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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 26692
Experience:  Began practicing law in 1992
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Hello, I worked for a client without a contract on a documentary

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Hello, I worked for a client without a contract on a documentary film. They promised me they would send a contract, which never materialized. They only paid part of my fee and now they are saying that unless I sign some kind of backdated contract on the sport in their office (they refuse to show it to me beforehand) they will not pay me the remainder of my fee. At one point, when I really insisted they sent me very weird agreements that had some numbers blacked out, no mention of my name and no mention of payments owed to me or anything like that. I refused to sign it at the time asking them for a normal contract. I believe the only reason they still communicate with me is that I have hard drives with the film footage they need, as well as some minor film equipment.

Everyone else involved in the project has been paid a long time ago, except me. I live in Manhattan and there are two producers located in Brooklyn and New Jersey. Is it legal to force me to travel to their office (I've never been there and I'm afraid to go) to sign some kind of backdated agreement? Especially the one that I have to sign on the spot without the opportunity to review it? They also promised that I wouldn't pay income tax on my fee - they were supposed to pay taxes - but now I suspect they want to include my fee in their tax filings for deductions. Basically, it would mean that I worked for nothing.

I'm wondering how I can get the remainder of my fee which is under $5,000? What are my options? Can I sue them successfully? I can't really afford an attorney.

Thank you
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 8 months ago.

Dwayne B. :

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today. If at any point any of my answers aren’t clear please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

Dwayne B. :

It isn't illegal for them to require you to travel to their office nor is it illegal for them to ask you to sign a backdated agreement. However, they can't force you to do so and it would be very unwise for you to sign anything without having your own personal attorney look over the document.

Dwayne B. :

The ONLY way to get your money if they don't voluntarily pay you is to file a lawsuit either by yourself in small claims court or by hiring a lawyer. If you do hire a lawyer you can also sue for the attorney's fees.

Dwayne B. :

While I understand you may not "really be able to afford an attorney" you could be just giving up on recovering this money without one. In addition, you need to have your own contract drafted and available for similar situations in the future.

Dwayne B. :

NY is actually a relatively friendly place for people to file a lawsuit and represent themselves, their website is at http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/represent.shtml

Dwayne B. :

There is also a website at www.LessonsInLaw.com which provides information for people representing themselves. They also have some inexpensive books for sale on different aspects of a lawsuit.

Customer:

Thank you very much. So, do you mean that a lawyer could be willing to work on the case and in case we win the case the other side would cover the xpenses?

Customer:

Do you by any chance have a similar web site for NJ in case I also sue in New jersey?

Dwayne B. :

Kind of. Likely the lawyer will ask you to pay some amount up front and then the rest of the fee can be collected from the other side as well as reimbursement for what you paid the lawyer.

Dwayne B. :

Did you have additional questions?

Customer:

oh, sorry. no thanks

Customer:

Was just wondering if could also sue in NJ

Customer:

becasue the other producer lives in NJ

Customer:

should I sue them for equal amounts of money or break it up to match the entire fee owed to me

Dwayne B. :

Yes, you can sue where one of them lives. The NJ court website is at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/prose/

Customer:

Thanks

Dwayne B. :

Sue each of them for the full amount owed to you and let the court sort out who owes what share.

Customer:

great, thanks

Customer:

appreciate your advice

Dwayne B. :

You're very welcome. Anything else before I exit to help others?

Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 26692
Experience: Began practicing law in 1992
Dwayne B. and 10 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 8 months ago.
Ray, thank you very much for the Positive Rating. Please come back and visit us if you have any new questions and feel free to ask for me by placing “FOR DWAYNE B” in the subject line or as the first words of your question and I will pick up as soon as I see it.

Also, I’d ask you to consider issuing a high rating (9-10) when you receive your customer satisfaction survey as that ensures I can continue to assist people in this category.

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