My week in court

… nothing casts us into dangers so much as a rash hunger to get out of them … – Montaigne, On coaches

Think of the expression “my day in court.” Well, this past week I had my week in court. OK, not a full week, but on three days of last week — Monday, Tuesday and Thursday — I was in three different courts for the same case: my lawsuit against the Skush-O’Briens.

As you know, I am the plaintiff in two separate lawsuits. One is a personal injury lawsuit dating from January 2008, when I broke a bone in my foot on a neighbor’s badly maintained sidewalk.

The other lawsuit concerns the Little Crooked House Tenants Corp., the co-op corporation of which I am a shareholder. The minority shareholder, as it happens, while the Skush-O’Briens are the majority shareholders and, in their roles as the entire Board of Directors, have, as I’ve alleged in my September 2007 complaint, breached innumerable laws and rules.

I’ve come to see these two lawsuits as tree trunks. The Skush-O’Brien lawsuit is a big tree trunk. Maybe an oak? Nah, redwood. The broken foot lawsuit is a slender trunk, probably a newly planted flowering pear tree, the type of tree that beautifies the Village streets, especially in spring when they burst into bloom.

As my cases have themselves bloomed, I now notice that each case has sprung branches. My poor foot, apparently insufficiently damaged, has been trampled on by the lawyers presumably representing it. Ergo, one new branch from this lawsuit tree trunk is the grievance I filed against my lawyers in the Departmental Disciplinary Committee; the second new branch is my demand for arbitration, since I haven’t received my settlement, nor have I heard from the lawyers about it. (You can read my entire horticultural package under the Sidebar category called Problems with your lawyer.)

And, not to be left behind in the branch department, the co-op tree has now sprung two branches, as well — and I can observe a little bud of yet another branch pushing out of the trunk. Wowee. It’s springtime.

Because I could not get the Skush-O’Briens, via their managing agent Rarus P. Griggsby, to repair my living room ceiling which had been damaged by a leak from Chaz Skush-O’Brien’s apartment, my lawyer suggested I file a complaint in New York City’s Housing Court.

And I did. I’ll write fully about the deep satisfactions of Housing Court later: the process (and my description of the process) requires patience and persistence from the complainant. But the payoff is worth it.

Although my damaged ceiling was the impetus for my Housing Court complaint and was listed on my complaint form, the HPD (Housing Preservation and Development) inspector declined to certify my ceiling, I think because it hadn’t yet fallen down. He did, however, certify 22 other Housing Code violations.

Great, but I was still left with a ceiling that needed repair. So, not for the first time, I notified Rarus P. Griggsby that I needed a contractor to fix the ceiling. Although he did send a contractor to evaluate and estimate the cost of the proposed work, he never responded to my frequent requests to set up getting the work done. Even when I said I’d advance payment for the work.

So I retained the contractor myself. He did a gorgeous job. I paid him.

This, however, was not the first time the Skush-O’Briens had refused, by dead silence, to repair my ceilings after their apartments leaked. In 2010, my bathroom ceiling started falling in and still they failed to make repairs. So I had paid for that work.

I was now left with two beautifully repaired ceilings, and a total cost, which I had advanced, of $3097.45. The co-op owed me.

But instead of adding this cost to my legal fees, and waiting until the case is finished to get reimbursement, on Monday, May 14, 2012, I filed a complaint in Small Claims Court.

Next: Small Claims Court


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