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Did You Just Dare Me To Take You To Court?

, , , , , , , | Legal | CREDIT: theb00kmancometh | November 20, 2022

This incident took place in India in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. The school where my sister and I studied was in my hometown. We knew almost all of the teachers since they were practically our neighbours.

By the time I graduated from school, the principal had retired and the vice principal had taken over as the principal.

[Vice Principal] was also from the same town, and for some unknown reason, he had some sort of grudge against my father. In local gatherings and such, he would always try to belittle my father at all chances he could get. My father would normally let it pass since he knows that getting into silly arguments with such a bully is totally unproductive.

When my sister and I joined the school, my father was required to pay a refundable deposit of 5,000 Rupees per child, which would be returned when each child graduated from the school. 10,000 Rupees was a large amount in the ‘90s and is equivalent to 95,000 Rupees now.

I graduated in 1989. My father enquired about the refund.

Vice Principal: “Since [Sister] will be graduating next year, both of the deposits will be returned together.”

When my sister graduated from school, my father requested that the school refund both of the deposits. There was no response, even after two weeks, and my father personally went to the school to demand the refund. [Vice Principal], being the egotistical bully, started arguing with my father stating that the school couldn’t refund the deposits. The argument became very heated, and he refused point-blank.

Vice Principal: “We are not returning the deposits. Do what you want. You can take us to court if you want!”

My father went silent, got up, and left the school. He came home, sat down with Mom, and went through all the school-related documents she had kept. My mom had a very meticulous documentation system; she used to save every receipt, bill, stub, etc.

He found the receipts for the deposits and took them to his lawyer friend. My dad informed his friends whose children were in the same school about the issue.

The lawyer filed the case and took the school to court. The school couldn’t provide any reason for withholding the deposits, so my dad won. The school was instructed to pay back the deposits with interest, as well as court dues.

My father’s friends who were in the PTA took up the issue in the subsequent PTA meeting, and they got the school’s trustee board to ensure that such issues wouldn’t be dealt with in the same manner. All deposits would be refunded in time. They strictly warned [Vice Principal] not to bring personal grudges into school business.

Other parents who were owed deposits but had forgotten about them started claiming them. It cost the school a lot to pay back all the deposits.

Someone Seriously Needs To Reread The Rule Book

, , , , , , | Legal | September 20, 2022

I am driving with my wife and kids to the shore for the weekend. On our way down, a New Jersey state trooper turns around as we pass him and starts following us with his lights on. We pull over, and I hand the officer my information. He quickly studies it and then hands it back.

State Trooper: “Do you know why I’ve pulled you aside, Mr. [My Name]?”

Me: “No, sir. Is one of my lights broken? I’m pretty sure I just replaced them all.”

State Trooper: “There’s an issue with your license plates.”

Me: “Oh? Is it damaged? Did it fall—”

State Trooper: “Your front license plate is missing.”

Me: “What? What do you mean?”

State Trooper: “In New Jersey, you have to have both a proper front and rear license plate, Mr. [My Name].”

Me: “Are you kidding? I’m from Pennsylvania! There’s no such law there!”

State Trooper: “But you’re in New Jersey now. The law says you absolutely have to have both a front and rear plate. You can’t drive here without a front plate. The rear plate alone is not enough.”

For those unaware, the state trooper was technically right in that vehicles registered in New Jersey must have both front and rear plates. However, that law ONLY applies to New Jersey-registered vehicles. Mine is registered in Pennsylvania, which DOES NOT have two-plate laws. The state trooper didn’t care, and he issued a citation for not having a proper front license plate.

I disputed the ticket on the indicated court date, and it was quickly thrown out. Going by the judge’s reaction, it seemed like it wasn’t the first time that particular state trooper had wrongfully cited a Pennsylvania driver for only having one plate.

The next time I went to the shore, the week after the court date, I happened to pass that same state trooper’s cruiser again. Twice. Each time, he had pulled over another car with a Pennsylvania plate, presumably for the same bogus reason he pulled me over.

Frivolous Citations Really Burn Me Up

, , , , , , | Legal | August 9, 2022

I’m driving my car with three friends inside. We’re coming back from the club late at night. The interior of the car suddenly begins to fill up with smoke, so we pull onto the shoulder and bail out of the car.

Good thing, too, because very rapidly, while I’m dialing Roadside Assistance, the whole car goes up like a Roman candle. It’s burning merrily, making popping noises. One of my friends calls 911.

The EMS arrives first, followed by the police and the firefighters. I give a statement to one of the officers and then take a ride to the hospital to be monitored for toxic smoke inhalation. 

The stay in the hospital is not pleasant, but they eventually let us go. I return home… to get a citation delivered to my door by courier. It says it’s for improperly stopping a vehicle, but the actual law cited is about not putting your hazard lights on.

I. See. Red.

First, I go to the city government to discuss it. The lady behind the desk asks:

Lady: “Would you like to take a plea deal? I can reduce the fine to zero if you plead guilty.”

Nope. Not doing that. I am not guilty of any crime and I refuse to plead guilty. I am going to make this city spend its money to prosecute me. I set a trial date with the lady behind the desk. She seems taken aback by my vehemence.

The trial date arrives, and I show up in court with a bunch of records, including a video from my phone of the car burning. I’ve spent quite a lot of time gathering records and tracking down witness statements. I have not spent any time studying court etiquette, case histories, or how to speak in court correctly. I probably should have.

The officer who cited me does not show up in court.

Several other traffic cases are being heard on the same day. One by one, they approach the podium, the judge talks with them some, the prosecuting (and sometimes but rarely defending) attorneys talk some, and a judgment is made. No case seems to take more than about thirty minutes.

It’s my turn. I approach the podium and I’m quickly sworn in.

Judge: “So… can you tell me more about this citation? Something about emergency lights?”

Me: “Well, your honor, I figured that being brightly burning — that is to say literally on fire — probably was a clear enough signal that my vehicle was in distress.”

The judge thinks for a moment and then turns to the prosecuting attorney.

Judge: “Are you aware of any particular facts from this particular case?”

Attorney: “Nothing that isn’t written in the brief, sir.”

The judge reads the brief again for a moment. He glances back up at me.

Judge: “Well. It sounds like you’re innocent, then. Have a nice day. There’ll be some paperwork for you to sign.”

And that was the end of it.


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Apparently, VLC Stands For “Victorious Legal Case”!

, , , , , , | Legal | CREDIT: MeowSchwitzInThere | July 27, 2022

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a legal nature. It is not intended as legal advice.

 

I’m a lawyer. A client comes in with a seemingly simple auto collision. The client was hit, and the other driver got out and said something like, “Oh, my God, are you okay? I’m so sorry! I dropped my phone and reached to get it…” The client had a dashcam that recorded the whole thing, including the admission of guilt. Easy client, right?

It turns out that the admission was really important because the type of accident didn’t make a “determination of fault” easy. (Imagine a rear-end collision at a red light as an easy determination, but a collision at a four-way stop sign as a hard determination.) When the cops showed up, the police report found both drivers at fault AND did not mention any statements from the other driver.

But we have our admission, and my client’s damages are above the other guy’s policy limit. So, I send a demand to the insurance company for policy limits. Note that the insurance company has an obligation to negotiate in good faith, which becomes important later.

The lawyer from insurance reaches out and says (basically):

Insurance Attorney: “Look, my client says they were driving safely, and the police report says shared fault.”

The initial offer is like ten grand.

Me: “Yeah, but my client had a dashcam and it recorded your client admitting fault.”

It’s important to understand that this is before dashcams are common. It isn’t my first case with a dashcam, but it might be my third or fourth. No mention of the dashcam was made on the police report.

The insurance attorney says (I imagine while twirling a dumb mustache):

Insurance Attorney: “Interesting, can you send me a copy of the video?”

I say sure and send it over.

Insurance Attorney: “I can’t open this!”

I send him a link to VLC Media Player.

Me: “It’s a weird extension, and Windows Media Player won’t play it. But VLC will. Just follow the installer instructions and it should play with no problem.”

Insurance Attorney: “I’m not installing something to watch your alleged dash cam video. Send me a file I can play if you want me to consider it.”

This makes me unhappy, but I try again.

Me: “It will take less than a few minutes to install, and then you can watch the video and listen to your client admit fault.”

Insurance Attorney: “We are done here until you send something I can play.”

Cue malicious compliance music: “Country Grammar”. Start a super cool montage of me going through other client files. Stop the montage as I open a file and my face is bathed in a golden light radiating from an old Memorex CD.

I’ve found a DIFFERENT dashcam video that does not contain any sound but can be played with Windows Media Player, AND it is close enough to my current client’s facts that if you weren’t paying attention, it could pass. [Insurance Attorney] just asked for “a file” he could play, right?

I send it over.

Insurance Attorney: “Wow, no sound. Guess you’re done, buddy.”

So, I sue. During discovery, I send a CD over which included the ORIGINAL video AND a copy of VLC. He must ignore it because he doesn’t say anything about it.

During a pretrial motion hearing, I play the video for the judge. The judge might have heard the other lawyer’s jaw hit his desk.

Insurance Attorney: “Your honor, this is not the video he sent to me!”

In my mind’s eye, I see the malicious compliance death star preparing to fire.

Me: “Judge, I thought he might say that. Here is a copy of our emails where I described the video, provided the video, and sent instructions on how to play it. Here is a copy of the CD I sent with discovery, which also has the video and a copy of VLC. Finally, here is a copy of the unrelated video which I sent to fulfill his request for ‘something he could play’.”

[Insurance Attorney] asked for a recess. Because he refused the initial demand of policy limits, I told him I would argue that he did not negotiate in good faith. We settled for well above policy limits. The client was very happy.

Don’t Mind Us, Just Casually Divorcing Here

, , , , | Legal | June 16, 2022

A few years ago, my ex-husband and I went through a pretty amicable divorce. The initial decision was tough, of course, but after separating, we both agreed it was the right choice. I don’t know about every state, but in ours, you have to be legally separated — living at separate addresses! — for one year and one day in order to proceed with a divorce petition. Don’t even get me started on how hard this makes it for some people, depending on their situation.

So, our year and a day passed and we got a court date. Since we’d already agreed on how we’d split our small list of assets (no children involved, which made the process easier) in our separation agreement, we represented ourselves at the courthouse for the filings and then for the final decree. In total, it was five different visits to different government offices over the course of a few months. Every place we went, we got the strangest looks from the staff because we were doing this together. I’m sure that is rare, but at one office, we had to spell it out several times before the clerk would take the paperwork. She kept assuming we wanted to get married, not divorced.

The funniest encounter, though, was when our “summons” documents were ready to announce our final court date. I was the one who filed for the divorce, so I was the plaintiff and my ex-husband was the defendant. The summons for the defendant had to go out one of two ways: delivery by special messenger and signed for upon receipt, or delivery by an officer of the law. At the time, he worked twelve-hour shifts and couldn’t wait around for a special messenger, not knowing what day it would arrive. I asked if I could just hand it to him and was explicitly told that would be illegal and would force us to start the process over again.

Instead, we went to the summons window, the clerk handed me the summons, and we went to the police department window on the other end of the room. With both of us standing right there, I handed the summons to a cop, who signed that he’d received it and then turned and handed it to my ex-husband. The whole time, we could tell the cop was trying to keep a straight face. We thanked him and managed to make it outside before we lost it. It was one of those situations where we were coming out of the stress of making the decision to divorce and were so frustrated by the red tape that we just had to laugh.

Everything went fine after that, and our divorce was finalized in February of 2020. In March of 2020, our entire state went on lockdown and the government offices closed. If we’d waited just a couple of weeks in our scheduling of everything, we likely wouldn’t have been able to get everything finished for another year. I felt so bad for the people stuck in that process limbo.