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Under Md. Code Ann., Com. Law § 2-403, voidable title is to be distinguished from void title. A thief, for example, "gets" only void title and without more cannot pass any title to a good faith purchaser. "Voidable title" is a murky concept. The Code does not define the phrase. Md. Code Ann., Com. Law § 2-403(1)(a)-(d) clarify the law as to particular transactions which were "troublesome under prior law." Beyond these, the court must look to non-Code state law.
Adeorike Ogunsanya Duros Inmi-Etti, the appellant, purchased a new automobile for $ 8,500 in cash, but much to her chagrin, lost both the car and her purchase price. She sued the parties allegedly responsible for her plight in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County and won her battle against David E. Butler, one of three defendants, when she was awarded a default judgment for $ 8,200 in compensatory damages and $ 50 in punitive damages. Pohanka Oldsmobile-GMC, Inc. (hereinafter "Pohanka") bought the 1981 Honda owned by Inmi-Etti from Butler. Summary judgment was entered against Inmi-Etti, in favor of the two remaining defendants (appellees herein), Pohanka and James V. Aluisi, Sheriff of Prince George's County (hereinafter "Aluisi").
Did Pohanka obtain a valid title?
The court stated that the answer to Inmi-Etti’s claim against Pohanka depended upon whether the thief, Butler, had "void" or "voidable" title at the time of the purported sale to Pohanka. The court found that Butler possessed a void title because Inmi-Etti never made a voluntary transfer to him. Because Butler possessed a void title, Pohanka obtained no title and its sale of the vehicle constituted a conversion of Inmi-Etti’s property. Summary judgment in favor of Pohanka was reversed. Summary judgment in favor of the sheriff was affirmed because the sheriff had no duty of care, thus no liability in negligence. The sheriff performed a "levy and leave" procedure that was not authorized under former Md. Dist. Ct. R. G46 where he did not take the car, so he was not obliged to protect it.