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  1. #1
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    Our attorney at work has been out of the office, so I'm coming to you guys for some help...wasn't sure where to post this either...

    Anyway, Several months ago I entered into a deal w/ a internet marketing company to do their web site. We didn't have a formal contract, but I have all email coorespondence showing that he did intend to pay me & what services I would offer, etc. He decided to go another route & left me high & dry. Luckily I hadn't gotten too deep into the project, but the money would definitely help.
    So, when I hadn't heard from him for a while, I sent him an invoice. I never got a response. I waited 3 months and sent another invoice, but notified him that if he didn't pay, I will be sending 1 invoice a month and adding 10% interest. Several months later, I still haven't heard a peep out of these people.
    I'm assuming this will end up in small claims court, so I want to know where I stand... I was also wondering what my chances are of getting any kind of result by showing up at his door with a police officer, if that's even possible.
    I forgot to mention that my aunt worked for that company & that's how I got involved, but now she's moved on. She would be a quality witness!
    Thanks in advance...

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  2. #2
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    You really need to talk with your lawyer -- most of what you'll get here will be guesses made by people unfamiliar with the laws of where you live (and laws do vary by state).

    We also don't know the exact content of the emails which makes it harder to even guess.

    But there is one lesson here for everyone -- never ever ever start the work without a signed contract.

    >>I was also wondering what my chances are of getting any kind of result by showing up at his door with a police officer, if that's even possible.<<

    This is a civil matter, not criminal -- don't waste the police's time with it.

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  3. #3
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    great...can someone else respond?

    I don't have a lawyer, I just work with a couple & I'm in CA. I stated that I have emails where we agreed on my rate, what he wants, he provided me with content and graphics & I'm sure my aunt would testify against him...she's already apologized to me for getting me involved w/ him.
    Can't I have police present for protection? Don't they protect & serve? Police have wasted far more of my time and money...they owe me! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]

    I just want to know if you think I have a case, if you think that my invoices & charging of interest will stand up, and if there's any way to do this w/out having to go down to the Bay Area to go to small claims court...

    BTW, I posted here because I KNOW there are people here who have gone through similar experiences, or are knowledgeable on the subject. I would like to hear from them [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] ...or even someone who actually has something legitimate to contribute.

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  4. #4
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> This is a civil matter, not criminal -- don't waste the police's time with it.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    It depends on the locality, but it's done, esp in small towns. I know a gymnastics coach/gym owner in a small town out near Lancaster that gets the cops after deadbeats. On what legal premise, I could never quite figure - theft (of services) perhaps - but she calls them, and they go.

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  5. #5
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    Celicaphile, I'm not trying to be mean or less than helpful. But laws in such matters are often complex and what seems insignificant to you (the exact details of the emails) may be critical to your case.

    For example, in your first post you never mentioned that he had sent you content and graphics -- dependent on the laws where you are (is that Canada or California?), that could be significant.

    If you're in California, see if there is a local SCORE (Service Corps Of Retired Executives) office around you. They provide free services to small business (though I don't think legal) and if nothing else, they could probably point you in a better direction. Or check to see what other small business services there are in your area.

    Those types of services can generally do better than guess at the laws in your area.

    &gt;&gt;It depends on the locality, but it's done, esp in small towns.&lt;&lt;

    I know it's done. But as a taxpayer, I think it's a waste of taxpayer money.

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  6. #6
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    Thanks guys...I am finding this helpful...at least getting me thinking about what I'll need to have in order & who to contact...

    Cedric, you'd feel much different about police if you were ever harrassed by cops, if they've entered your residence illegally, damaged your property, or given you ridiculous traffic tickets time and time again. The way I see it, they work for me, yet they've stolen my money & disrupted my life more times than I'd like to remember...if an employee did that to you, would you let it slide? Funny thing is, I work for a law enforcement agency [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_razz.gif[/img]

    (it's California btw)

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  7. #7
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    Hey Celicaphile,

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>We didn't have a formal contract, but I have all email coorespondence showing that he did intend to pay me & what services I would offer, etc. He decided to go another route & left me high & dry.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I may have something for you. Please check out the following:

    http://sbs.dnb.com/collServ.asp

    This is a link for Dun & Bradstreet's collection service. They don't have a ton of info. available there about it, but I remember reading a rather flattering review of the service on either a board I used to participate in or in an article a couple of years back (I thought I'd saved the info., but haven't been able to locate it). Anyway, the gist of it was that these folks were quite effective as a collection service--after all, this _is_ D & B we're talking about here. If they flag you as a deadbeat, that ain't good. Right? [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]

    The best part was that the poster commented on how the fees were quite reasonable, and that the service was even suited to collecting debts amounting to hundreds of dollars. If you check out the sample collection letter at the above link, you'll notice that the amount listed is "$850."

    I've never used the service myself, but would definitely look into it if I faced a situation similar to yours.

    Good luck--I hope everything works out for the best!

    P.S.: Darn, if I only had a D&B affiliate link . . . ;

  8. #8
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    That's a link to remember...I'm sure a dunning notice from DUN and Bradstreet would wake up deadbeat merchants, too!

    (Yes I know the Dun and D&B is really someone's name but I couldn't resist that pun [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] )

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  9. #9
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    Oh, here's a follow-up--I was curious so I've been reading more about the D & B service. Hey, this might come in handy for any of us here, not just C-phile! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]

    According to D & B:

    ***
    "Debt recovery services are not provided by The D&B Corporation but rather are provided through our strategic partner D&B Receivable Management Services RMS). D&B Receivable Management Services is an independent company and is not part of The D&B Corporation."
    ***

    A link to this other entity is:

    http://www.dnbcollections.com/khome.htm

    and they have more info. available there. One of their primary services seems to be "threat" letters printed on Dun & Bradstreet letterhead.

  10. #10
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Celicaphile:

    Anyway, Several months ago I entered into a deal w/ a internet marketing company to do their web site. We didn't have a formal contract, but I have all email coorespondence
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


    Without a written contract, and the fact that you didn't deliver any thing to them, forget about it.

    In order for their to be claims of "intent" you have to prove it. email is not solid evidence. The judge (assuming you go to small claims) is going to ask you, "Did the client approve any drafts?" "Did the client provide any copy or artwork or picture or products?" "What interaction did you have with the client?" "What product did you deliver to the client." etc.

    Unless you can show an interaction, you don't have a chance without a written, SIGNED (that's why email is not very helpful) contract.

    And then even if you could somehow magically convince the judge, now you have to show damages. Cause the judge isn't going to give you $x because the other person "intended" (allegedly) to hire you. You can't get paid for what you didn't do. So the only thing you could try would be time lost. Okay, maybe you have some time lost, but your msg didn't seem to indicate it was much.

    So, final: your best hope would be time lost,and it's a steep, steep hill to climb, and you are carrying a 2000 ox on your back doing it.

    Maybe your lawyer can scare them into paying, but if they have any guts at all, or their own lawyer... move on.

    Sorry...

    Just wanted to add: IF the client did pay you something, anything, even just a little, then that would be evidence of intent and a contract would then be easy to prove.. so if you got any money fromthem to start.. I'd reverse my position and say you have a chance.

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  11. #11
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    AffJus,
    I'm a little confused now...how can a verbal contract hold up in court, but email can't? Especially when I have my aunt, an ex employee who introduced us, as a witness? Also, I have a staging area where clients can see work in progress and give feedback. I provided four designs and have his comments on each and emails from him telling me what changes he wants and what directions to take?
    They did provide artwork & word documents w/ content, as I mentioned above.
    I don't think they can say that I didn't deliver anything to them, when they have access to my staging area and I have emails from him giving me feedback.
    I'd really like to get the money out of them since their "internet marketing" is just spam. I only took the job because my aunt worked there. Otherwise, I would have told 'em to F Off! & now that my aunt doesn't work there, they can go F themselves...

    Anyone know how much that collection service costs? I scoured that site last night & found no mention of price or rates...Even if I only stand to get $10 out of this A-hole, I'd do it on principle...

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  12. #12
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    C-phile,

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Anyone know how much that collection service costs? I scoured that site last night & found no mention of price or rates<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I don't remember the exact amounts described, but I clearly remember that it was worth it--perhaps on a $500 or $1,000 debt, something like $100 or $200. I don't know for sure. Maybe give 'em a call?

    [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_cool.gif[/img]

  13. #13
    Chick with Brains Tracy's Avatar
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    Collection services usually charge 30% to 50% of the amount recovered. If they don't collect anything, you don't owe them anything, though.

    ---
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  14. #14
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    -=[Collection services usually charge 30% to 50% of the amount recovered. If they don't collect anything, you don't owe them anything, though.]=-

    Is there a minimum amount so it's worth their while?

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  15. #15
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    I actually think you have a strong legal case. I have practiced law in California, though not specifically contracts law. The important element of a contract is that there be an agreement of the minds. If they intended to make you an offer, you clearly accepted the offer, and there was something for you to lose through the acceptance of the offer (in this case your valuable time), then a contract is made.

    The problem with emails is that they can be forged. However, the relevance of this only comes up in instances where the other side denies having sent the email or disputes their content. In the vast majority of cases, the other side won't dispute the legitimacy of the emails, and so their validity is established.

    It sounds like it is a good case for small claims court. There you can represent yourself, only have to pay a very small fee for a hearing, and can usually get fairly competant relief. Once you have won, that's when the police could become involved, as the Sheriff's department sometimes becomes involved in collections. However, no police officer is going to go with you to the companies door beforehand, the legitimacey of your claims is not a decision for them to make.

    As giving out flippant legal advice, especially in an area that one is not experienced in, can expose an attorney to serious liability, I want to reiterate that this is not an area in which I have practiced and formally advise you to speak to an expert in the area before acting upon my advice to your detriment. However, I think your position has merit. Hope this helps, Dave

  16. #16
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    That helps a lot Dave, thanks [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]
    Now, how about my invoices & interest? I gave them two invoices before interest started to acrue. I notified them about the interest on the second invoice & am sending them via both certified and first class mail...should I go ahead and wait until the amount doubles or triples & then take 'em to small claims court? Then, will the invoices stand up?

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  17. #17
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    If you feel you have a case, document it in triplicate and take it before a small claims court.

    If you do the paperwork yourself, the cost is minimal. I have filed small claims for as little as $15.

    If the defendant doesn't show up, You win by default but usually all that means is a lien. Sometimes liens really work. Most times not. Better to have the defendant show up.

    Usually, Small Claims are based on "preponderance of evidence" as opposed to clear-cut facts. Documentation is critial and will carry more weight than verbal arguments.

    ymmv...



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  18. #18
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    does anyone know the answer to my last question above about the invoices & interest? Thanks [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

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  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador Doc Sawyer's Avatar
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    Celicaphile ,

    My experience is that only the amount of the original bill will be considered.

    It would be the consideration for services rendered.

    My experience is that interest on fees not collected is not awarded in Small Claims court.

    You can try, though; No harm in asking! The worst case is interest will be denied.

    YMMV. I am not a lawyer and I don't even play one on TV. As a matter of fact, The last time I appeared for Jury Duty, I nearly was held in contempt because I told the judge my opinion of the legal profession. (IE: The rich can get away with murder, the poor get F****D)

    So, I am probably not a reliable source. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]

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    The rest I just wasted."

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  20. #20
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    standing up that way to a judge, I'd trust you more than any attorney... [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_razz.gif[/img]

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  21. #21
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    lil' update for anyone following this topic...I spoke to our attorney at work, who I didn't know happens to be a small claims court judge...I definitely have a case, though I'm not entitled to anything other than the original amount. I'll need to file a claim, but the venue will be here, because this is where the work was performed...someone from that company will need to travel a couple/few hours to appear. So, good news for me [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]
    Thanks for all the help everyone!

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  22. #22
    Chick with Brains Tracy's Avatar
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    You can always ask for interest in your complaint, but may only get a judgment for the amount of the invoice -- depends on what the judge thinks is fair. You can also ask for interest on the unpaid balance until the judgment is satisfied. In Florida the going rate is 10%.

    Once you have a judgment, you can file a lien against any property that they own. But first you have to identify the property. All a lien will do is prevent them from selling the property until they satisfy your lien. It will not force them to pay you.

    Are you dealing with a corporation or an individual? Some small, closely held corporations set things up so that the corporation does not actually own any assets -- just leases assets from the owners -- so I'd do a title search to see if there is anything to place a lien against.

    Otherwise, you'll just have a piece of paper that says they owe you the money. It could affect their credit rating if you have it recorded at the courthouse, but it won't force them to pay you.

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  23. #23
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    Sorry to druge up an old post...

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Celicaphile:
    AffJus,
    I'm a little confused now...how can a verbal contract hold up in court, but email can't? Especially when I have my aunt, an ex employee who introduced us, as a witness? Also, I have a staging area where clients can see work in progress and give feedback. I provided four designs and have his comments on each and emails from him telling me what changes he wants and what directions to take?
    They did provide artwork & word documents w/ content, as I mentioned above.
    ...
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


    You never said any of this stuff in your original post. That you have interaction with the client, that drafts were approved or commented on, etc.

    In such a case, then as I said in my post, if you had such things, then I'd reverse my position.

    You do have time spent and you should recover it, and in fact, I'd say probably the whole contract. (But that'd be up to a judge to decide.)


    Also, as to my comment about email... I was refering to email as evidence of a contract, not the actual contract.

    An oral contract needs written evidence to be secure, or in light of that, verbal and/or witnesses. And email is very easy to dismiss. He just has to say, "I didn't send that." Your email is now trash and has zero value. A verbal statement is better because it can be heard by others who can testify to it's authenticity.

    So, I hope you did sue in small claims and I hope you won. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

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  24. #24
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    Two things: how much is the invoice for? Depends on where you can sue them but then more importantly, is it worth your time to do so?

    You may just want to take this as a lesson if the amount is small.

    Second ... 10% a month. Nope! Usuary (I think that is the spelling) interest rates. You can probably get away with 1.5% but if you didn't discuss late payments and the likes ... you "ain't" getting interest or lawyer fees.

    Think about it.

    BigFish

  25. #25
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    After getting the run-around for quite a while, I got the check in the mail today!
    I got the usual, "check's in the mail", "we sent it to the wrong address" and "oh, so-and-so was supposed to handle that"...today was the last day I was going to wait before filing w/ small claims court & submitting a complaint w/ the BBB & other groups. Lucky for them [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]

    Lessons learned:
    - have a real contract
    - know your client

    turns out they're a spam company w/ law suits against them...they spammed the state's largest law firm...6000 emails in a month or two...penalties at $50/email...damn!

    Supras | Celicas

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