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Quote of the Day - To give a satisfactory decision as to the truth it is necessary to be rather an arbitrator than a party to the dispute. - Aristotle

Small Claims Get Resolved (Almost)

Just like the big courts do, I'm going to post some decisions. Without the names, though.

This morning, I sat as a pro tem judge in a local court and heard four small claims cases. These types of cases never get any notoriety or any publicity, but they are some of the thorniest cases.

So, without further ado, here are the decisions.

Case No. 1. An easy one. Plaintiff failed to appear for trial. Case dismissed, without prejudice.

Case No. 2. Action for rent, cross-action for return of rent due to alleged uninhabitability of leased residential premises. Plaintiff leased a small cottage to Defendant in return for D's promise to provide P with 30 hours of flying lessons, which both parties agreed were worth two months rent, and thereafter an agreed-upon $625/month. D never provided the flying lessons, but paid four months of rent thereafter. P seeks repayment of the first two months of rent. D claims the premises was uninhabitable, but in addition to paying the four following months' rent, was not able to produce sufficient evidence of uninhabitability. When pressed to determine whether he demanded repairs from the landlord, he admitted that he had not, nor had he undertaken to make any repairs himself. D claimed the premises had been condemned, but at most was able to submit evidence that the City had required the premises to be demolished due to setback violations, which did not affect habitability. Further, the City had not ordered D to vacate the premises at all or due to any code violations. Held: Judgment for P for $1,250.00.

Case No. 3. Appeal of decision denying motion to vacate. D had failed to appear for his trial, previously set for September 21, 2004. Judgment of $5,000 was entered for P at that time for damages to P's driveway that D (contractor) had installed that allegedly was cracked, thin in some places and too thick in others, and a damaged lightpost that no longer worked. D appealed, and filed a motion to vacate the judgment, which was denied by the trial court. In this court, sitting as an appeals court from the original judgment and denial, D presented the court with a Notice of Trial that showed a date of September 29, 2004, apparently in the clerk's original handwriting. Upon examination of the court's file, the court discovered a subpoena to attend trial on September 21, 2004, issued by P to D, and signed under penalty of perjury by a licensed process server. The Court accepted the subpoena into evidence and reasoned that since D had received the subpoena, and even in light of a conflicting trial date on the original notice, he improperly failed to appear for trial pursuant to the subpoena, and at a minimum, should have called the court to resolve the conflicting dates. The court did not need to address whether the notice of trial had been altered by D. Held: On appeal, the court affirmed the judgment and denial of the motion to vacate.

Case No. 4. Action for rent and damages in excess of $2,900 after tenant moved out. Cross-claim for D's $2,000 security deposit. P and D attempted to mediate the case during Cases 1-3, but were unsuccessful. The Court heard the case and received into evidence photographs of the damage to the apartment from five years of D's two dogs in the apartment, including urination on the carpet, numerous plumbing leaks and abandoned property left in the apartment that has to be removed before being relet. The damage estimates were in excess of the amount prayed for. D alleged the damage was no more than normal wear and tear. The court disagreed, noting significant damage to the apartment, well in excess of the court's jurisdictional limit. The court gave the parties one last chance to reach a mediated agreement, and if they were unable, then the court would render judgment tomorrow.

Stay tuned for the ruling on Case No. 4.

Don't you almost feel like you're watching Judge Wapner?

Posted by J. Craig Williams on 12/15/2004 at 12:48 Comments (1)



Comments by David Giacalone from United States on Wednesday, December 15, 2004 at 21:46

Actually, to sound like Wapner or Judge Judy, we're gonna need some bad grammar, surliness and obliviousness from the parties, and a little more sass from His Honor.


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