If the buyer of a used car invokes the acquisition in good faith from a non-entitled party, the previous owner has to prove that the acquirer did not have the vehicle registration certificate presented to him or did not check it.
In the facts in dispute, an Italian company had purchased a used car from a German car dealership in 2019 with the help of an intermediary in order to be able to resell it afterwards. However, the German car dealership had not been the legal owner of the used car, but merely the leasing partner of the original owner.
According to the BGH, the Italian company had become the legal owner of the vehicle, with the consequence that the surrender of the vehicle title could be demanded according to § 985 in conjunction with § 952 BGB. § 952 BGB could be demanded. Among other things, it was disputed whether a forged vehicle registration certificate was presented to the agent, in which the German car dealership was entered as the alleged owner. Here, the burden of proof and presentation was decisive for the BGH. The defendant owner was unable to prove that the Italian company had lacked good faith at the time of acquisition.
In this context, it is irrelevant for the burden of proof if the connecting factor for the lack of good faith is the forged vehicle registration document. This is because the owner must prove the alleged lack of good faith on the part of the Italian company. The Italian company itself, as the acquirer of the transfer of ownership, only had to prove that it had fulfilled its secondary burden of proof, i.e. that it had the vehicle registration document presented to it and had checked it accordingly. According to the Federal Supreme Court, this was precisely what the Italian company had sufficiently demonstrated, so that the appeal failed.
This case would have been decided differently in Italy, since under Italian law a bona fide acquisition of registered vehicles is excluded under Art. 1156 of the Italian Civil Code.