I am not a lawyer, but I watch them on TV

Tomorrow I have to go into court and argue a case before a judge. This is slightly outside my job description.

I can't recall a time when I've been so nervous. Getting engaged was less terrifying. Watch me stride on stage and sing a song. Mugged three times, didn't have time to be scared (and won all three fights). Even the Meanest Judge in All the Land wasn't as frightening as this, because at least I didn't know I was going into the lion's den until I got there.

Some folks have asked what the lawsuit is about. This is my attempt to answer that question, and maybe you'll know why I'm nervous.

Some time ago, Jimmy's doctor sent him for an X-ray to the lab next door. We thought it was part of his doctor's office; they have labs in most locations. Turns out it was operated by [Hospital Redacted], which then billed us for $238.

Jimmy's insurance, which was worth about as much as the stick of gum you don't get in a pack of baseball cards anymore, declined to pay. We filed an appeal and asked for Hospital's patience. They showed none and sent it to a lawyer, who then filed a small claims suit. Yes, for $238.

As soon as it was filed, we called the lawyer and negotiated. It was a difficult conversation. I have not been as angry in most of my adult life as I was during that conversation. We tried to tell him we hadn't heard from the insurance company yet on our appeal; he was totally uninterested. The highlight was when he told me to "shut up and maybe you'll learn something."

That made me so angry I handed the phone to Jimmy, because I was going to blow the whole thing if I had to speak one more word. Despite this decidedly unpleasant conversation, we negotiated a settlement on the amount. So be it. Jimmy paid the man $150 to start.

Imagine our surprise to find a default judgment entered against us for more than $800. Apparently we failed to show up in court. Um, yes, because we had reached a settlement. Attorney had no problem cashing our checks, but somehow forgot to mention that we'd settled to the court. And this obscene amount is apparently what the court awarded him.

He didn't tell us about the judgment, either; no one did. In the meantime, Jimmy was laid off. Then Factory of the Damned called him back for a brief two-week stint, and there was a garnishment on his paycheck. We looked into it and surprise! It was from Attorney and Hospital, and now suddenly we've got a packet from a garnishment company and papers from the court. We showed up to file our answers to interrogatories (what interrogatories? none were sent to us) and that's when we saw the default judgment for $800 on the clerk's screen. I thought they had the wrong lawsuit at first.

So we filed an appeal of the judgment, and had to do it right then and there because time was running out, so I'm sure it was a mess. And now we go to court tomorrow.

We have no problem paying the bills that we owe. But this guy pretended we didn't have a settlement so he could ratchet up his fees as high as possible. I cannot stand by and let this lawyer sucker Jimmy for nearly four times the amount of the initial bill because he thinks we're too stupid to stand up for our rights, even if we had that kind of money just lying around. Which, of course, we don't. Jimmy is an honorable man, and has spent what little unemployment he received keeping up on his car payment and child support. It angers me that this much nonsense has embroiled us over a $238 bill, and angers me more that he has to be late to work on his first week in a new job to deal with this.

Jimmy has a job now, and I'll gladly write the check for the remainder on what we initially owed. I'll ask the judge to set aside that default judgment, as it was obtained under false pretenses. But I'm too nervous to breathe, because this is not what I do. I watch the lawyers from the back row, and hear the verdicts so I can write about them. I'm way, way out of my league, and I don't want to make anything worse.

Wish us luck. They say the man who represents himself has a fool for a client... 


  1. So how did things turn out?

  2. Unfortunately, we lost. We are now in the process of paying it off.


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