Brian Bright of San Jose said the Corvette he used to have was his baby. A friend was driving it down Highway 85 in San Jose when she lost control of the vehicle and spun it into the guard rail.
"It was a complete loss. A brand new Corvette, a complete loss," said Bright.
This accident report from the California Highway Patrol confirms his story. And a letter from his insurance company indicates the Corvette was reported as a total loss, but the following year the state sent him a bill.
"They sent me notices saying your registration's due and I'd call them and sent them letters and release of liability saying that I no longer had the car, that it's been totaled and a copy of the police report," said Bright.
None of that worked because he received a notice from the Franchise Tax Board. A lien had been placed on his tax refund and $278 had been deducted to pay for his car registration. Bright talked to everyone he could to get his money back.
"I could get no cooperation and no help. Basically they took my money and didn't want to give it back," said Bright.
This went on for four years and at one point, his driver's license was even briefly suspended. Then he saw something on television.
"I finally saw 7 On Your Side and said, 'Wow, you know what, I think I'm going to try this,' and it was probably the best phone call I made," said Bright.
We contacted the DMV and it backed out of an on camera interview, but in an email told us, "Mr. Bright did the right thing by filing a notice of release of liability to the Department Of Motor Vehicles in a timely manner. Because of an oversight, he was incorrectly charged registration fees on the vehicle."
"I received a check in the mail for the $278. It felt good. It was just satisfaction," said Bright.
The DMV offered its sincere apologies to Bright. It reminds car owners that it's their responsibility to file the release of liability, even if a car dealership or someone else offers to do the work for you. Unfortunately, in Bright's case, that still wasn't enough.