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How to sue in small claims court against your favorite corporation

By ruderod in Internet
Thu May 18, 2006 at 12:18:40 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

Well here we are again, discussing the story of the little guy against the big corporate borgs. Here you will see how to file a form in small claims court and stand up for your rights. This is the story of one man against the machine.


This story discusses how to use the small claims courts to resolve disputes. My story here involves domain names. If you didn't know, a domain name is a thing like "KURO5HIN.ORG". It is the name, a series of words that you buy that you associate to a computer on the internet. That name can run a website. You can buy them, if no one else has it, or you buy it from someone else willing to sell it. Here is my story. I have lost probably about 10 different domains because I have not paid the bills. If you don't pay the bill every year to re-register the names, they go back into the public space where others can get them. In this story I paid the bills but my domain names were lost anyway.

In March, 2006 I have been paying my bills and one of my registars says I own eight domain names, or domains, all expiring in six months. You see, I use several different registars. I use dotster.com, register.com, and another cheap one called registerfly.com. Those are three different companies that do business in this realm. So anyway I have a lot of domain names. I have to keep track of when they expire. Looking at my account on register.com, they say I am ok. Good deal right? You don't want them to expire.
Not so! No, two of the domains actually expired in January and were transferred! I was never sent an email, and their system showed I have them with expirations of December this year. Basically their system had some programming problem (bugs) that caused this. So the way I see it, the company had a programming error that caused me to lose the domains. Four domains all together, but only two of them were taken up by someone else how had already setup portal websites with them. The shock set in and I was furious. Raging mad that my idea, my names I had thought up using my creativity, are now gone from my possession, probably forever.

After several calls the company told me they are "looking into it". After not hearing from the company for a week, I posted some questions on the internet about the case. Several said I had no chance and unless the domains are worth thousands, I should give up. Huh? I wasn't about to give up. I figured each domain was worth $500-2000 dollars, so I thought that was something for small claims court. Small claims court where I live is under $5000.00
I decided to sue them (register.com) in small claims court for $3000.00 and see what happens. First I called them and gave them 24 hour notice. Talk to me and we can work it out, or I go to court. You can guess what happened. I never heard from them. So off to court I went.

Filing a small claims court in Riverside California is surprisingly easy. You go to the court website and are sent to a company website where you fill out the form. After you input the information, just hit the print button!
In less than 45 minutes I had the form. That counts researching register.com, where they lived, who I needed to mail and the address where the company headquarters is. That was it, and then I had the form to give to the court. On a Thursday morning I stood in line for 2 minutes, gave the cute and friendly girl clerk the form, and $75.00 in cash needed to file a claim of that value. This was too easy!

A few things about small claims courts here. You as the person suing, you give up your right to appeal if you lose. That sucks, but it's the way it works. What really sucks is the person being sued (register.com) has the right to appeal if they lose! So when fighting a big corporation with possible unlimited legal representation, you need to keep that in mind. What if they appeal? Do you want to continue the fight in superior court? Do you have the time and is it worth it? And of course, as the person suing, if you lose the case, that is it. Keep your options open and look for alternatives to court if you think you may lose.

Laws vary from state to state on what you can sue for. One of the first parts in a legal action is you need to tell them they are being sued. When you file a small claim, you have to serve (notify) the person being sued. This can be done through registered mail, from the court for $10.00 dollars, or you can pay someone to go serve them personally. That costs $50-$300.00 depending on location. I used the ten dollar option of certified mail as I figured someone at the big company would sign for the letter. It's cheaper but less reliable.

After filing my case, I waited. A week goes by, then two weeks. Checking the court website shows no return receipt. Why is it taking so long, hmm. . .what to do? Finally three weeks later the court gets the receipt. Court is on and scheduled for Monday! Charge!
A few days go by, and two days before big Monday, the attorney calls and wants to settle for $500.00. Bingo, we are in the game of settlement, and at the last minute as it often goes.
She is a nice lady who doesn't work for register.com, only represents them. She agrees that I seem to be a nice person that wants to settle this without going to court. She is smart for doing so. Court was scheduled for Moreno Valley and it's miserable summer heat we would be in. She says the company will offer $500.00. Cary the attorney seems genuine and we discuss details.

"Did you know they lost four of my domains? They re-registered two of them for free. That is free, I'm helping your case if you didn't know that". I say.

"Actually I didn't know that. They do seem to be a good company." Cary says. She then tells me something I didn't know that would help my case she says. Again I like the way this is going so far.

"I don't think $500 is enough for my loss." I say.
She soundly answers. "Well you know that it will make it more expensive for consumers if they pay people like you large amounts like that."
I'm not convinced. I ask her some questions about the contract I "clicked" on. The click is a legal equivalent of a signature in this case, she says.

"So you are telling me that because of what it says there, register.com is not liable for losing my domain? That is ridiculous. What am I paying them for? I don't think a judge would buy that." I said.

She replies with a slight tremble in her voice. I think she is unsure at this point.
"Usually $500.00 is the maximum awarded in these cases. . .but yes we are not liable for the loss, that is in the contract."

At this point I'm a little worried. Could I actually lose in small claims court? I couldn't decide what to do. . .should I take the $500 at this point?
I decide and tell her that I want at least $1000.00 for loss of both domains, tell me you can pay that and I will think about it. That night I head home, wondering what would happen. Before I head to my room, I get an idea. I think again about another option. I call Cary for a last minute discussion.

"What if instead of $1000.00, they offer $500 in cash and $500.00 in services from the company. That way they continue to keep me as a customer." I say.

"Oh, i'm working on the case right now. But that might work. I'll stop working on the case and I'll ask them. We will talk in the morning." Cary replies and we hang up.

I think she was bluffing and not working on my case. My guess she was sipping on a martini watching 7th Heaven. But anyway, I was a little worried. I slept that night wondering what would happen. If you like poker, you probably like litigation. If you try to settle an agreement before court, it is sort of like playing poker. Unlike court, it is like poker in slow motion, for the evidence is hidden to some extent. You discuss events and issues, try to come to agreement without showing the other side all the cards you have to battle with. It's good to really do your research before you get to this step. With some civil legal matters, it starts in court but you really don't want to go there unless necessary.

The next day I get a voicemail from Cary. They agreed on my offer. I get the fax and send it in, signed and dated. Now I have a check in the mail for $1000.00
The entire experience was painless and actually a little bit fun. I hope you all stand up for your rights next time someone causes you grief. Remember that small claims court is not for everyone. Issues involving a small company or one person suing another person may be better solved using other means. There are groups like the Better Business Bureau that might help resolve disagreements. In my case I had felt I had no other choice.

In the battle of team consumer versus team corporate, you need to be aware of all your available resources.

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How to sue in small claims court against your favorite corporation | 54 comments (25 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
register.com sucks (2.50 / 4) (#7)
by j1mmy on Mon May 15, 2006 at 03:25:42 PM EST

I transferred all my domains to registerfly. Register.com constantly harassed me with promotions and stuff even when I told them not to, and called me repeatedly to get me to renew way in advance of expiration.

did you get your filing fee back? (2.50 / 4) (#26)
by r3u8rb on Tue May 16, 2006 at 05:47:07 PM EST



---
Join me on irc.slashnet.org #Kuro5hin.org - the official Kuro5hin IRC channel.
ik (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by ruderod on Tue May 16, 2006 at 08:13:01 PM EST

nope I did not.

[ Parent ]
I wonder how much the lawyer earned. nt (2.50 / 4) (#27)
by rlazur on Tue May 16, 2006 at 07:32:09 PM EST



paid (none / 0) (#30)
by ruderod on Tue May 16, 2006 at 08:13:46 PM EST

couple hundred dollars, maybe a thousand is my guess.

[ Parent ]
I was part of a class action suit (2.75 / 4) (#31)
by IceTitan on Tue May 16, 2006 at 08:34:57 PM EST

against register.com. I kept getting harrased by their ads and offers and eventually lawyers about my share of the settlement. I think I would have gotten $5 off any of their services. Every email I'd get, I'd reply with fuck off or something crude and abusive, cause if there's one thing in this world I hate, it's lawyers.
Nuke 'em from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
-1 misleading (2.66 / 6) (#36)
by livus on Wed May 17, 2006 at 03:58:39 AM EST

You did't even make it to court.

Thus, I'd be willing to overlook the UScentricity and the Diary feel to this if it was also +1 informative but unfortunately it isn't.

It's a pity, because I've successfully taken someone to court under our system and wouldn't mind knowing how things are done over there.


---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

Really? (none / 0) (#39)
by eavier on Wed May 17, 2006 at 11:45:19 PM EST

You old legal dog you. Who pissed you off?

The only time I've been to court was when the NZ government had me up for aaahhh, irresponsible behaviour behind the wheel.

Whatever you do, don't take it into your house. It's probably full of Greeks. - Vampire Zombie Abu Musab al Zarqawi

Ufology Doktor in da house

[ Parent ]

funny you should say that (none / 1) (#43)
by livus on Fri May 19, 2006 at 02:42:02 AM EST

about dogs, as it was a vet that pissed my whanau off - we didn't like the amount of interest they were charging on their bills.

Did you get off on the driving charge?

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

Got done that time (none / 1) (#44)
by eavier on Fri May 19, 2006 at 07:19:40 PM EST

Escaped a couple of others.

Got reckless reduced to careless for going off a 25 foot bank into a swamp at Waihi Beach. The towie's mother had rang the po po and I was a little perturbed when I saw the blue and white coming around the corner I had just veered off.

I managed to convince the court that I a) didn't have anyone in the car with me & b) that I wasn't speeding like an idiot. I had my charge reduced and given a cursory $100 fine.

The kicker was they drained the swamp the following summer and now it's a flat park like area that kids do doughnuts in.

Whatever you do, don't take it into your house. It's probably full of Greeks. - Vampire Zombie Abu Musab al Zarqawi

Ufology Doktor in da house

[ Parent ]

-1 (2.66 / 6) (#37)
by daveybaby on Wed May 17, 2006 at 08:47:41 AM EST

Really, really badly written, and also this isnt really much of a howto. There's a few bits of useful information in there, in the end you didnt even go to court and decided to settle, so this isnt really any use if you want to actually sue someone.

Oh, and by the way, domain name squatters are a significant part of the fucking reason the domain registration process is in the state is. So, personally, the fact you made money out of this is actually a shitty outcome for the rest of us. Thats not really anything to do with the -1, i just wanted to point out that youre just a parasite who had his meal ticket stolen by another fucking parasite.

IAWTP (none / 0) (#38)
by HollyHopDrive on Wed May 17, 2006 at 10:09:39 AM EST


I make too much sense to be on the Internet.
[ Parent ]

I despise domain squatters... (2.75 / 4) (#40)
by chilambalam on Thu May 18, 2006 at 12:18:35 AM EST

But I would have voted this up if had been better written. I mean, this is really nothing useful in my opinion.

I think if it were written as a more truthful article ("Confessions of a Domain Squatter") and gone into the motivations etc behind doing that, would have been more interesting.

Cloaking a story as a victim sucks.



Agreed. (none / 0) (#45)
by Kasreyn on Sun May 21, 2006 at 07:47:08 PM EST

I'm not saying stories by complete slimeballs should never be posted. After all, then we would sacrifice cts's not inconsiderable talents. :P But stories from slimeballs like this bottom feeder should definitely be higher quality in order to even make section.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
How to take on the MPAA - and set a landmark case (2.00 / 4) (#41)
by hulkster on Thu May 18, 2006 at 12:29:07 AM EST

Read this guys story - nutshell summary is MPAA says they plan to sue him because he download illegal video. He says go ahead as he didn't do it. Wants a full trial to address MPAA strong-arm tactics.

This made Section? (2.83 / 6) (#42)
by More Ron on Thu May 18, 2006 at 12:12:45 PM EST

I think there's a kink in the Auto-Post algortihm.

Ik geef u een recept voor zetpillen.

You seem to be suffering from a delusion. (none / 1) (#46)
by Kasreyn on Sun May 21, 2006 at 07:49:20 PM EST

Re: your first paragraph, maybe I can shed some light on your obvious confusion.
Well here we are again, discussing the story of the little guy against the big corporate borgs. Here you will see how to file a form in small claims court and stand up for your rights. This is the story of one man against the machine.
Hint: you're not the little guy. You're a domain name squatter.

That means you're the bad guy... geddit?

Hopefully you've found this short lesson helpful.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Depends on what the names were. (none / 0) (#48)
by lukme on Mon May 22, 2006 at 11:13:42 AM EST

If I were to register the following names, would I be a squatter?

www.lukme.com www.lukme.org www.lukme.net www.lukmeinc.com www.lukmeinc.org www.lukmeinc.net www.lukme_inc.com www.lukme_inc.org www.lukme_inc.net


-----------------------------------
It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
If you didn't use them, yes. -nt (none / 0) (#49)
by Kasreyn on Tue May 23, 2006 at 04:08:16 AM EST

nt
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Am I missing something? (none / 0) (#50)
by pseudostatic on Fri May 26, 2006 at 02:24:20 AM EST

Sorry, am I missing something? I didn't actually see anything in the story that would label this guy a squatter. Sure, he has multiple domains, but so do I - there are lots of legitimate reasons for that.

[ Parent ]
Sorry pal, (1.50 / 2) (#47)
by trhurler on Sun May 21, 2006 at 10:10:32 PM EST

But extortion is not a legitimate business. Go fuck yourself.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

huh? (none / 0) (#53)
by ruderod on Sun May 28, 2006 at 12:52:33 AM EST

Extortion? Oh so you think a registar should not at all be responsible for doing ANY services for they money they are paid? I paid someone for a service, they failed at doing the service. When you pay someone to dry clean your clothes, and they don't do it, what do you do? Walk out the door with dirty clothes?

[ Parent ]
the BBB is just a /dev/null buffer (none / 1) (#51)
by Saber RICO on Sat May 27, 2006 at 07:05:21 AM EST

to shield companies from being directly in the line of fire. according to what i've heard they never resolve complaints.
--
"YOU HAVE BEEN FINED by Delirium FOR GROSS MISUSE OF THE TROLL-SUMMONING MECHANISM"
bbb (none / 0) (#52)
by ruderod on Sun May 28, 2006 at 12:50:02 AM EST

from what I understand, BBB is like a feedback mechanism. If someone gets listed with the better business bureau as not paying their bills or settling matters, they keep statistics. So even if they don't help you resolve the dispute, the feedback is invaluable. You can see where the company fails in service, and if so you can choose another company. Here is the report for one company. Advertising Issues 0 1 1 Contract Disputes 0 2 2 Credit or Billing Disputes 2 12 14 Customer Service 0 4 4 Delivery Issues 2 0 2 Product Quality 0 2 2 Refund Practices 2 2 4 Repair Issues 0 1 1 Selling Practices 5 14 19 Service Issues

[ Parent ]
The BBB is THE feedback mechanism (none / 1) (#54)
by t1ber on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 11:05:08 AM EST

For example:  I owned a 1990 Lincoln Mark VII Bill Blass Edition.  It's a beautiful car if you're into rides that look unique.  It also came with the worlds worst transmission (Ford AOD) and -- as with most luxury cars -- they hid the bolts as best they could and made it a pain to take apart.

When the heater core blew, I realized I didn't have two SSTs (special-service-tools in mechanic-jargon) and rather then buy them for $100 a pop from Ford, I elected to simply take it to the Ford Dealership and pay the $300 for the job.  Unlike brakes or oil, it's usually worth your time to check up on the price of a job with the dealership to see if buying the tools and doing it yourself is less expensive then having them do it.  In the case of this particular job, I didn't have the tools and they had millimeter tolerances, so I couldn't fabricate them either.  It made more sense to bring it in.

When I got the car back, the dashboard was cracked in four places and the dials didn't work.  The car had a starting problem from a wire grounded out somewhere.  The heater core worked, but the rest of the car looked like someone set off a hand grenade in it.  For a classic car I had taken care of, I was pissed to all hell they ruined it.  Parts weren't even available.  

When I complained, the owner gave me a dog and pony show about how I "should have expected this" and "it's an old car, what do you want us to do?"  I told him to get fucked and I pay Ford for it's expertise on it's crap-ass equipment.  The guy told me there was nothing he could do.

ENTER:  THE BBB.

I filed a report with the BBB and documented EVERYTHING.  Using the BBB's file I had opened on the dealership, I went back in and told them they need to refund me for the core since the job was botched (I don't pay for jobs that are completely fucked), repair the car so the dials worked and the battery didn't drain, and pay me for the price of a dashboard.  In the end, we agreed that he doesn't refund me for the heater core (which is fair since the new one is working and installed) but he would repair the car (he did) and pay me for the dash ($300).

I never did find another dash, the trans went bad on the highway and the engine over-revved, destroying everything under the hood.  I ended up donating the car.

But it does go to say that if you hang the BBB over the people, it does make an effective tool in solving disputes.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

How to sue in small claims court against your favorite corporation | 54 comments (25 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
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