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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Lawyer
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OK. Friend of mine needed help. I offered help to him on

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Friend of mine needed help. I offered help to him on specific conditions which I would consider a contract albeit a verbal one. He accepted the terms very clearly. I would provide him with airfare, assist him in obtaining clothing, glasses, etc. to seek out a job and get back on his feet. In exchange he had to obtain and keep a job, get into counseling, start budgeting, set up a payment plan with the court system to pay off his 2 year old delinquent fines from the second of two DUI's, start a budget and begin to pay off his other debts and establish himself with some independence. This was a 6 month commitment. After 6 weeks and me spending nearly 3000.00 in airline tickets, clothing, room, board, etc, he went back on an "emergency" and was to return within 30 days.

Not only did he not return within 30 days but I later learned that while he was living with me he was spreading (he admitted to it), malicious and patently false rumors about me (to make himself look like a victim), to people back where he came from. This resulted in me receiving abusive phone calls and threats at work as well as a host of nasty emails, and other communications. He initially had told me that these rumors were being spread by other people from where he used to live. That turned out to be untrue. In the process of him needing to go back for his "emergency" I had also loaned him some items, camera, watch, bluetooth, phone, that he has refused to return although I have made attempts for the past 5 months to get these items back going as far as sending him a box. He also stole items from my home when he left on his "emergency". Now that he has gotten what he was looking for financially he has decided he is not returning and remaining where he started. Do I have no recourse in small claims court against him. He clearly violated the terms of our very clearly understood agreement. I feel that I should be entitled to be reimbursed for any money that I spent on him that I can provide a receipt for, i.e. airfare, glasses, clothing, etc. In addition if I do go to small claims court do I need to itemize each item I'm seeking restitution for in the initial complaint or just give a figure and general explanation. Do I pursue defamation as well, knowing it's hard to prove. It turns out his "fiance" told me that he came out to where I was living to "take me for all he could". It also became known that when he agreed to the 6 months he told people as he was leaving, after this agreement was made that he would be back within 3 weeks.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm very sorry to hear that this happened.

Yes, you can sue in Small Claims Court, as long as your damages do not exceed $10,000. An oral agreement is enforceable, although it can be difficult to prove. You may also be able to collect based on a theory of unjust enrichment, which states that when a person confers a benefit upon someone, and the person accepts that benefit knowing that the other expects something in exchange, that creates an obligation. Essentially, the law deems it unjust for one person to benefit himself at someone else's expense.

If he took your belongings, that is conversion, which is the civil equivalent of theft. You can also sue for the value of those items at the time they were taken. With intentional wrongful acts, the judge can impose punitive damages, beyond the value of the items.

Defamation of character requires an untrue statement of fact, made to a third party, that harms the reputation of the person about whom the statement is made. If he is spreading lies that make people think less of you, that is another claim that you can file. These can all be filed together, as long as the total is less than $10,000. You can also file the contracts claim separately from the other claims and ask the judge to hear both cases together. A judge can also award punitive damages in a defamation case.

You don't need to itemize everything in the Complaint, but you do need to outline the different causes of action and state how much money you are seeking. It can be grouped - for example "$1,000 for unpaid rent and utilities." In court, you'll have to produce evidence and prove every amount.

If you have any questions or concerns about what I've written, please reply so that I may address them. It's important to me that you are 100% satisfied with the service I provide. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so that I get credit for answering your question. Thank you.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

OK, Thank you. I have to clarify a couple of points. If I am seeking punitive damages for the defamation as well as the theft of my belongings do I ask for a specific monetary award for that?

Yes. If you want to stay in Small Claims, you can just ask for up to the maximum. If you go into the Superior Court, then you can ask for an amount you believe is fair, and the judge or jury will decide whether to award that or some lesser amount.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I understand that. I don't think I'm asking the question correctly. what I'm trying to clarify is do I put a number on what I believe would be appropriate for punitive damages, or do I stick with what I have receipts and can prove and just request that I'm awarded punitive damages and leave that up to the magistrate or judge. for example do I say, He refused to return items that were loaned to him with a worth of 400.00 and I would like to recover 1000.00 in punitive damages due to his refusing to return the items or do I just say I'm seeking 400.00 plus punitive damages as awarded by the court? Thanks.

People typically state the amount of punitive damages they are asking for. The judge can award less, but isn't likely to award more.
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