THE STOP SIGN QUESTION (Begins after note to readers.) 
Sunday, June 23, 2019, 08:43 AM
Posted by Administrator
Note to readers: It is very hard for me to proofread my own entries. I try but what I write usually appears to me as I meant to write and not always what is actually down on the page. Please contact me if you have any grammar, spelling, syntax or other corrections or if you think facts are misstated. I do fact check to the extent possible. For instance, my reference, below, to Russ Vento Chevrolet being located on Broadway (as I remember from my summer in Denver). I was able to confirm that in the early 70s it was.......though the dealership later moved to Colfax.)


I frequently ask clients: "What happens when you run a stop sign?" The most frequent answer (by far) is that a cop gives you a ticket. "When was the last time you got a ticket for running a stop sign?", I then ask.

The STOP SIGN QUESTION comes up (as I try to illustrate my point) in response to questions like:
-"They have to pay me back the money I lent them." "Right?"
-"He (the ex husband) has to pay me child support." "Right?"
-"She (the ex girlfriend with whom the client owns a house) has to sign the deed back to me." "Right?"
-"They (the car dealer) has to fix my car." "Right?"
I have run into thousands of examples (in my 36 years of lawyering & prior to) of HE/SHE/THEY HAS TO DO ....SOMETHING.... BECAUSE THERE IS A PIECE OF PAPER/LAW/RULE THAT SAYS THEY DO. Here is my favorite:

It was 1971 and I was on summering in Denver on break from the University of Colorado. The temperature hovered around 99 degrees and the humidity was, more or less, 10%. There is a myth that people don't feel heat and cold very much if the humidity is low. The reality is that hot and dry meant {(in the days before I found out that sugar is bad and that part of the secret recipe for CocaCola might be ground-up-beaver-anal-glands (apparently a not-uncommon flavoring)} drinking a bottle of Coke every 10 minutes or falling down dead from heat exhaustion. The blazing sun sucked all of the liquid out of my body like water through a straw.

I lasted one day setting up scaffolding at a construction site then two days working for a wholesaler of Jewish food (constantly back and forth between picking orders in a 25 degree freezer and then hauling them across a 100 degree loading dock) before I found a job at a Phillips 66 gas station in the fancy part of town, a couple of miles from Denver's (now-defunct) Stapleton Airport for a couple of dollars an hour less than minimum wage. Gas (if I remember correctly) was about 65 cents a gallon.

Three other people worked that gas station: the owner, who did very little; a kid a few years older than me who I don't particularly remember; and a man in his late 20s who had recently been released from prison and who was an actual mechanic. Though I mainly pumped gas (no self-serve back then), in spite of my complete lack of knowledge or experience, I was also assigned to use the potentially deadly pneumatic tire machine to change tires, mess with the air wrenches and do other minor jobs.

At the time, I had a green Ford Econoline van with a three speed manual transmission---lever on the steering column ("three on a tree" as opposed to "four on the floor"). I wanted something smaller because a) the van got bad mileage and 65 cents/gallon was real money in those days and b) my friend had a sports car (a Sunbeam Alpine)and it was able to go very quickly around corners. So, I got some car selling advice from the guys at the used Porsche dealer on the other side of the alley from the apartment I was renting (I heard everyone there was arrested a short time later by the FBI because, it turned out, their Porsches were stolen) and, I sold the van.

After I sold the van, I looked in the classified section of the Denver Post and I found a promising sports-car-prospect: a 1967 Austin Healey MKIII 3000.

Today, the Healey (the '67 with roll down windows---previous models had fixed side windows that were either in or out) would be worth in the range of $15,000 -$40,000 (in the shape mine was in---no rust, no dents, from a state where the Transportation Department used sand and not salt on the roads when it snowed). I went to see the car at the owner's house on a small ranch somewhere in the dry prairie a few miles East of Denver. I applied absolutely nothing of the car knowledge I'd acquired working in the gas station to inspecting the car and, within a few moments of seeing it, I promised the owner I'd be back with the $1,500 he wanted the next day.

The friend with the Sunbeam drove me back out East, I paid the money, the car started right up and we began our drive back. The Healey was the lead car and the Sunbeam behind. After about a minute of driving, I heard the Sunbeam's horn beeping and I looked back and saw a cloud of blue-white smoke pouring out the Healey's tailpipe.

I was 17 at the time and I knew that people under the age of 17 did not have the "capacity" to contract. Any I made contacts would be void or voidable. My purchase of the Healey was a contract so I knew that the seller had to give me back my money. Right?

I called him and told him this.

He said "no".

And, a moment after he said "no", I realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do to get my money back from him. Same as when a police officer doesn't see you roll right through those stop signs, there would be no consequences to the seller for selling me, a minor....too young to have made the purchase...a British sports car with an obviously bad engine.

And, of course, if you don't sue for the money you are owed and get a judgment and (somehow) collect on the judgment, you won't ever get the money & the dealer doesn't "have" to fix your car & your ex doesn't "have" to sign the deed. These problems are what courts.......and traffic cops are for. And, so......the STOP SIGN QUESTION.

The Healey? Oil was accumulating on top of the engine's head (below the valve cover but over the valves). I KNEW it had to be the rings (pressurizing the bottom end where the oil was supposed to be--mostly in the oil pan--- and forcing it to the top where there wasn't supposed to be a whole lot of oil). I parked the car in a friend's garage and rented an engine lift and took the massive 6 cylinder engine out through a hood that was only slightly larger. Then, I took the engine apart and I fitted new rings and put the engine back together and threaded it back through the tiny hood and on to the engine mounts. I re-attached the engine to the gearbox. This took many days of lifting, pulling, standing, stooping, wrenching (I did have some help help) but, finally, it was all together and it started right up and I took a drive.

It is now 47 years later but I still remember looking behind the Healey at my friend in his Sunbeam and seeing the smoke pouring out of the tailpipe and, I remember just as vividly, driving down Broadway in Denver after I got the Healey back together. About 2 minutes into my drive, right near (now long gone) RussVento Chevrolet, a car pulled along side me at a traffic light and the driver opened his window. He said to me: "There is something wrong with your car." I looked behind me. The smoke was back. I admitted defeat and sold the Healey.

About 20 years ago, I was at a magazine stand and I saw a picture of an Austin Healey 3000 on the cover of a classic car magazine. There was a story inside the magazine about what to look for when buying an old Healey. The story had some captioned pictures and one of the pictures was of the rocker arm (the rocker arm sits---in this engine---at the top of the engine, below the valve cover and above the valves) the caption said, in more or less exactly these words:

"Rocker arm oil holes can become enlarged resulting in the accumulation of large amounts of oil in the top of the engine. A sheet metal screw will solve the problem."

In other words, a 5 cent screw and 15 minutes taking off the valve cover and screwing the screw into the enlarged oil hole in the rocker arm would have saved me days of work. That was all I had to do. My idea that it was the rings and the engine needed to be removed from the car and disassembled? Nonsense.

So big mistake, huge waste of time and effort, but, on the other hand, it was the beginning of the STOP SIGN QUESTION. At least there was that.
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