Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Small Claims Court Revisited

I’m going to eat some words here. In a blog titled “It’s not fair!” I said: Do not — I repeat — do not ever try to sue a client in small claims court. In my experience, it cannot be done. I have tried three times, and, as I sit here popping Excedrin, I am about to give up.

I’ll admit I was pretty frustrated when I wrote that. I had already filed the same claim twice; plunked down my money twice to have to sheriff track down my elusive client; and gone to court to explain why I hadn’t prosecuted the defendant, who had never been served because he couldn’t be found. The sheriff’s office was getting used to my visits and phone calls, to the point that they actually called me to find out what the problem was (that’s a first, I’m told), and then went out to track him down.

The third time’s a charm, they say. They are right. I filed suit again, paid the sheriff again, and got on the docket again. Then, wonder of wonders, I began receiving e-mails from my missing client suggesting a settlement of 25 percent of what he owed me. Of course, he didn't actually have that amount of money, but he would borrow it. Yeah, right. I suspected that this time the sheriff had actually served the subpoena.

I went to court today, but my client did not. The courtroom was packed; and, if I had stayed around a bit longer, I could have written a book instead of a blog post. The judge was a comedian who should have his own TV show. He spent 45 minutes trying to keep a straight face hearing a case having to do with cement, planter boxes, and a dissatisfied customer who waited 13 months to complain about the contractor. Then, he devoted five minutes to cracking jokes with me before he awarded me the full amount possible in small claims court.

“That’s great,” I said. “Now what do I do?”

“Well, that’s the problem,” he replied. “We’re not allowed to tell you that.” The assembled crowd cracked up. I collected my evidence and went to report to the ladies at the filing window that I had won my case by default. I guess very few people ever tell them how it all turned out. They were delighted and, apparently, not at all restricted from telling me what to do next and how to do it.

So, off I went, armed with new forms to fill out and renewed determination to tackle the next step of our insane legal process. Updates to come.


Kim said...

And round one goes to....Bobbi!

Bobette Kyle said...

Great! I know this will work out for you.

aw2500 said...

So tell! What do you have to do next?