April did not show in court today. So I now have a default judgment in the amount of $1128.14. I am still a little jittery from the experience, even though it was painless.
I showed up early, at around 8:20, not knowing exactly how they schedule small claims cases. I was hoping that I could see the case before mine so that I could get an impression of how the judge handled his cases. I've been in court a few times as a spectator in support of friends in criminal cases and custody cases. But this was the first time I've been to civil court. But small claims cases are handled in cattle call manner. Everyone's case is scheduled for 9 am.
At the outset, Judge Douglas J. Smith took roll of the the plaintiffs and defendants present. There was a case where someone supposedly hadn't paid his previous judgment, but the complainant wasn't there, and he claimed to have paid. The judge considered dismissing the case, but ultimately continued it. There were 4 cases (including mine) where one the defendant was not present. In one of those cases, the defendant had not been served, and the judge granted a continuance so that the plaintiff could serve the notice of small claims. There were 2 cases where neither the plaintiff nor the defendant showed up. I found that odd.
There were three cases where both parties were there. One case had non-English speaking participants, and the interpreter was not there, so they got to go wander around for a half hour or so until the interpreters arrived.
Then the judge left and the King Country Dispute Resolution Center treated us to a spiel about mediation. The people in one case agreed to mediation, and they went off to another room. The other case, the defendant did not want mediation. So back the judge came and the participants were all sworn in, and they began. Basically, a contractor wanted to be paid for his work, and the defendant didn't think he owed any more money. Both sides seemed irritating and self-righteous to me. The contractor had sent a "final bill" for $1300, but then increased the bill to $4300 for "unbilled services" when the guy didn't pay up. Then 9:30 rolled around and the judge interrupted the case so he could process the default judgments.
Sound Ford was first. They had sued Kevin and Ken Teague (2 separate cases) for failing to pay an installment agreement, and for bouncing checks to pay on the installment agreement.
Then came my turn. Judge Smith wanted the bounced check, and a copy of the proof of service. I included a photo of April in the affidavit Jason signed as proof of service. The judge made a snide remark about her letting that photo be taken, cause it shows her sticking her tongue out. She actually looks pretty good in the photo though, and it's really clear what her face looks like, which is why I used that particular photo. That way she can't claim it was served on someone else, which the judge also commented on that fact. I took that as a compliment on my forethought.
Then the clerk handed me the pink copy of my judgment, which included $750 for the check, $300 statutory damages, $5 bank service fee, $21 filing fee, and $52.14 for service. Grand total, $1128.14. Apparently I could also have added $40 to the principal, and I don't get interest from the time she wrote the check. Just from the time of this judgment. So that's about a $100 I didn't get.
So now I have to collect the money. She has 30 days to appeal. If I don't see any money in 30 days, I can put the claim on the civil docket and then I can take steps to garnish wages. I can refer this to collections now that I have a judgment. But that will take out 30% or more from what I recover. A guy on the bus back home told me about a collection agency that will do it for a flat $150 fee, but I don't remember the name of the agency anymore. Short term memory problems. I don't know how much effort I will expend on collecting though. I mostly wanted her to show up and explain why she didn't think she owed me the money. This will go on her credit record and cause problems if she wants to buy something on credit. That is some satisfaction, in case I decide not to pursue collection.