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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Business Law
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Experience:  Attorney
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I was working as an independent contractor for a manufacturers

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I was working as an independent contractor for a manufacturers rep. He gave me a laptop to use. When I later informed him I would need to purchase the laptop in order to legally remain an independent contractor, he said I could just have it. It is a 2003 Dell Inspiron B130 worth maybe $60. I was terminated because he wanted to take over my accounts and keep all the commissions I had earned. Now he is demanding the computer back amongst other things.

Two questions: Is the computer mine to keep? If he disputes that, is it simply a small claims civil matter as it would be in my home state, or would it be a criminal claim, here in CA?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 7 years ago.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

If he gave you the laptop to use in the course of your employment, then it's his, and you basically had a revocable license to use it, which was revoked when you were terminated. But, if he said that the laptop was yours to keep, whether you used it for work, for play, or a really expensive paperweight, then you're legally entitled to it.

Either way, the police aren't going to get involved in a dispute over an old laptop. If he tries to file a police report, they'll tell him to take it to small claims. If it goes to court, it'll just be your word against him. He just has to show that, more likely than not, you were only allowed to use the laptop while you were working for him. It's not like a criminal case where he has to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Good luck.
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