contention that until the car is sold, the reduced value is speculative. The jurist wrote:

“The trial court’s ruling was correct. The Audi owner suffered an actual economic loss that the repairs alone did not fully redress.

“The Audi owner’s loss is just as concrete as that of homeowners who discover a fault line beneath their home. This discovery diminishes their property’s market value. The homeowners might grow old and die in the home and never sell it. Yet the discovery decreased their net worth in an objectively quantifiable way. The loss, for instance, has lessened the homeowners’ ability to borrow against the asset.

“Newsom’s theft caused a similar economic loss from the stigma of the branded title. The victim cannot regain a pre-theft position until Newsom pays this debt.”

The case is People v. Newsom, B312652.


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