Consumer Vigilante Justice: Continued

In my last post I suggested that you might have some success by using the court system to get the attention of those big companies that are ignoring you. Here’s how you do it.

In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, corporations often have to retain an attorney to appear in matters involving more than about $5,000. If the dispute is over a few hundred dollars, many times the corporation can send a representative to defend the company. That representative is often a low-level managerial employee who has little or no experience with the court system, because this kind of tactic is not often employed by consumers. You can use their inexperience to your advantage.

Most small claims courts in this area will employ mediation as a tool for disposing of small claims cases. The logic is that both sides are better off making an agreement somewhere in the middle, rather than letting the judge decide a winner for legal reasons that might not be entirely clear to anyone. If you are seeking a refund or some other accommodation from a corporation, all you really wanted in the first place was an opportunity to be heard, and mediation is the perfect forum for that.

The only thing you need to be sure of, besides filling out the forms the court provides you correctly, is that you need to have a real cause of action (a problem, really) to file a case and avoid getting slapped around by the court. If you feel that the company hasn’t lived up to their side of the deal, it can be called a “breach of contract.” If they are not dealing with you fairly you can call it “breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing.” Even once you try to use legal terms of art, explain fully what your problem is and most judges, realizing you’re not an attorney, will do what they can to make your facts fit a legal paradigm.

Most of the time, though, it won’t come to that. A company has much better things to do than to send an employee in to try a case. If you want to get their attention, by the time you sue them you will most certainly have succeeded. At that point, they may be inclined to give you what you’re asking for (within reason) just to make the whole thing go away. It may have cost you some extra time and the court’s filing fees, but at least you got it resolved in your favor.

If you have any questions about how to pursue this strategy, or if you think you might just need a lawyer’s services because a company is treating you badly, feel free to call Carl at 609-452-8411 x117 for a phone consultation.

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