Case Win: Lawsuit Goes To Trial
Plaintiff was introduced to Defendant by Plaintiff’s Best Man, Angelo, at Angelo’s coffee shop. While chatting, Defendant mentioned his difficulty in buying or leasing a car due to a problem with his Driver’s License.
We represented the Defendant in the ensuing lawsuit wherein Plaintiff claimed to have leased a Lexus for the Defendant, for which Defendant stopped making monthly payments and racked up numerous unpaid parking tickets. Plaintiff claimed that as a result, the vehicle was impounded and the dealer charged $12,000 for the remaining lease payments, excessive mileage, wear and tear, late fees and sales tax.
As a result, Plaintiff claimed that his 850 Credit Score was irrevocably damaged and would cost over Fifteen Thousand Dollars to repair. Since his credit was damaged so badly, both his subsequent lease prices and insurance rates became astronomical. Plaintiff testified that he’s a “good Christian” who was loathe to sue, but as an individual disabled from a serious car crash, he couldn’t even afford to pay for the parking tickets, let alone the thousands of dollars the dealer charged and his extortionate lease and insurance rates. For all of this, Plaintiff claimed to be entitled to $50,000.
Not exactly $50,000.
Defendant’s brother is a well-known restauranteur. In the months prior to trial, Plaintiff was willing to settle the matter for $10,000 and a series of VIP All Area Passes to some of Defendant’s brother’s establishments.
Do you see where this is going? We’ll get back to that…
Legally, Defendant had a strong argument. There was no written agreement and because of the length of the lease, the “contract” could not be completed within one year. The Statute of Frauds requires a written agreement for contracts that can not be completed in one year, unless the agreement falls into one of the exceptions. Performance or admission are recognized exceptions to the Statute of Frauds, however the only performance or admission on the part of the Defendant was the use of the vehicle in exchange for monthly payment. Nothing else. There was no written agreement for the remaining lease payments after Defendant stopped using the vehicle, excessive mileage, parking tickets, wear and tear or sales tax. The Defendant had no legal duty to safeguard Plaintiff’s credit score, nor did Plaintiff take any affirmative steps to mitigate any damage to his credit for late or missed payments. Wait, Plaintiff claimed he could repair his credit for $15,000. We’ll get back to that….
While Defendant’s legal argument was strong, Plaintiff also argued the equities of his case. The Defendant was being unjustly enriched by the undeniable use of the leased Lexus. The Defendant ran up the miles and accumulated parking tickets for which the Plaintiff couldn’t afford to pay in his disabled condition. As a result, the Plaintiff faced financial ruination, a destroyed credit rating, and would be unlikely to lease another vehicle due to the increased premiums he now faces.
Fraus omnia corrumpit translates literally to “the fraud corrupts everything” and is the genesis of the “clean hands” doctrine (Not to be confused with the fabulous Alanis Morrissette paean “Hands Clean”) – specifically – “who comes into equity must come with clean hands.” Or said another way, “don’t come to a Court of equity with unclean hands.” While our legal argument was strong, we would have been seriously remiss not to address the equities. Besides, it’s a hell of a lot of fun
Here are some things that came out at trial:
- Plaintiff leased the car for his mother, not the Defendant. When Plaintiff’s mother broke her foot in a car accident, Defendant offered to take over the lease payments in exchange for the use of the vehicle – nothing else;
- The vehicle was impounded, if by impounded you mean the Plaintiff drove off with the vehicle using his spare key;
- Plaintiff, who “couldn’t even afford to pay for the parking tickets, let alone the thousands of dollars the dealer charged” settled that serious car accident for Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars;
- Plaintiff, who went out of his way to tell the Court that he is a “good Christian” who is “loathe to sue” forgot to tell the Court that he somehow overcame his loathing and sued St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church when he tripped on their property;
- Half of the pile of unpaid parking tickets Plaintiff submitted to the Court to substantiate Plaintiff’s damages claim in that regard were for an entirely different vehicle – a fact Plaintiff tried to hide from the Court in hopes of getting a larger award;
- Defendant asked Plaintiff to take the Lexus back prior to the end of the lease term because Defendant became fed up with Plaintiff showing up at Defendant’s home in the middle of the night while high on drugs and demanding VIP Passes to his brother’s clubs;
- Sounds a little speculative right? Defendant testified consistently and credibly that Plaintiff had developed an addiction to Oxycodone and Defendant was concerned that Plaintiff was obtaining the drugs on the street when he used up his prescriptions;
- Still sounds speculative?
- Plaintiff went into Oxycodone withdrawal during his in-Court testimony, causing the Judge to stop for the trial for the day. It was 1:00 p.m.
- Still sounds speculative?
- Plaintiff denied under oath, in Court, EVER having asked Defendant for VIP Passes to Defendant’s brother’s clubs. We had it in writing.
- The Plaintiff had no proof of what his credit score was before, during or after the lease; When asked to provide such proof he exclaimed, “my attorney is an idiot!”
- When asked to offer the Court proof substantiating the Fifteen Thousand Dollars he was asking the Court to award him to repair his Credit, Plaintiff refused to tell the Court, citing “attorney-client privilege”; When asked if he “just made that number up” he again cited “attorney-client privilege”;
- When asked whether he text messaged the Defendant threatening to “hunt [him] down like an animal, like the bum [he is]” Plaintiff justified the text by enlightening the Court that “he IS a Bum!”;
- Remember Best Man Angelo and his Coffee Shop? Plaintiff is banned from ever returning to Angelo’s Coffee Shop because Plaintiff kept threatening to call the health department if Angelo didn’t give him free dessert. Plaintiff denied that. We had the texts.
- When finally asked if his whole case was just one more scam, Plaintiff denied it. I would too, if I was in his shoes.
Over the course of a two-day trial, complete with an actual fire drill during cross-examination that caused the Court to be cleared (Plaintiff was in an improvised wheelchair that could not easily fit through the doors), a witness who was a lip reader while the Judge and lawyers were wearing masks, and Covid Protocols that required table mounted microphones yet failed to account for the fact that when speaking to the Judge, one must stand (I’m six feet two inches tall), despite obstacles, both Plaintiff and Defendant made their respective cases.
While Plaintiff had demanded approximately $50,000 Dollars, the Judge had a much rounder number in mind…
The Court found that Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the Statute of Frauds, and there was a failure of proof on Plaintiff’s part in that regard. Moreover, the Court found that Plaintiff was not a credible witness, with specific reference to the deception Plaintiff attempted even upon the Court in submitting misleading traffic tickets.
It’s a bad idea to get caught lying to a Judge, then asking her to believe you told the truth about everything else.
(*sound of typing* JUDGMENT FOR THE DEFENDANT)