ROMI's Website

subsection: COURT LITIGATION

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The music selection title for this page is appropriately titled "Viennese Waltz Medley" as you become familiar with the 'dance steps' involved - - the music is supposed to play when the page loads, but if it doesn't, it's not YOU or your 'puter!  I am new at this "Webmaster" stuff and thank you for your patience while I 'learn'.


CIVIL LITIGATION

If you are considering suing a 'bad veterinarian' (or anyone else for that matter), you have a number of options.  An excellent site for teaching yourself about the structure of the court system in your particular area can be found at: http://www.courts.net/. 

Please keep in mind that ALL courts have limitations as to making a wronged party 'whole' again - none of the courts have the power or ability to actually 'undo' the damage done to your pet or to yourself as an aftermath of the initial damage, but can only provide a certain, and limited, amount of financial renumeration, at best, and that, of course, is on the assumption that you 'prevail' or 'win' your case.


SMALL CLAIMS COURTS

Small claims courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, but have some definite advantages over the "higher courts".  Each small claims court has it's own set of rules and 'limits'.  There are both pros and cons when considering filing a small claims lawsuit.  On the 'plus' side, you can generally 'do it yourself' without a lawyer, which means you won't have attorney fees.  On the 'minus' side, they are limited in both the type and the total amount of recovery, but then the type and amount of financial recovery is already severely limited due to the present 'tradition' of the lack of 'legal value' that has been placed upon a beloved pet.  As this is a 'do it yourself' proposition, you are totally responsible for completely preparing and putting together your own case for presentation to the court and the court is only going to be interested in the FACTS and your ability to support those facts with "proof". 

One of the interesting trends that seems to be happening with more frequency is that many small claims courts now have programs for "arbitrating" or "resolving" small claims cases before they are even presented to the Judge (generally there are no jurys involved in the small claims courts).  Apparently the purpose of an "arbitration" or "mediation" session prior to the case being seen by the Judge, is to "expedite" or "hasten" the process; in other words it provides the parties an opportunity to try to reach some sort of an agreement between them that they can both "live with" and/or "settle for" to save the court the time and trouble of rendering a decision.  As far as I've been able to determine in my own particular situation, I do not have to "accept" an "unacceptable" opinion of an "arbitrator/mediator" and have the "right" to continue to demand a small claims trial before a Judge.

The State of Washington Attorney General's Office, while claiming that their tax-payer funded "mission" is in protecting the public and representing the public when it comes to 'consumer fraud', provides a very nice and informative "do-it-yourself" page instead at:

http://www.atg.wa.gov/consumer/resolve.shtml#Resolving%20Your%20Complaint

NOTE: the below information is ONLY applicable to the State of Washington, but does contain interesting and informative general information.


Small Claims Court

Small Claims Court allows a person to settle a legal dispute involving $4,000 or less without hiring an attorney. There are no juries, and lawyers are not allowed to represent either party. Therefore the process is quicker and less expensive than District Court. Small Claims Court actions must be started within three years of the disputed transaction.

Small Claims Court handles only claims for money. It cannot help the person suing (the plaintiff) regain property, nor can it force the person or business being sued (the defendant) to perform any action. For example, the Court can require an auto repair shop to refund money to you, but cannot force the shop to make free repairs on your car.

Filing a claim

To start a case in Small Claims Court, the plaintiff must file the claim where:

Contact the District Court nearest that location, and tell the clerk you want to start a small claims action. The clerk will be able to tell you whether the address is within the boundaries of the court that you have contacted.

The clerk will provide you with several forms to fill out, and you will receive information about the Small Claims Court process; free legal information and referral; and dispute resolution centers. Read through all the information first.

The first court form is called a "Notice of Small Claims." In the "Notice" you describe your claim and provide the defendant's correct name, address, and phone number. After you submit the completed form and pay a $10 to $25 filing fee, you will be given a time and date for the trial.

Serving notice

A copy of the "Notice of Small Claims" must be delivered (or served) to the defendant. This notice instructs him or her to appear at court. It is your responsibility to see that the defendant receives this notice; however, you cannot deliver it yourself. The Court will provide you with information about alternative methods of service, such as having the sheriff or legal messenger service make the delivery. If you win the case, these charges can be awarded to you. You can also have someone over the age of 18 who is not personally involved in the case serve the notice. Be sure it is served properly, and that the notarized affidavit of service is presented to the court. The clerk will provide you with a "Return of Service" statement which should be filed with the court to prove service.

After receiving notice of the suit, the defendant may file a counterclaim against you. For example, if an upholstery cleaner ruins your sofa and you file a claim in Small Claims Court without paying the bill, the company can file a counterclaim against you for the cost of the cleaning. If the judge decides in favor of the company, you could be required to pay for the cleaning, plus court costs.

The proceedings

Each party is given a chance to tell its side of the story to the judge. You should bring any papers which relate to the case (such as receipts, pictures, warranties, or leases) and you can bring witnesses to support your case. Be sure these witnesses have direct knowledge of the case. Statements a witness makes based on information heard from someone else (hearsay) might not be admissible as evidence.

It’s a good idea to prepare your presentation before the trial. It should be complete, convincing, short and to the point. Avoid irrelevant information and remain calm and professional. Don’t get overly emotional.

If the defendant does not appear at trial, the plaintiff is granted a default judgment for the full amount of the claim--provided he or she has proof the notice was properly served on the defendant and can prove to the judge that the money is actually owed.

The Judgment

At the end of the trial the Judge will issue a decision. If the decision is in favor of the plaintiff, the court will order the defendant to pay a certain amount of money (a judgment). If the decision is in favor of the defendant, the case will be dismissed. In the case of a counterclaim, the plaintiff may be ordered to pay a judgment to the defendant or the judge may dismiss it as well. [please be advised very few Judges are as interested in or knowledgeable about human behaviors as JUDGE JUDY, so you are truly "on your own" here!]

If the court awards a judgment, a "Satisfaction of Judgment" form must be completed after the trial. If the plaintiff wins and is successful in collecting the judgment, then the top half of the form must be filled out and returned to Small Claims Court.

If the losing party fails to pay the judgment within 20 days of the time set by the court in the payment plan, you can request the judgment be entered in the civil docket of the District Court by filling out the bottom half of the form and submitting it to the Small Claims Court. You then may use the following options in collecting the debt:

Writ of Garnishment. This is an order issued to the losing party’s bank or employer, requiring a certain amount of money be given to the winner. The necessary forms are available from a legal supply or stationery store. You may need an attorney’s help in filling them out. The law allows the recovery of attorney fees of up to $250.

Writ of Execution. This is an order to the sheriff to seize some of the other party's property, sell it and pay you from the proceeds of the sale. It may be necessary for you to have the help of an attorney to file this writ. Under the law, no attorney fees can be collected along with the judgment in a writ of execution. Consult an attorney for further details.

Collection Agency. The judgment can be turned over to a collection agency. If the agency collects on the debt, it usually keeps from one-third to one-half of the amount as a fee.

Lien. You may also have the judgment transferred to the Superior Court docket, which then puts a lien on property owned by the losing party. That property cannot be sold until you receive your money.

Appeals

In some cases, the judge’s decision in Small Claims Court can be appealed through the Superior Court. Contact the District Court for information on appeal procedures. The defendant in the action cannot appeal a judgment where the amount claimed was less than $100.00. The plaintiff cannot appeal if the amount claimed was less than $1,000.00.

Hiring an Attorney

You may hire an attorney and file a lawsuit against the business in District or Superior Court. In many types of consumer protection lawsuits, if you win the case, the court can award you money to cover harm done by the losing party. The amount of damages can be tripled by the judge, up to a limit of $10,000. In addition, you can be awarded the cost of bringing the suit (e.g., attorney’s fees, court costs). [please be aware that a big incentive for an attorney to "win" your case for you begins with a "contingency fee agreement" - that provides that the attorney only gets paid IF they win, and is based on the percentage of the award, that generally can range from 33%-50% of the judgment - also be aware of what's contained in any "settlement" clauses so that you can protect yourself in that area as well; if an attorney you are considering to hire to represent you in the court system needs/wants/has to be paid by the hour, you are putting yourself at grave financial and emotional risk to retain them!]

If you do not have an attorney and wish to consult one about bringing a lawsuit, ask your friends and family for recommendations. Some county bar associations sponsor lawyer referral programs and many communities have low-cost legal clinics. You can contact the Washington State Bar Association (206-727-8207 and press 7) to check an attorney’s record for past disciplinary actions. [again be aware that these record searches are another less than "telling" source of information, just like the veterinarian boards, so don't rely on the information as it's NO guarantee for you.]

Resolving Your Complaint

Get organized

Clearly identify your problem and what you believe would be a fair solution. Be as realistic as possible when you are deciding what should be done to correct the problem. Gather all your supporting documents such as receipts, contracts, warranties, repair orders, ads, promotional literature, cancelled checks, and account numbers.

Call or write the company

Try calling first; it may be resolved immediately. Follow-up with a letter and keep a copy. Your letter should include your name, address and daytime phone number. Type the letter and keep it to one page. Be pleasant but firm in tone. State only the important details and what you want done. Include copies of relevant documents, but keep originals for your files. If you paid by credit card, write your credit card company within 60 days of purchase and notify it that you’re disputing the charge.

Consider a settlement

If your demands are not fully met, you may wish to propose a fair settlement. Sometimes a compromise solution is better than no solution at all.

Seek third party help

If the company won't resolve the matter, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Resource Centers or another mediation sevice, like the Better Business Bureau. If you contact your regional Consumer Resource Center, a representative will contact the business for you and try to resolve the problem. All of your legal options remain available to you.

Take the next step

If negotiating through the Consumer Resource Centers doesn't bring about the results you want or you choose not to utilize their services, you still have options. You can convince the other party to go to arbitration with you. For matters under $4,000, you can take your complaint to Small Claims Court (you don't need a lawyer for this). You may also consult with an attorney regarding other options available in your case.

Arbitration

In arbitration, your complaint is heard by an impartial third party who issues a decision after hearing both sides. Both sides must agree to participate in arbitration; you cannot force the other party to appear at an arbitration hearing. If you lose in arbitration, you cannot bring a lawsuit in court over the same matter.

Arbitration hearings are not held in courtrooms and formal legal procedures are not followed. You may be represented by an attorney, but it is not necessary.

An arbitrator's decision is legally binding and can be enforced the same as a court judgment. Arbitration is usually faster, more convenient and less costly than going to court.


Thank you for visiting this page and if you found it helpful and/or just enjoyed the music, please "click" for ROMI and/or attend her spirit  "funeral service" at: http://www.thesqueakywheel.com/complaints///complaint5611.cfm

and in lieu of flowers, cards, casseroles or donations made to a favorite charity, your "click" to the Squeaky Wheel [which is free as well as anonymous] will be very much appreciated.

First they killed you; then they cut you up into pieces; now they're hiding all the bits and pieces - ROMI, you and I answer to a "higher power", just as they will have to.


May my beloved partner ROMI rest in peace  - no matter wherever her bits and pieces/frozen carcass may be held hostage.

                            

                  [what's in YOUR "urn" ?]


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