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J.Hazelbaker, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4385
Experience:  Attorney and small business owner with 10 years experience in the general practice of law.
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I need help in taking a specific course of action. I wrote

Customer Question

I need help in taking a specific course of action. I wrote a check to reimburse a neighbor of my brother-in-law that bailed him out of jail for a crime I felt he did not commit. The judge agreed and the neighbor was refunded the bail money. The neighbor allegedly gave the money to the brother-in-law, who promised to deliver the money back to me. I have never received the money. I assume this would be a small claims case for $1237. Who do I go after, the neighbor or the brother-in-law? The check I wrote has the purpose clearly listed. Also, I can subpoena the neighbor and the record of court reimbursement, can't I? I also wrote a couple of checks to the landlord of the brother-in-law during this time that I was promised reimbursement for and have not received.
Submitted: 7 years ago via LegalMatch.
Category: Legal
Expert:  J.Hazelbaker replied 7 years ago.

You are correct, your least expensive legal option is small claims court. Your case would be against the neighbor, not the brother-in-law. Your agreement (if any, see below) was with the neighbor, not the brother in law. The neighbor should have given the money back to you and would be liable if the money did not make its way back to you through no fault of yours.


This would hinge on whether the court could determine that there was an actual agreement between you and the neighbor. As long as it was a clear understanding between you and your neighbor that the intent was for you to be remibursed by the refunded bail money, then you would have claim against the neighbor. If that was not the intent, then you would not have a claim.


Now, there is a possible way of skipping the neighbor and going after the brother-in-law solely. That would be to claim "unjust enrichment", which was his receiving the funds from the neighbor, which he knew were to be delivered to you and not doing so.


That would be more convenient for you because you could add your claims involving the rental payments. Thus, you could take care of all of your claims in one suit and not involve the neighbor as a party (though you would want them as a witness).


I would get an affidavit of the neighbor describing the facts of receiving the money and providing it to the brother-in-law with instructions to reimburse you. You could attach that affidavit to your small-claims complaint.


You need to make sure that the total of all our claims is less than $4,000. If the total exceeds that, then you either have to go to regular court or split your claims up.


Best of luck to you.




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Customer: replied 7 years ago.
The neighbor could and probably will be a hostile witness and not cooperate, so far as the one shot on the brother-in-law would be concerned. Would I mail or deliver some form to the neighbor for an affidavit? Time may be of the essence, because I think the statute of limitations is two years. I think going after the brother-in-law and subpoenaing the neighbor and court records could be the best course of action, but what if the neighbor does not complete the affidavit or show up in court? Then I guess I would have no choice other than going after the neighbor, huh?
Expert:  J.Hazelbaker replied 7 years ago.

If you subpoena the neighbor to testify at court, he/she could be found in contempt for failing to appear. Best course, is to ask first and try to get cooperation. After all, you helped the neighbor out by reimbursing them. If no cooperation, you could file suit and subpeona the neighbor to appear at a deposition or at trial to testify. You would need an attorney to help you with an affidavit and it would need to be notarized.


Yes, you need to act quickly to avoid losing your claim.

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