I’ve told you this story previously, a few years ago, but now that I’m in Small Claims Court myself, I thought you’d enjoy a Friday repeat. As always, the terrific names are from Damon Runyon. I call the enterprising litigant Feet Samuels. In reality (I mean, real reality, not TV reality, although as a new invitee to The People’s Court, I’m getting a little confused about the distinction), Feet was and still is my brother. Here’s the story:
When Feet Samuels, a musician, played a gig for contractor Scoodles Shea, he hadn’t been warned by his union that Scoodles made it his practice to run out on his debts. (Which is why Feet got involved in union politics but that’s another story.)
So Feet sued Scoodles for the 90 bucks he was owed for the gig. Feet reasoned that retaining a lawyer to go after $90 was perhaps overkill and sued pro se (handled everything by himself), in Small Claims Court.
This happened a number of years ago, back when a gig could command a fat 90 buck fee. It was also back when Small Claims Court required the plaintiff to perform service upon the defendant himself. (Now the court serves your complaint for you.)
So here’s the creative way Feet served Scoodles: Feet’s fiancée and her father, Frankie Ferocious (his persona, not his reality), phoned Scoodles, told him they were thinking of booking his combo for her wedding. Could they come to a gig he was playing just to sample his combo’s wares? Of course, said Scoodles, eager for a new client.
Frankie Ferocious and his daughter showed up at the wedding, nibbled at the buffet, and then served Scoodles with Feet’s lawsuit. (I don’t have to tell you that they did not hire Scoodles for the wedding. In fact, the wedding took place at City Hall and then we all walked over to Feet’s Chinese restaurant — every musician in New York used to have his own Chinese restaurant and many, many funny stories have emerged from that fact — and stuffed ourselves. No band was required.)
The lawsuit proceeded. Scoodles never showed up for the hearing so Feet won, by default. The deciding judge looked down upon the head of Feet and pronounced, “You know you’re wasting your time with this guy – you shouldn’t bother,” but Feet replied, “No, it’s fine, it’s kind of my hobby,” and the judge said “Okay,” and signed whatever she had to sign to get Feet out of there.
By this time Scoodles had made himself totally, legally invisible. He couldn’t be found and he’d handed all his assets over to his wife. Feet, however, was determined to serve Scoodles with the judgment, so he tied on his running shoes and jogged over to Scoodles’s house.
Scoodles himself opened the door. Feet served him. Scoodles look embarrassed and said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have to do this.” But wasn’t embarrassed enough to pay up.
Feet got otherwise musically occupied and didn’t further pursue Scoodles, but that was the last time he let anybody off the legal hook.