Q. I am planning to get married. For some reason, I was never able to get a credit card. I have been told that it will be easier for me to get a card once I am married. Is this true?
I also want my own credit card in my own name. Can I do that, or must I just accept a card on my husband's account?
A. California law prohibits credit card companies from discriminating against a person because of her sex or marital status. Credit card companies cannot offer different terms or deny credit simply because the person applying is a woman or is unmarried.
A married woman may apply for a separate account in her maiden name.
If a credit card company violates the law, it can be sued for actual damages as well as a maximum of $10,000 in punitive damages.
Q. I took my car to be repaired. I've been taking it to the same service garage for years, and I've come to know the manager really well. This time when I took it in, the garage was busy, and the manager said the car would cost about $300 to service. I told him this was all right, and left. He never gave me anything in writing about the cost.
I went to pick up the car that same night. It turned out that the bill was $700! They wouldn't let me have the car unless I paid for it. Since I needed it, I paid the $700, but I think it's unfair. What are my rights?
A. A repair shop must give a customer a written estimate for the cost of the labor and parts needed for the car. No work can be done unless the customer first authorizes it.
If the repair shop properly starts work and then discovers that the estimate was too low, it must obtain the customer's written or oral consent before continuing the work. If the consent is oral, the shop must note it on the invoice, and have the customer sign it when the repairs have been completed.
If a repair shop fails to obtain a customer's consent for either the original estimate or the increased price, it cannot charge for any of the unauthorized work.
Q. My wife was killed in an automobile accident. Although I called her my wife, we never had a marriage license or went through an official ceremony. We did, however, live together for many years, and we had our own private ceremony in which we called each other husband and wife.
Now that she is dead, I want to make the person who killed her pay for it. The police say it's not a criminal matter and refuse to do anything about it. Can I sue this person?
A. The action you are asking about is called a wrongful death action. This action may be brought by the spouse of a person whose death resulted from the wrongful act or neglect of another.
The law also provides that if there was not a legal marriage, the action could still be brought by a "putative spouse." A putative spouse is defined as a person who believed in good faith that a valid marriage existed.
The question you ask does not have an easy answer. Some courts in this state have allowed wrongful death actions in cases where private vows were exchanged while others have not. You should consult an attorney for help.
B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers' questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life.