All Too Typical - A Middle-Class Landlord Trashed By "Justice"

Nothing just about this.

Scragged regularly covers appalling stories of people whose lives are ruined and liberties trampled by our overweening bureaucracy.  From children being summarily yanked from their homes on false pretexts, to confiscating a disabled man's home for a trivial "offense", there is no depth to which bureaucrats and their abettors in the justice system will not stoop, safely covered by their regulations.  As our founders complained that King George had "sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance," so now hardly a day goes by but what a new and worse indignity comes to light.

The following account was submitted by a Scragged reader.  We have no way of independently determining its accuracy.  In a way, the fact that it sounds utterly plausible at face value is its scariest aspect: have we become so used to injustice that we expect it, and simply learn to live with it?  Patrick Henry would be ashamed of us.

My wife and I own a rental property in Pittsfield NH. Our tenant was a professional roofer who fell off a roof in Concord, broke his back, and was collecting $1800 a month disability. His wife and 21 year old son worked, all living at the house. They moved in in Jan. 2008.

The tenant has a per diem lawyer suing his former employer for $2.5 million for "pain and suffering" of his back. When the tenant moved in, even though I checked his references and background, he neglected to mention he was on a 24 hour a day prescription Oxycodone patch, oral Vicodin for pain, and liked his Budweiser.

Anyways, on March 9, the tenant fell on the stairs while going to bed at 1am, broke his nose, and required 20 stitches. He "did not fall downstairs", he fell down "going upstairs to bed", despite 2 handrails. In April we received no rent check, and made a call as to its tardiness. We were given the proverbial "the check is in the mail". A week later, still no check, and another call was made. The tenant with his cell phone could see whom was calling and simply refused to answer.

In May, still no rent check for April, and now none for May. Several visits to the dwelling in person and meetings with the son who simply said the father (the tenant) was not there (though his car was in the driveway) forced us to the legal route of eviction. Demand for payment was sent certified mail, and returned, unclaimed. Again, I went to the property and posted the demand for payment and a 30 day eviction notice to the locked door. In June, I had the Sheriff bring his eviction notice, and arrange a court appearance.

At the end of June, I appeared in county court for the eviction hearing. At that time I was served with a lawsuit for the tenant's medical bills for his broken nose, stitches, and let's not forget, "additional pain and suffering", asking for $100,000.

The tenant at the eviction hearing was represented by his per diem attorney, who simply stated his client was DISABLED and "was behind" on payment due to the harsh winter, among other things. In the end, the judge ruled that he he owed only $1000 for 1 month rent, as he never received legal notice until May. He was gone by July 7, a total of 4 months free rent, and most of July was lost for cleaning and finding another tenant.

His lawsuit against me continues, and although my attorney assures me I have nothing to worry about, I am aware that a lady can buy hot coffee at McDonald's, spill some on her lap, and be awarded over 10 million dollars. One would think that I would have insurance for such an incidence, but as it turned out to my surprise, I did not - after years of paying premiums for what I thought was complete coverage, the company now claims only to insure me for fire.

My ex-tenant's per diem attorney is essentially working for free, on a commission of the settlement, so all motions to dismiss and all motions to proceed are stuck in legal limbo. This could take years, and my attorney is not cheap - I have to pay him up front.  The tenant had a lease till Jan. 09, which he signed, and article 31 of the lease plainly states that I "am not liable for personal injuries nor damages to him or his family", yet the case continues.

When and if I eventually get to court, if I am lucky enough to get a REPUBLICAN judge, I will win in 5 minutes.  However, if it's a DEMOCRAT judge, I will probably lose everything I own, to a deadbeat medical junkie who knows the system.  And for the record, I was never informed at any time that the tenant fell on the stairs, broke his nose, and required stitches, until I was served papers in Concord, 3 months after the fact, a real shocker.  This is how bad and corrupt justice and the court system has become.

In case you are thinking, "Well, serves that rich slumlord right!", you should know that the rental property was actually my 96 year old mother's house signed over to me in 1990.  I have rented it out to support her $3000 a month "assisted living" accommodations, and $5400 yearly property taxes.  In 8 years, I have never made a penny profit.  If that's "rich", I'd hate to see poverty - but unless I'm fortunate enough to come before a just judge, that's what's staring my family in the face.

Our informant promised to keep us informed.  The mills of "justice" grind extremely slowly these days; it may be a while.  Watch for comments.

This article was submitted by a longtime Scragged reader.  Read other articles by Guest Editorial or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments
Win or lose the case, this man has already lost over all. That's the horrible thing about tolerating so much civil litigation in this country. Derelict bums with nothing can sue, virtually free of charge, regular hardworking folk who lose just navigating the case. We have got to find an end to this.
August 21, 2008 9:41 AM
Angus, the problem is that there is no way "to end it". It rides on the back of a system that allows the poor to get justice when the rich abuse them. Although, clearly the only person abused here was the landlord.

These kind of stories have kept me from investing in rental properties and will continue to probably forever.
August 21, 2008 10:22 AM
It could be practically ended if we setup a case judgment process. Meaning, at the end of your case, the case ITSELF is judged for things like:

- wasting the courts time
- egregious use of power
- cost to plaintiff (should the defendant lose)
- judgments from juries that are far too high
- defendants that received little to none of the settlement (such as when class actions give 90% to the lawyers)

This would be one new expansion of government I would heartily endorse. Who's with me?
August 21, 2008 10:54 AM
There is a much simpler solution which has been known to work for a couple of centuries in England - the lower pays the winner's legal costs. If the loser doesn't have any money, the loser's lawyer pays.

Works a treat. American lawyers knew how well it worked in keeping lawyer's income down; they made SURE that that system was not applied in the US.

If there is one lawyer in a town, he starves. If there are two, they both prosper - old saying.
August 21, 2008 11:14 AM
J. Masterson has a good list, and I agree with all of them except "egregious use of power". How could someone's use of power affect a court case?
August 21, 2008 11:17 AM
If someone's personal power DID affect a court case, that would grounds - even in the current system - for an entirely new case. That's called corruption. I believe there is very little of that in the current system.
August 21, 2008 11:24 AM
I like the "loser pays" method myself. I also think we need to make more use of "Contempt of Court." Back in the day, judges had (and used!) the power to throw out cases and hold the attorney involved in Contempt of Court for bringing a ludicrous waste of everybody's time. Nowadays, they believe that everyone "deserves their day in court." Not so! You don't deserve a day in court if you do not have at least a somewhat plausible case. Experienced judges can easily discern what does and does not pass the "smell test." The trouble is either that they won't, or that they want the case to proceed for their own (usually liberal) ends.
August 21, 2008 12:37 PM
This is typical of the American Dream today. Everyone wants to find a way to get something for nothing. No one wants to be a responsible, contributing citizen. Lest any of you think this can't happen to you let me say this. It only takes one statement that offends, one meal served hot enough to burn a tongue, or one trip over a cobblestone in your driveway for you this to happen to you. Beware my friends. Beware!
August 21, 2008 8:37 PM
The 'Laws of England' would fare very well in this country....if only the the 'likes of the Civil Liberty Union' would actually 'ALLOW JUSTICE OF THESE UNITED STATES' to prevail...the way that our FOUNDING FATHERS declared it to be so...! It's absolutely OUTRAGEOUS THAT THE LAWS OF OU FAIR LAND ARE totally the hoards of layers that are added to our system every year THROUGH GRADUATION FROM LAW make'POINTS WITHIN THE SYSTEM' by being 'POLITICALLY CORRECT'...and 'GOUGING HE DECENT AMERICANS'...who by no fault of their own...GET'HOODWINKED' into servinga FAULTY SYTEM tha allow THEM TO BECOME RICH off af a system that LETS 'THEM BECOME' RICH off of OUR TAX-PAYERS PAY FOR THE CRIMES OF THE GUILTY...just because they can get rich...once their guilty clients are 'set free' and then the LAWYERS GET PAID BY THE 'SYSTEM'.....OUR GOVERNMENT! ! ! !...OFF OUROUR OWN TAX-PAYING DOLLARS! ! ! O.J. Simpson is a PWEFWCT EXAMPLE OF THIS....His laywer, YALE GALLENTER out of Florida...GETS PAID FROM OUR OWN 'TAX DOLLARS'...when O.J
claims' that he has no money...and then GALLANTER gets paid his OUTRAGEOUS FEES by the STATE! ! ! We MUST EXPOSE tis OUTRAGEOUS AGGRIEVANCE! ! !...and immediately....OR ELSE WE'RE 'ALL LOST'...and made unwitting ACCOMPLIMPCES to these CRIMES! ! !
August 24, 2008 5:16 PM
Scragged has pointed out that incidents like this OJ situation are simply a scheme to support our hordes of starving lawyers:
August 24, 2008 8:15 PM
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