Category Archives: General FAQ


Q: Should I take my ex stepfather to court for past unpaid medical bills? I have a past due med bills that the insurance company had written a check for and then sent to the primary name on the insurance (ex- stepfather) that never paid the bill but cashed the check. There is now at a debt collector on my credit, calling me at home and at work. Am I responsible to pay or is there anything I can do to make him pay?

A: Nice guy. There are questions I would need answered before offering my opinion. For example, was he viewed as your legal custodian at the time? Were the checks made out to him with the express purpose of paying your bills? If so, this would make him a guardian/fiduciary of the funds and he therefore misappropriated them. You may have grounds to file a civil suit against him. I would first notify the insurance company and also provide them written notice of what happened. If they don’t seek the money from him, and continue to pursue you, you may have a problem. If they sue you, take the papers immediately to a lawyer. A lawyer can cross-claim against your ex stepfather and bring him into the suit.

I fell and am wondering if I should sue my landlord

Q: I am having a dispute with my landlords over an accident that I had in the house i rent from them. I fell and broke my shoulder. I fell and broke my shoulder and the landlords deny any responsibility. I had the property inspected by the building inspector for the area that I live in and found out that the landlords do not have a certificate of occupancy for the house and he found a number of problems including the fact there was not a complete handrail for the staircase that I fell from. I have a broken shoulder and strained muscles, ligaments and tendons which has limited motion in my entire arm and has produced many problems in taking care of myself including but not limited to showering, dressing and other personal chores. It has also limited my doing my job at work and I have lost hours of paid work time. What can I do?

A: Just because you fall does not mean the landlord is liable. You have to prove that the landlord was negligent in maintaining his building and some this negligence resulted in your injuries. However, based on what you said, you may have a case. You will get nowhere fast trying to get money from the landlord or insurance company on your own. You have two years from the date of the incident to file. Hire a lawyer to review the case.


Q: Auctioneer fails to deliver auction of property. Now is suing me for thousands. What to do?I have a property that is hard to sell, so I contracted with a real estate auctioneer. The contract was that the auctioneer would market the property online, and in print advertisements, and also conduct a formal auction with bidders. The auctioneer guaranteed me a sale of the property from the auction, and bidders for the auction in written communications. The contract was $5000 for marketing which I paid up front, and an additional $5000 after the auction for the auction. There were no provisions in the written contract about responsibility on either the auctioneer, or the seller’s end if the property did not sell, or if there were no bidders. On auction day, no bidders showed up, and the auctioneer did not commence the auction. The auctioneer left 10 minutes after the auction was to begin, and stated that he would follow up with me. The auctioneer never followed up with me. One week later the auctioneer sent me a demand letter for the additional $5000 for the auction even though there were no bidders for the auction, and no auction was actually conducted as planned. I sent a letter back to this auctioneer stating that I think no further payment is warranted since he did not conduct the auction, left early, and did not deliver as promised in writing to “Sell My Property”, and “Bring Many Bidders To The Auction”. One week letter I get a complaint from the county court of common pleas that the the auctioneer is suing me for $5000, and $2500 for additional damages. In the written contract the auctioneer guaranteed me a diligent and effective auction, but he clearly did not deliver this because there were no bidders interested in participating, and he never commenced the auction as scheduled and planned. How can I proceed to defend this?

A:  You need a lawyer. You have 20 days to answer the complaint. Whether you have a defense can probably be determined by reading and interpreting the contract, which a lawyer can do for you. YOU MUST FIND A LAWYER IMMEDIATELY to file a written answer to this complaint. If you don’t answer the complaint, you may be subject to a default judgment and lose important rights or property.

Can they issue an arrest warrant?

Q: I just received a phone call from a woman who stated she worked for a law firm handling a payday loan case from Plain Green Loans. The loan was “supposedly” given to me on Nov 2, 2011. She said I owed $993. I have not received any physical verification of this loan nor do I have any knowledge of this. She threatened me with an arrest warrant? I’ve had people call and threaten me like this before for companies I’ve never heard of and nothing has happened. Should I be worried?

A: Only a court can issue an arrest warrant and it is served by a constable, deputy sheriff or police officer. It sounds like creditor harassment. If you have nothing to do with this, and you believe this is a case of mistaken identity, as a first option, you may want to file a police report or call the consumer protection division of the Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania. Once you do that you should talk to a civil lawyer who deals in creditor harassment. If you may owe this debt, as a short term fix you may just want to change your phone number.

Will my son be sued for breaking his lease?

Q: Son wants to break his lease, he no longer lives there. Landlord wants rent anyway. He entered a lease with his friends for a year. He has since left school and taken loans out to pay rent. He gave them over 8 months to find a sub-lease, which they did not. He does not want to pay last 8 months of rent.

A:  You need to read the lease carefully or have an attorney review it. Generally, if a tenant breaches a lease, and vacates the premises, he or she can be held for the balance of the lease. However, the landlord has a duty to mitigate the damages by preparing the unit for re-lease and finding a tenant as soon as possible. In your situation, I would have to read the lease to see if your son and his friends were responsible for finding another tenant, and not the landlord. As pointed out, you never know, there may be a defense for your son based on the facts, which an attorney could determine.


Do I have recourse against a collection agency?

Q: I have a collection agency calling my friends and family disclosing my name and social security on their answering machines. Do I have any recourse?

A:  You may have a case. You may also want to call the consumer protection division of the Pennsylvania Attorney General. They may be able to help or give you guidance. I would preserve the evidence if you can, i.e., voicemails, dates and times of calls. You may also want to call a consumer rights attorney.

Neighbor is disturbing the peace

Q: I press charges against my neighbor for intentionally disturbing the peace because he’s bitter about being evicted. I live in an apartment that I can’t sleep in because he is so loud. But when I am here I call the cops whereupon he gets louder. The landlord has given him 30 days notice to evict but by law he can’t do much else. This guy is intentionally setting his alarm clock to go off after he leaves (all hours of day and night) and when he is here he invites people over to drink and party and generally be loud. He doesn’t work so he does this all the time. I’m under lease so I cannot move without breaking that contract. This has been going on for 2 months. I can’t wait 30 more days. Can I simply press charges and/or have him fined for this behavior? Civil court or claims court is too costly and time-consuming. By then he’ll be evicted. I need a quick solution to an unfair situation.

A: Yes, you can see if the police will take a complaint. You can record the noise electronically or call the police to come over when he leaves the alarm on, so they can witness the disturbance. The better evidence you have, the more likely a criminal case for harassment or disorderly conduct can be proven. If the police won’t take a complaint for Disorderly Conduct or Harassment, you can see if the DA at the local District Justice office will take a Private Complaint. Remember, you will have to face him in court and this may all be over in 60 days when he is evicted.

Can we remove father from mortgage and deed without divorce?

Q: My mother in law is trying to remove her separated husband (my father) from the title of their house. He got kicked out years ago as he cheated on her for 10 years (a child was produced from this indiscretion) He doesn’t want to be on the mortgage anymore but doesn’t want to pay anything on a house that he is not living in. My mother in law doesn’t believe in divorce (old world Italian Catholic) but wants him off the deed. He also wants off. The mortgage has not been paid for in 5 plus years. Is there a way to fix this without Divorce and him not having to pay anything (it is the only way he would sign any type of paperwork, willingly). Could I get on title thru a refinance or something?

A: He can always sign a deed over to her. However, the issues are complicated. If he is on the mortgage with her, the mortgage instrument (contract) may have a due on sale clause which means if there is ever a new deed filed, the mortgage can be foreclosed upon immediately. Most mortgage contracts do not allow a change of the deed. So, drafting a deed from both of them to her, may trigger a foreclosure, or potential problems. However, the fact that the mortgage has not been paid in 5 years may trigger a foreclosure anyway. But, in general, when someone wants off a deed, and there is a mortgage, you should always check with the mortgagee (lender) and see if they will agree to release someone from the deed. Sometimes they will but it really depends. I have had mortgage companies accept a simple assumption of the mortgage but they likely will want to refinance and in either case put the house in the name of someone who has good credit.


How do I sue an ex-friend for money owed to him?

Q: What type of lawyer do I need to sue an ex-friend for money loaned to him? I loaned a significant amount of money, through a verbal agreement, to a friend, who is no longer a friend. He is paying me back but is doing so now on his terms, not the agreed upon monthly payment. I want to sue him, file a property lien, and potentially try for wage garnishment. I don’t know what legal specialty this situation would be considered. Is it collections or dispute?

A: If the economics of the claim warrant investing in an attorney, you will be much better off with counsel. If it is a few hundred dollars, file at the local District Justice on your own. Since you state it is a significant amount of money, you would be better off with an attorney to ensure you get a judgment and it is enforceable and if so enforced correctly. Many people obtain judgments against others, but cannot enforce them. At a minimum you need to consult with a civil attorney to see if it is worth proceeding, and if so, exactly how.


Can we sue my boyfriend for not paying my mother?

Q: Theft by deception in Pennsylvania? My mother purchased a vehicle for the man I’ve been with since 2009, the same year of purchase. He is under verbal agreement to pay her over $20, 000 for it and hasn’t paid a dime yet. During this time I asked about the money then he physically mentally and emotionally verbally abused me when I mention the money owed. I need to know what to do to get her paid. He makes plenty if money to have paid her. She was very ill a few years ago he was waiting for her not to survive so he could get out of paying but she did. I’m not getting any answers from anyone else. Can you help?

A: Theft by Deception is a crime. I think you will have difficulty having the police or District Attorney file criminal charges with these facts. You may be able to sue him civilly, even though this is a verbal promise to pay and not a written contract. You need to decide whether you want him out of your life as this will make the lawsuit easier to carry out. For a civil suit, you could have a one or a four year statute of limitations, depending on the facts, but most likely a four year statute of limitation. So, time is of the essence if it is not too late for a suit at this point. I advise you to speak with a lawyer. Although it is a verbal contract, recovery of $20,000.00 should be pursued.