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Im not sure wheather this is a general law question or specific...I

I'm not sure wheather this...
I'm not sure wheather this is a general law question or specific...I was sued in small claims court and do not feel that the judge gave a fair judgement or heard the case fairly...he presumed several things and I believe his decision was made on his misgivings to where my business is located and who we actually are in the community...he made several statements about my business that were not true and when I answered the questions he rolled his eyes and did not seem to hear my answers...this is a long drawn out story but i would like some advice as to what happens next and weather I should appeal the judges ruling
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Answered in 10 minutes by:
12/3/2010
socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 39,354
Experience: Retired (mostly)
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Justice of the Peace rulings are always speculative. The judge hears loads of stories and typically is pretty bored with everyone, no matter what the issue is. Rolling of eyes is par for the course.

If you really think that the justice got it wrong, then you can appeal, the case will be sent to the county court and you will get an entirely new hearing. There is a $16.00 appeal fee (last time I checked), and you must post a "surety bond," which basically means that if you lose the appeal, then you must pay immediately - and the bond will cost you some extra money, too.

If you want to tell me what the case was about, and what the justice said, then I can probably tell you whether you're wasting your time on appeal.

Hope this helps.
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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

okay the case starts out as a simple request by an individual to park his truck (that he was trying to sell) at our place of business (we are licensed by tx dot to sell utility trailers and used vehicles)(those are two separate licenses in Texas)...he asked what we would charge him to park it there somewhere for 30 days...my husband "rented" him a spot for the truck for $50 for 30 days...he had a "special racing motor" in the truck (he refers to the truck as custom) and wanted all prospective buyers and tire kickers refered to him...he placed his sign, and phone number on the vehicle and took the keys with him...some 25 to 28 days later the truck gets vandalized at night....the tailgate is stolen and the grille is ripped to pieces so the front "custom" bumper can be unbolted and taken, while stealing the parts there was quite a bit of damage done...his initial police report reported tailgate, grille, headlites and bumper.

The first thing out of the guy's mouth when he arrived at the lot was, "you have insurance for this" husband replys, "not covering your truck" a-hole replies, "you better and why haven't you contacted the police" husband replies, "Not our property, i think you need to make that report."

the guy goes to the police station returns with an officer and fingerprints, snapshots and info is collected. nothing from us though just mr. a-hole.

1 or 2 days later while we were out of town on business he made verbal threats to our daughter that her old man would be paying for the damage to his truck one way or another...long story short lawsuit in mail Aug 30th

Customer reply replied 6 years ago
<p>in preparing for the suit I answered the lawsuit with a letter to the court, explaining that the $4443.64 was an inflated value for the vehicle, that we should not be held responsible because the vandalism happened when our business was closed and beyond reasonable business hours...the secruity at the location was evident (there is a 2 board picket fence and no gate as several business and a residence are located on the property. not to mention that I have been in business there 8 years and displayed numerous vehicle and trailers for sale and never had anything damaged or stolen. </p><p>my only defense is that the original owner of the vehicle said it was not a custom truck the options on the truck when purchased brand new were considered stock custom but nothing had been done to make the truck out of the ordinary specially painted, or decked out...the custom was the motor (which was not stolen or vandalized while on my property)</p><p>the truck however had been vandalized before mr. a-hole purchased it. the radio and some electronic and the tires and rims had been stolen. the interior of the truck was not in a repaired fashion when the truck was delivered to our property to be sold. the tires were 4 worn out tires and only three hubcaps. this was mentioned during our case to the point that the judge asked about that damage as if it happened at the same time these are two different cases and i was trying to show that the truck could have been a magnet (if you will) for vandals</p><p> </p><p>court day...judge "why are you sueing mr and mrs business owner today"</p><p> </p><p>mr. a-hole " first off your honor, my truck was a custom truck not a common stock truck like she is trying to make it out to be. i asked mr business owner what he would charge me to park my vehcile at his park and sell...he said $50 and i paid him cash...(nothing about him taking the keys or that verbal agreement)</p><p> </p><p>judge: you took $50 from him to park his truck there?</p><p>mr business: yes $50 cash</p><p>judge: do you know what that makes you liable for? </p><p>Mr. Business: no, but surely it doesn't make me responsible for a truck that isn't mine and obviously has little securtiy after my business closes</p><p>This part of the hearing was noisy like the judge, the a-hole and my husband interrupting each other. </p><p>mr a-hole interrupted my husband and the judge just started accepting his photos of the damaged truck and OLD photos of the 92 gmc in it's prime time. and 1 estimate for repair to the truck from a classic car restoration shop...somewhere in here is when the judge looks at me and says, "what do you have to say for yourself?"</p><p>I say, excuse me? what do I have to say for myself?</p><p>judge says, "yeah (while looking through papers) why don't you think mr. a-hole should sue you. </p><p>I say well first i never met this man, i didn't even know what he looked like before today, judge interrupts and sas well your husband did...</p><p>that was when I think he had really no interest in anything I could have said.</p><p>the judge: my precinct county judge: had no idea where my business was located, when he askes where we were located and I began to explain he held his hand up to silence me and rolled his eyes...after it was obvious to us that he had made his decision with little to no information from us...he questioned as to whether the Dept of trans had sited my company before...he asked like this..."oh, now I know, you are that place that dps has gone to and investiagted or cited before aren't you?</p><p>my reply (as he's piling his papers and leaving the stand) no sir I have never been investigated by dps or cited and he was walking away before i finshed the statement</p><p> </p><p>he went out of the courtroom and came back with a kelley's blue book value...i said I have that info...he said let me see what you have...I said I also have pictures of the truck when it was new and a statement from the original owner and the judge said, I don't need to look at that I see the damage, i know the truck, i stopped and looked at it myself, </p><p>my husband started to tell the judge that we felt like the truck was not worth $5k when it was brought there to be sold and that it definately was an inflated value and we knew the original purchase price of the truck was $2k. Judge said obviously not anymore and chose the kelley's blue book value of a truck in good condition...the explaination of a truck in good condition does not fit the description of the truck before the vandalism either. </p><p>we had not even begun to understand what the judge was saying and he and the palintiff were visiting about the fast motor and mileage on the truck like old buddies...</p>
Okay, I'm going to give you the law, first, and then explain what it means. Before I do, you have to understand that whatever you think is justified, one way or the other, it doesn't matter at all to the court. You must make your facts fit within the law such that you can win, based upon what the law is, and not what you want it to be, or think is fair -- otherwise you lose.

So, here's the law:

"Claims for breaches of bailment agreements generally can be brought as contract or tort claims depending on the particular facts of the case and the type of action the plaintiff chooses to assert." Barker v. Eckman, 213 S.W.3d 306, 310 (Tex. 2006). Bailment is defined as follows:

A delivery of personal property by one person (the bailor) to another (the bailee) who holds the property for a certain purpose under an express or implied-in-fact contract. Unlike a sale of personal property, a bailment involves a change in possession, but not title. BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 151-52 (8th ED. 2004).

The elements of bailment are (1) the delivery of personal property from one person to another for a specific purpose, (2) acceptance by the transferee of such delivery, (3) an agreement that the purpose will be fulfilled, and (4) an understanding that property will be returned to the transferor. Prime Products, Inc. v. S.S.I. Plastics, Inc., 97 S.W.3d 631, 635 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2002, pet. denied). A bailment agreement may be express or implied. Berlow v. Sheraton Dallas Corp., 629 S.W.2d 818, 821 (Tex. App.--Dallas 1982, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

A bailment is for the mutual benefit of the parties when the property of the bailor is delivered to and accepted by the bailee as an incident to the business in which the bailee makes a profit. Andrews v. Allen, 724 S.W.2d 893, 895 (Tex. App.--Austin 1987, no writ). The bailee need not obtain any direct monetary benefit. Id. In a bailment for the mutual benefit of the parties, the bailee is held to an ordinary or reasonable degree of care in safekeeping the subject matter of the bailment. Prime Products, 97 S.W.3d at 635 (citing Trammell v. Whitlock, 242 S.W.2d 157, 159 (1951)); Ampco Auto Parks, Inc. v. Williams, 517 S.W.2d 401, 403 (Tex. App.--Dallas 1974, writ ref'd n.r.e.). Moreover, in a bailment for the mutual benefit of the parties, a rebuttable presumption of negligence arises upon proof that the subject matter of the bailment was destroyed or not returned. Prime Products, 97 S.W.3d at 635; Andrews, 724 S.W.2d at 896. To overcome this presumption, the bailee has the burden of showing the cause of the loss or damage resulted from some other cause consistent with due care on its part. Prime Products, 97 S.W.3d at 635; Andrews, 724 S.W.2d at 896-97.

Explaination: In plain english, the issue for the court is whether or not you contracted to "store" the vehicle for the seller, or you contracted to rent the seller a space on the lot to sell the vehicle on his own, and that you had no interest whatsoever in what the seller would place in the space.

So, that's what you have to convince the court of, i.e., all you did was rent space, not agree to store anything, and that does not create a bailment. You didn't promise anything to the seller other than a place to park the vehicle, or whatever the seller choose to put in the space. Therefore, no bailment was created, and thus you had no duty of care towards the seller and no obligation to protect the vehicle from being damaged while on your premises, unless the damage is caused by you (e.g., you or your employees damaged the vehicle).

If you can successfully make that argument in court, then you can win -- otherwise you lose.

Hope this helps.

Edited by socrateaser on 12/3/2010 at 2:12 AM EST
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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

the plain english is what we needed...the idea of convincing the court that we rented him the space (for $50) seems almost impossible although I can truthful answer the plain english statements in my mind and know that no bailment was created and we didin't have a duty to him so I am afraid this just becomes a case of he said, she said...scary

 

do you suggest that on my repair orders i make some statement to the fact that we are not responsible for loss or damage to property left for repais nd maintence?

do you suggest that on my repair orders i make some statement to the fact that we are not responsible for loss or damage to property left for repais nd maintence?

A: A blanket disclaimer is always a good idea, because it disuades many customers from suing. However, for repair issues, no disclaimer would be recognized by a court, because you would in fact, be creating a bailment by taking the vehicle with the implied promise to return it in at least as good condition as you received it.

Good luck with your case. Hope you have a very Happy Holiday season.
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