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TJ, Esq.
TJ, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 12206
Experience:  JD, MBA
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Mac Mini Personal Property Ownership Issues

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I bought a Mac Mini back in October of last year for $550 through craigslist. I do a lot of videography and already have an amazing home computer for all my main editing needs. I bought this mac mini for occasional travel shoots and if I need a temporary editor to help me out for a week or two.


My 15 year old brother was talking about how he needed a new computer back around December and because I only use it a few weeks out of the year I told him he could pay a total of $300 and I'd let him use it and have it majority of the time but that I would need it later this summer for a Hawaii shoot and possibly a couple other occasions. He agreed.


So far, he has only paid $200 and will not let me have access to it for the trip or let me use it at all. This is most likely coming from my parents who are upset about some Student Loans that they cosigned on that I wasn’t able to make payments on for a few months last year.  I have stayed current with paying my loans since.  I am now out of a computer to help me with a very important business videography shoot where I can't bring my main computer to because of flights and mobility reasons. I have filed a small claims against my parents and would like to pay back the $200 and get my Mac Mini back completely or have the ability to use it like it was agreed upon. What are my legal rights, if any, to get this unit back?

Hello and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you.

I think that you made a mistake by suing your parents. Your brother is the party who made the deal with you, so you would need to sue him. The fact that he is a minor does not impact your right to sue him (though it could impact other aspects of the case).

The botXXXXX XXXXXne is that if you can prove that you had a deal for $300 and he only paid $200, then you likely could get a judgment against him for the unpaid $100, or you could force the return of the computer in exchange for the return of the $200. You cannot get an order to force him to allow you to use the computer when you go to Hawaii. Small claims courts do not have that power. Please refer to this quote from an Oregon court's website:

"Small claims court can only award money (up to $5,000 plus court costs) and/or the recovery of personal property. You cannot ask the court to order the defendant to do anything, or to refrain from doing something."

Does that answer your question? Please let me know if you need clarification, as I am happy to continue helping you until you are satisfied. Also, your positive feedback is much appreciated.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

When I went to the court they made me white out my brothers name because he was under 18. How does that work into this? The mediation is this Monday and I just want to walk in there knowing that I have a confident plan and know what I can ask for and if I have legal grounds to ask for my property back?

Hi again.

You should not take legal advice from a court clerk, as they are not lawyers. They are often extremely knowledgeable about procedural matters, but in this instance I think that you were given misinformation. As a general rule, a parent is not liable for a minor's breach of contract. It sounds like it's too late to correct the error now, though, so I'd proceed with the mediation with the hope that your parents do not argue that they had nothing to do with the contract and are not liable.

As for what you can ask for, I stand by my answer above ... you can ask for $100, or you can ask for the computer back in exchange for the $200 already given to you. It sounds like you should ask for the latter rather than the former.
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