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Claiming partial amount owed in small claim court

Discussion in 'Small Claims & Municipal Court' started by jimboandy, Sep 9, 2010.

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  1. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    First of all, thank you very much for making such a forum possible.

    I'm in NY state. A start up company owes me 2 months of payment which totaled more than $5,000. My question is: is it possible to sue them in small claim court for 1 month payment? This way, it will be less than the limit for small claim court in NY state, which is $5,000.

    The amount owed is for June and July work I performed. I am thinking of suing them for June payment first. If after winning the payment for June they still refuse to pay for the July salary, I will sue them again.

    Thanks in advance.

    ----------------

    More info: I'd like to sue bbbbbb LLC for owing me money and refusing payment. It is a technology start up company based in NY city. The owner is zzzzzz, and the EVP is aaaaaa.
     
  2. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    You can sue for more than the statutory maximum. If you win, your judgment will be capped at the statutory maximum, if you're suing for an amount that exceeds the maximum.

    You can bring one suit for two weeks. Then you can file another one for the other two weeks.

    Let's say the two weeks is worth $3,000. In total, it would be $6,000.
    So, two lawsuits would allow you to sue for the entire amount.
     
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  3. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you!

    Hello Army Judge!

    Thank you, that's a great news. I'm in NY state, do you think it works here too? (I noticed you're in Texas).
     
  4. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    It works that way in all 50 states.
    The statutory maximum may be different, but the process is similar. Don't get too excited. You have to win first. Then comes the hard part, collecting your judgment. One step at a time.
     
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  5. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Army Judge saves the day!

    Thanks again Army Judge :) I think you saved me. But I found out something while reading up on small claims. Here's what I found:

    "Can I sue for more than $5000 in Small Claims Court?
    No. If your claim is for more than $5000, you must start a civil
    case. You cannot split your claim into smaller claims to get around
    the limit."
    [I cannot post the source URL here, because the forum won't let me. But if you google "smallclaims.pdf site:ny.us", you'll find the pdf file. I quoted the above from page 2 of the pdf.]


    Now, I think the above is only true if someone deliberately split up something that ought not to be split up. For my case, I have monthly invoices. So I think it's perfectly fine if I want to sue 1 month invoice at a time. Does anybody here disagree?

    Thanks much! Army Judge, I owe you a favor if this works out :)
     
  6. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Yes, there is a $5,000 statutory limit in your state.
    If your invoice exceeds that maximum, you can still sue.
    You will only recover up to the statutory maximum.

    You can invoice weekly, and NOT monthly.
    Therefore, you do not encounter the statutory maximum.
    For discussion purposes, let's say your monthly invoice would be $10,000.
    Suppose you invoiced, weekly, however.
    That way, your invoice would be for $2,500.
    That doesn't exceed the statutory maximum.
    In fact, you could invoice every two weeks for $5,000.
    Then you could bring TWO small claims suits for $5,000 each!

    You have to be creative.

    Think outside the box.

    There are many ways to accomplish the same thing result.

    You do, however, increase your small claims filing fees.

    You also increase the judgments on which you will eventually TRY to collect.
     
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  7. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hey Army Judge :)

    I'm going forward with this. I'm reading about the rules of small claims court. It's a little tricky situation for me, because I reside in northern New York state and the company made me sign a contract that says any dispute must be resolved in NY city. This is the problem:

    "To sue in New York City, the business or association must have its principal office in New York City, and the defendant must reside in, have a place of employment in, or have an office for the transaction of business in New York City."

    Any thoughts?
     
  8. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    You normally are forced to bring a small claims suit in the court where the person resides, or the corporation has it's main (only) office.

    You don't have to live in NYC to bring a small claims action there.

    The contractual prohibition doesn't preclude you from bringing a small claims case or a lawsuit for non-payment. A contract can't prevent you from doing that which is legally available to do.

    You can also hire a lawyer to bring a supreme court suit. To do that, you'll have to give up 25-33% of what you're owed. But, 2/3's of a loaf is better than 100% of nothing!
     
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  9. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hi Army Judge,

    Thanks again for your time and advice. I just called NY city small claim clerk at 718 618-2518. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to reach someone right away.

    I was going to ask whether I can have a say on what dates I'm not available for the trial and whether the info I get from NY small claim website is updated. But I decided to ask about the split claim too. Unfortunately, the staff told me that I'm not supposed to sue for 2 separate invoices (for 2 months).

    Hmm... I'll try calling again later in the afternoon. Maybe if I talk to a different staff he'll have a different answer.
     
  10. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Here's another tip, don't ask, do!

    If you invoiced for two weeks of personal services, and weren't paid for those services, you can sue for those two weeks.

    Then you can sue for the next two weeks.

    Each refusal to pay amounts to a separate incident.

    Also, as this is NYC, make sure you sue in correct borough.

    Yes, the court clerk will try and accommodate both parties when it comes to scheduling conflicts!



     
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  11. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I was thinking of the same exact thing: just do it.

    But can the defendant dismiss the claim easily by pointing out that there's more they owe? Or maybe they'll let me sue them, and even win, but during the judgement can they ask the judge to declare that they will pay $5k and get no more claim of the other invoices (i.e. forfeit the rest)?

    Thanks so much for the help Army Judge. I really appreciate it.
     
  12. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    They could try.
    If anyone did that, they'd be cutting their own throat.
    The small claims part will be easy.
    You'll win it, hands down.
    The hard part will be collecting on your judgment.
     
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  13. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks again Army Judge :)

    The company's owner, xxxxxxx, is a millionaire. His apartment alone is worth $1.3 million (you can google his name, and the building name). So collection may not be difficult. I guess they can still declare bankruptcy.... But if they do that, I will make a website dedicated to record their exploits and they will go down in infamy.

    I don't quite understand why it would be to their disadvantage if they try to dismiss my case in small claim court. Is it because doing so would show that they cannot defend themselves and they are just using lame excuse to stop me? Or is there other reason?
     
  14. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    I didn't say they WOULD NOT try to get the case dismissed.
    That is one strategy savvy defendants use all the time.

    They would be a fool to admit to anything.
    They would never say they owe you $5,000 when you're suing them for $2,500 as a tactic to defeat your lawsuit.
    That would only show their culpability.
    I've never seen a defendant that stupid, especially one with DEEP pockets!
     
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  15. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    OK, sounds great! I'll send the small claim form and will keep you updated. God bless you Army Judge!!
     
  16. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Thanks. God bless us all!
     
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  17. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Can they try do this: point out that the "amount being disputed" is $14k, and say that they are willing to pay $5k provided that it settles all the dispute? I.e. they don't have to admit that they owe $14k total, they just say "amount being disputed", or "amount claimed by plaintiff".

    Well, I guess if they brought that up I can always reject the $5k. The worse thing that will happen is that the case is dismissed, and I have sue him in civil court. Correct?
     
  18. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    You got it.

    But, if he owes you $14,000, what settlement would you take?

    If $9,000 works for you, you might want to talk with a lawyer about representing you.

    If the lawyer gets the $14,000, he/she could take their $5,000 fee and give you $9,000.

    It is a heck of a lot easier that way.

    It also makes people pay attention when they get served to go to REAL court.
     
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  19. jimboandy

    jimboandy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Yes, $9k would work for me. I contacted several lawyers for civil litigation. Two lawyers almost "cheated" me by asking for both contingency fee and hourly rate at the same time.

    I managed to find and talked to 2 very nice lawyers (cccccc, and dddddd). They both told me that it will take a lot of time and in the end I may not be getting more than $5k when the lawyers fee are taken into account.

    Emily suggested that I just take the $5k from small claim and walk away. She said she had another client like me who sue based on principles (I told her I don't mind getting less than $5k in civil court, as long as justice is served). She said, in the end her client ended up more angry, after going through 8 months of trouble (or was it 10 months? can't remember).

    Thanks again Army Judge :)
     
  20. pgarbuz

    pgarbuz New Member

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    Dr. yyyyyyy,

    You make it sound as if zzzzzzz is refusing to pay you for work well done. Your anonymous smear campaign can use a dose of reality.

    Dr. yyyyyyy had a simple directive which 3 months and tens of thousands of dollars later, produced zero progress and zero deliverables. The same directive was accomplished by another researcher with zero use of Dr. yyyyyy's research or resources in under 1 week.

    Yet Dr. yyyyyy demands to be paid the full bonus rate because "he worked hard". Since we've refused, his attorney sent us notice that they will take us to court unless we pay the full amount. I offered an olive branch to meet and attempt to reach an amicable resolution, drove to Albany (a ~300 mile trip). Dr. yyyyyy decided it was going to be his way or the highway, unprovokingly cancelled the meeting and demanded that either: A. we agree to his terms or B. he takes us to court. Due in part to his unpredictable nature, we have decided against an out of court settlement and are waiting for his pending lawsuit.

    Apparently it seems that he has decided that since he is unlikely to win the case in court, he may have a better chance by being a pest and extracting a favorable "go away" settlement. This includes running anonymous smear campaigns, distorting facts, harrassing business associates, investors and their families.

    Sincerely,

    aaaaaaa, EVP
    bbbbbb LLC
     

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