Small Claims Court 2

No, I didn’t forget.

As I told you in my first post about filing a complaint in Small Claims Court, that court, where I filed my case on May 14, 2012, is so phenomenally busy the court date I was given was not until December 5, 2012. “Oh it’s a long long time from May to…” Oh wait. That’s September, as in “September Song.” Never mind.

Over the past seven months, though, I’ve kept you entertained with tales of reality show judges and their invitations to bring my Small Claims Court case onto TV.  Which I ignored.

So on December 5, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. I traveled downtown to Supreme Court at 111 Centre Street where Small Claims Court sits in room 775.

Room 775 looks like any courtroom but unlike the courtrooms I’ve been hanging out in lately, it is wide and shallow, rather than narrow and deep. There were perhaps twenty people, presumably claimants, already there in the seats. No one was on the bench. A court deputy sat in front. I asked him if I should check in with him; he told me to look around and see if my opponent (or his lawyer) was there.

Shortly thereafter, Larry appeared. Larry was the lawyer who had been representing the Skush-O’Briens and the co-op in Housing Court. I waved at him cheerily.

I like Larry. And he has been illustrative of the complex position of all lawyers, but especially defense lawyers, I have known. Here’s how it works: you as plaintiff and/or your lawyer can talk directly and in a friendly sort of off-the-record way to the defendants’ lawyer when you’re both trying to work out what can and should happen with the case, scheduling and such.

I think a lot of plaintiffs and defendants don’t understand this. Why isn’t their lawyer treating the opposition lawyer as a representative of Satan? Isn’t he/she the enemy, too? Shouldn’t Larry and I be scowling at each other?

No. Not yet, anyway.

If you the plaintiff and the defendant can’t reach some agreement on a particular issue, you go before the judge. And there the defense lawyer shifts into his presentation, his defense-lawyer personality. If you didn’t know this was going to happen — but of course you do because I’m telling you about it — you as a layman could find it awfully upsetting. Here is this guy who’s been friendly and pleasant and fairly cooperative turning into a loud, aggressive, accusatory brute.

It’s performance. Detach yourself personally from it, watch and listen to it as entertainment.

But let’s go back into Small Claims Court on December 5, when I saw Larry and waved to him. He came over, told me he didn’t know anything about this case; he’d just been called about it the previous day.

So what’s it about? he asked. I told him briefly: in 2011 and in 2012 there had been leaks from Skush-O’Brien apartments that had damaged two areas of my ceiling and despite my numerous requests, the Skush-O’Briens had not had Griggsby, our building manager, do more than send a contractor to look at the problems.

Beyond that, I had not been able to get Griggsby to contact me and set up dates to fix the ceilings. So I had hired contractors, had them do the work and had paid for it myself. I had sent the bills to Griggsby and informed him that if I didn’t get a reimbursement check I would have to take further action.

“Further action” was my Small Claims complaint for $3,097.45 — under the $5,000 Small Claims ceiling.

Larry and I went up to the court deputy and reported in. The deputy said that if Larry needed an adjournment — and if I would consent to one — the court would give a one-time adjournment only. I consented. I do not need to be an urgent hard-ass on this matter because I had all the evidence, all the proof.

We were given a new appearance date. Then Larry and I sat down on the bench outside the courtroom and I showed Larry my very fat file of e-mails, bills, leak complaints, et cetera. He asked if I could give him a copy of the proofs of my payment for the repairs. I said sure.

The next week I made a copy of the entire file and send it to Larry with a note, saying that I hoped it would facilitate a rapid resolution of this thing, maybe even before our next court date.

Wouldn’t that be nice? Happy New Year.

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