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I sold a guitar to a lawyer and he is now threatening me with a suit. What to do?

Discussion in 'Small Claims & Municipal Court' started by guitarplr, Jul 31, 2009.

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  1. guitarplr

    guitarplr Law Topic Starter New Member

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    My jurisdiction is: OR, USA

    The short version:

    I sold a guy a bass guitar, amp, and related accessories from an ad on craigslist about two weeks ago. He later took the items to a music store and they told him the bass is unplayable and irreparable (he had played the bass for over 30 minutes in my basement before buying and found it satisfactory at that time). He says I misrepresented the bass and that I must either give him his money back or he will sue in small claims.

    I have two questions:

    1) Does he have a legitimate case?
    2) If he files suit can I counter sue for time, expense, defamation, or anything else?

    The detailed version:

    About two weeks ago I posted an ad on Craigslist for a bass guitar, amplifier, and related accessories. The man who bought the items claims to be a lawyer and is now upset at his purchase and demands his money back or he'll sue. He says that he took the items to a music store and they told him they're worthless junk, cannot be played as is, and that the bass in particular is completely irreparable.

    Though an idiot in the field of law, I am somewhat of an expert in the field of musical instruments, having worked for years for both a successful musical instrument retailer and a very large m.i. manufacturer. The bass in question is a low end instrument to be sure, but I can say in all confidence that it was very playable when it left my house. That said, I pointed out at the time of sale some issues the bass had. Specifically I pointed out that the electronics were in need of a good cleaning or perhaps even replacement of some parts. I offered to do that work for free at a later date as neither of us had the time or inclination on the spot. He did not seem the least bit worried about buying an instrument that needed some work.

    The gentleman called a week later and said he wanted to have the work done that we had discussed as a friend of his was coming into town that he might like to jam with. I said no problem, but that he might have to leave the instrument with me for a day or two. He said that wouldn't work due to the tight time-frame he was on and that he would call back later to set up a time to drop it off after his friend left town.

    The next I heard from him was a week later (today) and he was very upset. He basically opened with, "We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but you're going to give me my money back." He went on to describe being told by a local guitar store how the bass was unplayable and irreparable. He feels that I deceived him and that only a full refund will suffice in bringing this matter to a suitable conclusion for him.

    The truth is that I would normally have no problem refunding the money. I'm not a thief or a scammer and I don't want to be sewing the seeds of bad karma. Mostly I just don't like the tone this guy came at me with or the idea of being bullied into a particular decision or a course of action.

    Not only did I not represent the bass as being perfect, but I pointed out the flaws that I was aware of and offered to fix them. I just don't see how I could lose this suit. But if it does go to court, I don't want to end up being out more than $200 worth of time and court costs. That's where my question about the counter-suit comes in. To what degree is he liable for reimbursing my time and other incurred costs?

    Is it worth it to stand my ground, or should I just refund the money and let the bully win?

    Oh yeah, I don't know if it's relevant, but a comparable package to the one I sold would sell new for around $350 - $400. I sold this package for $200, so we're not talking about a ton of money -- this is primarily a matter of principle.

    Thanks in advance for any help or advice.
     
  2. T_tops

    T_tops New Member

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    How did he pay you? And 2 weeks is a while to start being mad about a purchase.
     
  3. guitarplr

    guitarplr Law Topic Starter New Member

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    He paid in cash. I agree that two weeks is a long time. Especially since we had had contact at the one week mark and he made no mention of the bass having issues, except for those we had already discussed, which he was clearly aware of at the time of purchase.
     
  4. dee_dub

    dee_dub Moderator

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    Well, he can at least try to sue you. Based on the above, I'd say you have the stronger position. He bought a used instrument, you advised of the problems with it, coming back for a refund two weeks later is a bit of a stretch.

    Nope. This will be a small claims matter, if it is anything at all, and you don't get that kind of stuff in small claims court.
     
  5. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    I agree with what everyone here said. It's up to him to prove his case and it won't be easy. This all sounds like a lot of puffing. He's mad because he's now being told that the deal he thought was great might not be so great. He had a right to inspect, ask about it, etc. What is his argument in court? Not one that seems very strong. You can wait and see what he does and defend if he's foolish enough to take the court route.
     
  6. guitarplr

    guitarplr Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks for the advice, all. I agree that he is most likely just posturing in the hopes that I'm easily intimidated. The masochistic side of me now almost almost hopes he sues so I can enjoy the satisfaction of hearing a judge say his case has no merit and he behaved like a buffoon.

    FYI, Oregon's DOJ website indicates that a counterclaim is allowed in small claims court. Maybe there need to be certain requirements met or something...maybe it's just an Oregon thing...who knows.

    We've had three or so e-mails back and forth since my initial posting. Just for fun I'm including the final note here (with names removed) for perusal and in case anyone finds themselves in a similar situation and wants some ideas on language.

    Thanks again


    X,

    Had you approached me with a modicum of civility you would have found me willing and eager to resolve your problem. As a self employed musician and music teacher I have a vested interest in keeping every person I interact with happy. It does me no good to make people angry, and I will say that I have never before had a transaction go south as dramatically or unexpectedly as this one did. Had you asked me for assistance I would have worked tirelessly to make you happy. Instead you insulted me and threatened legal action against me. You turned me from an ally into an adversary. I can't imagine why you thought that was the best course of action, but that was your decision, not mine.

    I found that bass to be playable at the time of purchase, and more importantly, so did you after testing it for almost an hour before buying it. If you wanted a third party's assessment regarding the quality of the bass, it was your responsibility to get that assessment prior to making the purchase.

    I find the fact that you are unhappy with your purchase to be regrettable, but I'm done being insulted by you. I previously offered you the opportunity to make a case in writing as to why I should refund your money; that offer is now off the table. Any attempts by you to contact me for any reason will be considered harassment and will be responded to accordingly.

    I have done nothing wrong and have conducted myself in a professional and civil manner throughout, despite your repeated emotional outbursts and insults. Any attempts by you to slander or defame me to others in any way, whether verbally, in writing, or by some other means, will be met with the appropriate legal action.

    Sincerely,
    X
     
    leahpet likes this.
  7. dee_dub

    dee_dub Moderator

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    That's a lot of verbiage for a $200 bass. But go ahead, knock yourself out. :)

    Counterclaims are certainly allowed - noone has said otherwise. However, you have nothing to counterclaim. He hasn't done anything bad to you, other than try to cancel the deal.
     
  8. lawfirms09

    lawfirms09 New Member

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    I sold a guitar to a lawyer and he is now threatening me with a suit. What to do?

    I don't know whether you had given your bill slip to him but if he has slip, then you have to take seriously that issue.;)
     
  9. guitarplr

    guitarplr Law Topic Starter New Member

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    dee_dub,

    I haven't figured out how to quote others posts back to them, but your response to my question,

    "If he files suit can I counter sue for time, expense, defamation, or anything else?"

    Was,

    "Nope. This will be a small claims matter, if it is anything at all, and you don't get that kind of stuff in small claims court."

    So I hope you can understand how I could take that to mean counterclaims weren't permited or weren't an option. That's why I can't resolve the cognative disonance between that statement and your next post,

    "Counterclaims are certainly allowed - noone has said otherwise..."

    As far as the quantity of verbage. Guilty as charged. I'll say this though, it was the most theraputic note I've ever written. :)

    Lawfirms09, By bill slip do you mean a bill of sale? We had no written agreement or receipt. It was a very informal transfer of $200 cash for some musical gear.

    Out of curiosity though, if I had written him a bill of sale, and assuming that bill of sale had no explicit wording regarding a guarantee or waranty, how would it affect this case? The reason I ask is that all a bill of sale would prove is that I sold him the items for $200. If he does take me to court I would not deny that the transaction took place, so I can't see how the existance of, or lack of, a bill of sale would be relevant. Again, just curious as to your thinking -- I'm assuming he won't take this to court, but if it does end up before a judge I'd like to have tried to see it from all angles ahead of time.
     
  10. dee_dub

    dee_dub Moderator

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    Well, I could leave you hanging... ;)

    There's no cognitive dissonance to resolve. Countersuits are allowed; but the specific countersuit you contemplated is virtually guaranteed to fail. Your original post was asking about a countersuit for your time and other incurred costs. I assume you mean the time and costs incurred in responding to his allegation and/or lawsuit. Small claims courts will rarely (in my experience, never) award damages for those.

    Are you considering counterclaiming for something else?
     

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