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socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
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Hello I had a friend who offered to display my lawn tractor

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Hello

I had a friend who offered to display my lawn tractor for sale at his place. It was to be sold "as is". I checked on this tractor every day to find out he was not displaying my "for sale" sign and price. He refused to do it. He had the tractor hitched up to someone else's leaf vacuum with his contact info only. He is very difficult to get a hold of as he does not have a cell phone and his land line is rigged to have a busy signal only. He checks the phone time to time and calls back when he feels like it. Today, I went to his place again to find my sign not displayed with the tractor again. I told him I want the tractor returned to my property. He said I owed him $60 for powerwashing it which I did not authorize. He did it and then told me he did it. He drove my tractor to his backyard and chained it to a tree. What should I do?
Hello,

First thing to try is call the police/sheriff and tell them what has happened, and that you want the tractor back. Chaining it to the tree so as to prevent you from recovering the tractor is a theft. Sometimes law enforcement will not deal with these types of complaints, because they believe that the deal has transformed into a "civil action." If law enforcement accepts your case, it will arrest the neighbor and return your tractor.

If law enforcement refuses to get involved, you can sue the neighbor in small claims court for "conversion" (civil theft). However, the most you can recover in small claims is $7,500. So if your tractor is worth more than that, you will have to hire a lawyer and sue in regular civil court. Conversion makes the defendant liable for punitive damages, so you could recover as much as four times the tractor's value. But, you would have to pay your lawyer at least 33% to take the case. So, you will have to figure out if it's worth it to sue for more than the $7,500 in small claims.

Those are the only options in your scenario.

If you need a link to a lawyer referral service, please let me know and I will be happy to provide.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

This guy repairs lawn tractors for a living. Says he has signs that item will not be released until paid in full. Police action involved them going to his house where he gave them a piece of paper with the charges I owe him. The rest will have to be taken up in court. They left. Weren't they supposed to fill out a report. Said our conversation was being recorded? Curbside? I want to go to small claims. I won't need a lawyer for that. Again, he is charging me with work I never knew he did until I said I wanted my tractor back. What kind of punitive could I ask for? I can't sell the tractor while it's chained to a tree.

What kind of punitive could I ask for?

A: You cannot state an amount of punitive damages. You ask for the value of the vehicle, or for the court to order it returned, and you ask for "punitive damages according to proof." The court will decide how much if any punitive damages you can receive. Typical is between one and three times the value of the vehicle.

Note: I misquoted the maximum amount for Delaware in my first post. It's actually $15,000 -- not $7,500. My apologies. Here is the link to the Delaware Justice of the Peace Court.

Hope this helps.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I'm familiar with DE's JP Court. Sorry, didn't specify. This will have to be done in PA. I sit on the DE side, he sits on the PA side. I know nothing about PA courts. This would be in London-Britain Township. Exactly what does "punitive damages according to proof" mean?


What about the police? Weren't they supposed to give me a report?

The PA court system is one of the most messed up in the USA. First, Magistrate courts are each controlled by local judges. You will have to search the list for Chester County, where London-Britain Township is located, and find the closest judge to your defendant's address (click here).

Exactly what does "punitive damages according to proof" mean?

A: It means that once you prove your case, the judge must decide in his/her mind how wrongful the defendant's acts are. And, then the judge decides on punitives. In regular civil court, the jury decides the amount. The lawyer will have the plaintiff testify to all of the horrible acts that the defendant did, and try to win over the jury's sympathies. But, the judge in magistrate's court won't be impressed with that sort of thing. He/she will just decide on a number to discourage the defendant from future bad conduct.

What about the police? Weren't they supposed to give me a report?


A: Not necessarily. You can contact the stationhouse and ask if the officers wrote a report. If they did, then you can go get a copy. But, for your case, it's probably not necessary. What matters is that the defendant has your vehicle and will not release it to you.

Here's a link to a brochure for the PA magistrate's court.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I trust that he cannot provide an invoice/voucher for his powerwashing, that that would be enough proof that I did not authorize it? I took pics of my tractor (value $1000), chained to the tree and a tarp I provided him with to cover the tractor when not on display that he never used. Found it under a stepstool on his back porch. His wife witness the entire event. Should I have her subpoenaed or are spouses not allowed to testify against each other?


 


DE JP was enough of a mess. Had to go there, then to Superior Court to papers for this, back to JP to pay for that. and again back to SC to pay for something additionally.


 


You've been a big help provided the links.


 


I have no idea which stationhouse these police were from. Do they actually record conversation curbside. Where's the mike? Female cop was warning me that it was being recorded. No problem, where can I get a copy?

I trust that he cannot provide an invoice/voucher for his powerwashing, that that would be enough proof that I did not authorize it?


A: Maybe. The relationship issue creates difficulties with the transaction. If this person was your friend, then the better argument is that he was a friend and the entire transaction was offered to you for free. That's probably the better argument. The lack of an invoice would play into the friendship argument, because no one invoices their friend for services -- because they don't charge for those services.

 

I took pics of my tractor (value $1000), chained to the tree and a tarp I provided him with to cover the tractor when not on display that he never used. Found it under a stepstool on his back porch. His wife witness the entire event. Should I have her subpoenaed or are spouses not allowed to testify against each other?

 

A: The defendant's spouse cannot be compelled to testify against her husband. But, she can volunteer to testify. Experience tells me that you risk having her turn against you when called as a witness, even if she says she will testify favorably before the hearing. So, if you call her, you need to get a sworn affidavit from her before she testifies, so that if she changes her story, you can impeach that testimony with the sworn affidavit.

 

DE JP was enough of a mess. Had to go there, then to Superior Court to papers for this, back to JP to pay for that. and again back to SC to pay for something additionally.

You've been a big help provided the links.


I have no idea which stationhouse these police were from. Do they actually record conversation curbside. Where's the mike? Female cop was warning me that it was being recorded. No problem, where can I get a copy?

 

A: Police are now carrying wireless video camcorders on their shoulders. But, it's not widely used, yet, so I can't say what these officers may have done. Even if they made a record, it doesn't mean that the record was retained. In any case. I have no idea where the police were from. Here are some possibilities:

 


Avondale State Police
Address: 2 Moxley Lane, Avondale, PA 19311
Phone:(NNN) NNN-NNNN Emergency Dial: 911
Website: www.psp.state.pa.us

 

Chester County Sheriff's Office
201 West Market Street, Suite 1201
West Chester, PA 19380
610-344-6850

 

Hope this helps.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I got chewed out in a small claims court for doing this. I'm pursing this because it's the last straw. He has stolen from me before. Always crying poverty, not working. Offered him $20/hr to help me with lawn work. Pulled so many no shows I can't begin to count. Some work he didn't finish, but I paid him anyway. In addition to this powerwashing, he wants more money for a 15 minute lawn job raking in seed. Notates that I owe him for 1-1/2 hours. I had already paid him $20 for a full hour. Since I offered him work, he was to be paid for pretty much the entire time he's on my property. He may have been on the property for 1-1/2 hours, but the seed raking was 15 minutes. He then started to tinker with my other lawn tractor. Said I complained about it not cutting well. I didn't ask him to work on it. Told him he was not going to get paid for work I didn't ask him to do. I essence, he was starting to charge me for every breath he took while on the property, nevermind all the freebies I've given him, even just the other night. I'd rather not have him around, but he knows how to fix things. I'm 59yo and on SSD. LOL, gotta tell you this one. Needed him to look at tractor. He's a 12 minute walk away. He wanted to charge me $80 for a service call, but he would lower it to $45 just for me.

You know the old saying, "With friends like this, you don't need enemies."

Applies perfectly.

Best wishes.
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