Small Claims Court 9: I get bulk of money I am owed

As I reported in Small Claims Court 8, per the instructions on the Small Claims Court Notice of Judgment, I froze the co-op’s bank accounts, two of them, and delivered all the subsequent affidavits to the City Marshal.

That was on Wednesday, June 19, 2013.

On Saturday, September 28, the City Marshal sent me a check from her escrow account, with a form containing this delightful sentence: “Enclosed please find check in the amount of $2189.05 as payment in the above noted case. The balance due as of this date, including any Marshal fees, poundage, expenses, etc is $685.31.”

Ever since this case presented itself to me (because the co-op owed me $3, 097.45, for repair work in my apartment — work for which the co-op was legally responsible but did not do nor pay for), I had heard the buzz that Small Claims Court cases never get you anything, they’re a waste of time, blah blah blah.

They’re not. And although I haven’t yet received all the money I am owed, the co-op’s bank accounts will remain frozen until the Marshal sends me the rest.

Here’s the calendar of events leading to this payment. I offer it for two reasons: first, so that you can believe in this process and, second, so that you understand how much patience is required.

  • May 14, 2012. I file my claim for $3097.45 in Small Claims Court. My case is scheduled to be heard on December 5, 2012.
  • I go to court on December 5, 2012 and meet the defendants’ lawyer. We adjourn the case until January 24, 2013. I send the lawyer my entire file, trusting (as I said in the cover letter), “it will help you facilitate a rapid resolution of my claim…”
  • It doesn’t.
  • On January 24, I again meet the lawyer in court. He has decided to ask for a judge to try the case. It is a stalling mechanism but I agree to it. We get a trial date of March 27.
  • On March 27, a court lawyer shuttles between the defendants’ lawyer and me until we agree on a settlement of $2500. We both sign the Stipulation of Settlement. It requires the defendants to pay me by April 24, 2013. They don’t.
  • On April 30, I go back to the Small Claims Court clerk and sign an Affidavit Upon Default and am given a Notice of Judgment for $2736.99 (interest and disbursements are added to the $2500 settlement).
  • On June 6, 2013, I go back to the Small Claims Court clerk to obtain a restraining notice for the co-op’s bank accounts. I send the notice by certified mail to the bank’s legal department.
  • On June 11, 2013, I go to a City Marshal I chose from the court-provided list of City marshals and sheriffs, and give her a letter specifying the case, along with the Notice of Judgment and Restraining Order. I am asking her to levy the accounts and collect the judgment.
  • On June 19, 2013, I sign and deliver to the Marshal an Affidavit in Support of A Request For Execution Against Income/Property, which the Marshal had mailed to me.
  • And this past Saturday, September 28, I get that check, with the rest to come.

Retrospectively, I think I should not have settled this case. I should have gone to trial. It was as slam-dunk a case as you can get in any court.

So the first reason for settling — you don’t have absolute confidence that you will win at trial — did not apply here.

The second reason for settling is that you take less money in order to speed up getting reimbursement. But in my case, I had every reason to suspect that the defendants weren’t going to pay up when they had to. I had long experience with their stalling contrivances. So although I did act quickly when I didn’t get that settlement, I should have gone to trial, won a full decision and then, when it wasn’t paid, acted quickly to get the full amount, plus interest and disbursements, rather than the cut rate I gave them by settling.



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