The family of a man whose passion was his 1969 Mustang Mach 1 Cobra is due $33,000 from his friend who contracted to purchase the collector’s car after his death, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled March 22.
Justice John Gibb-Carsley said Bailey Mah spent many hours repairing the Mustang as a passion project, spending thousands of dollars on professional help.
The judge said after Mah died Aug. 24, 2018 in Maple Ridge, his family and friend Braxton Lee Lawrence negotiated to buy the car. That process began four days after Mah’s death when Braxton texted his condolences and said he’d be interested in buying the Mustang.
“I know he’d be happy it being with me to complete the restorations the way he wanted them done,” he texted.
But, when Lawrence stopped paying, the family sued.
Lynn Ma was the executor of her brother’s estate. She said agreements set the price for the Mustang, and that Lawrence had breached those agreements.
The judge agreed.
“The lead up to the sale was pleasant, with both parties pleased that Mr. Mah’s prized possession was being sold to someone who cared about the Mustang and its restoration,” Gibb-Carsley said. “However, soon after the sale, the defendant came to believe that the Mustang’s fair market value was lower than what he paid. He kept the Mustang, but stopped making payments.”
The judge said Lawrence was the boyfriend of Mah’s daughter, and he and Mah had a close relationship.
“One of the bonds the two men shared was an interest in the Mustang,” the judge said.
On Jan. 21, 2019, Ma sent an email to Lawrence saying she was seeking $55,000 for the Mustang, but that she would sell the Mustang to Lawrence for a $35,000 as “Mah had verbally expressed an intention to gift the defendant $20,000.”
Gibb-Carsley said Mah’s will made no mention of Lawrence.
The family proposed a minimum monthly payment of $500 to $600 along with income tax refunds and work bonuses as well as the proceeds from the sale of Lawrence’s vehicles on the condition $35,000 was paid in full by June 30, 2019.
They also accepted Lawrence’s proposal to move into Mah’s house.
“I propose that the rent for Bailey’s house be $1,300 per month between now and June 30, 2019. On July 1, 2019, the rent will be $1,500 per month with a one-year lease,” the sister said. “This will give you a bit of relief if you want to make extra car payments.”
On Jan. 30, 2019, the parties entered into a $35,000 sales contract for the Mustang.
Five days later, Lawrence emailed expressing concern about the state of the car, saying a complete restoration would be $50,000 and that the car had an estimated value of $25,000.
Lawrence claimed the parties had always understood the agreements did not set the final price of the Mustang, and that the final price would be determined after an appraisal was completed.
Lawrence claimed he was entitled to apply a discount to the final appraised value; that was based on a statement made by the Ma to him during the course of negotiations, when Mah had said he wanted to gift him a sum of money.
On Feb. 9, 2019, Ma texted Lawrence saying if he was no longer interested in keeping the Mustang, that there were other interested purchasers.
The sister stood firm on the price.
By that September, the sister’s lawyer sent a demand letter for $33,000, plus legal fees.
“The defendant has not paid any further amounts for the Mustang nor has he returned the Mustang to the plaintiff,” the judge said, noting the sister had offered to rescind the contract if Lawrence returned the car.
In the end, the judge rejected Lawrence’s arguments that the $35,000 price was only conditional upon the completion of an appraisal.
“I find that at the time that the sales contract was executed, the defendant was aware that he was purchasing the Mustang for $35,000,” Gibb-Carsley said. “He then agreed to repay that amount under the terms of the promissory note.”