Tag Archives: CIVIL LAW

Can I sue a homeowner’s association?

Q: My basement flooded due to overflow of storm water runoff from common area hillside at my condominium. There was excessive rain that day in a very short amount of time. The local roads flooded, streams overflowed, roads were closed. Water gushed down the hillside and flooded my game room. This happened 4 times. All the time there was excessive rain. The upper side of the hillside has homes with downspouts running on to common area. Can I sue for damages to my yard and game room? I do not have flood insurance. Last issue was the 31st of October. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I would consult with a civil litigation attorney that has handled such cases. These cases are difficult as you would have the burden to prove that either the association maintained a defective water runoff system and knew or should have known that they did. Or, if the homes on the hillside caused the runoff, whether the homebuilder is at fault because he knew or should have known that water running off his property would cause damage below. You would likely need an engineer to look at the system and write a report. Causation is the main issue. Were your damages caused by negligence or an act of nature. The fact that this has happened four times gives less credibility to an “act of nature” defense. Have you submitted this claim to your property insurance carrier? You should call them first before consulting with an attorney. Preserver your evidence. Save your photos and keep a log of all activity.

Why do I have to prove that I did not live in Ohio in 2007?

Q: Last fall, I started receiving letters from the office of Robert Boich who is supposedly special counsel for the State of Ohio Office of the Attorney General. The letters claim that I owe the state of Ohio taxes for living there in 2007. I called them and told them that I did not live there. I also called the Ohio department of taxation. They told me to send them proof of non-residency in the form of a pay-stub from the beginning and end of 2007 and that would take care of it. I did this, only to receive the same letter from Boich’s office again in January of 2016. I called them again, and they told me that I need to send them a copy of my 2007 W2, federal and PA returns! I do not have these. I was told by my tax accountant to make sure this is legitimate because that was more than 7 years ago. They are claiming that I owe them almost $4ooo including interest! They are threatening to attach my wages and they’ve already put a lien against my name. (South Park, PA)

A: It is either a scam or government ineptitude. Have you googled this man or called the Office of Attorney General of Ohio to see if he is real? All you can do is investigate it yourself. If it is not a scam, you will have to spend time gathering documents to send via certified mail to disprove the allegations to Ohio. Your claim that you don’t have old tax returns can be remedied. It takes 10 days to order tax transcripts from the IRS to prove where you live – IRS form 4507T can be submitted by fax and you will have this information available to you FOR FREE within 10 days. An attorney can help if you want to spend the money.

Must I abide by an agreement made by attorney with the judge?

Q: I was named as a respondent in a court case. My attorney and petitioner’s attorney had a private meeting with the judge behind closed doors. My attorney agreed that I would consent to my mother’s bank records being disclosed for the past 17 years to petitioner. I held a power of attorney at the time but used it for only 11 years straight for only 4 transactions. Do I have to abide by an agreement made by my attorney with the judge and opposing counsel? I do not want to turn over any records as petitioner is mentally unstable. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Your attorney presumably represents your interests. An attorney should explain to his client any agreement the attorney enters which binds the client. It is basic Principal-Agent law. If your attorney did not obtain your consent to enter the agreement, you probably need to fire him and hire another attorney to enter his appearance and reject the agreement. Before you do, you should write your present attorney and tell him why you do not consent to the agreement and that his services are terminated. Before you do however, have an in depth discussion with your attorney about what he did. There was probably a good reason and he is acting in your best interests.

Business lawyer payment

Q: I don’t need a lawyer but can you buy into a lawyer so if something does come up like I guess just make monthly payments just in case there is a problem? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Yes, attorneys will always welcome payment. It can be considered a retainer to be applied to future services. It is more common when larger businesses, corporations or municipalities are clients. Given the fact that you don’t need a lawyer now, I would not advise just finding a lawyer to pay just out of expectation that a legal need may arise. The lawyer you pay now may not be suitable for your future legal needs and generally it is best to hold onto to your money.

I want to sue 2 real estate agents who brought me an “ideal tenant.”

Both agents (my agent and tenant’s agent) knew that a tenant was being evicted from another condo in my building because they had placed him in it a few months before. He was locked out of that unit by the Sheriff and did $26,000 damage to it; and was then moved into my place within a few days, with the help of these two agents and a rental application full of lies. Tenant has not paid me rent for 5 months and I am suffering a loss of $100 per day in lost rent and legal fees, with no end in sight to evict him. He has 9 people residing unlawfully in my unit and his wife just filed for bankruptcy. I am a senior, doing part time work, and this property is for rental income I rely on. I cannot afford to litigate, so looking for a contingency arrangement. I am a CA licensed attorney I can draft much of the pleadings and otherwise assist. (Robinson, Twp.)

A: What a nightmare. I think you will find an attorney if the attorney can confirm the realtors and their employers have liability instead of hoping to collect from the deadbeat tenants. This type of case would be really be bad publicity for the realtors, especially if they are agents or brokers of a company. The contract you signed with them would need to be closely reviewed. Keep contacting attorneys until you find one. It sounds like these agents have liability based on what you say, but an attorney would need to review the entire case. An eviction should have been filed already.

Can I be sued by the former cult I was a member of?

Q: I was a member of a cult for decades. They practice shunning and have split up many families over the years. I have created a website to warn potential visitors and current members about the church. I signed a NDA while I was there. I am wondering if that is enforceable, what the line is between stating facts, vs slander/libel and are there any limits on my speech. I am commenting on their 4 churches in PA, OH, and ME. (Cranberry Twp., PA)

A: The Non-Disclosure Agreement must be read. Truth is generally a defense to a libel or slander suit. However, if the NDA is restrictive enough, you could be liable for any sort of disclosure. Some of these cults have lots of money and pursue legal action against former members aggressively.

Can a debt collector garnish my wages?

Q: Can a debt collector garnish my wages for an overdrawn bank account? Some time ago I had an account that someone else had access to and it was overdrawn. Now a firm is threatening to garnish my wages. They call me now twice a day. Can they do that? (Washington, PA)

A: To my knowledge, in PA, wage garnishment is limited to taxes, child support, and criminal restitution. What this “debt collector” is doing may violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and subject them to fines and possibly compensation to you. You should contact an attorney who handles consumer law.

I was served with a Praecipe for Writ of Summons

Q: We were served with a Praecipe for Writ of Summons. It says we have 20 days to respond. What happens if we don’t? Should we contact the Plaintiff’s attorney to see what they are claiming and seeking, or wait to see if they actually file a lawsuit before engaging with them? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: A civil writ in PA is generally used to toll (pause) a statute of limitations to give a plaintiff additional time to prepare and file a complaint with in the designated statute time. For example, if A wants to sue B, and the statute requires the complaint to be filed by 2/1/19, A can file a writ by 2/1/19 and get an extra 20 days (until 2/21/19) to actually file his complaint. Normally, we see this when plaintiffs decide to sue at the last minute for whatever reason. I have also, unfortunately, seen attorneys do this to harass and annoy a party. An attorney did this to my client by filing a civil writ just before trial in Orphan’s Court. I filed a Praecipe for Rule to File a Complaint, which required the attorney to file a Complaint in 20 days. Of course, he did not file a complaint in 20 days as he did not really have a cause of action and only did this to harass and intimidate my client. There are not many attorneys that misuse the rules in such a manner but there are few out there. I would take your papers to an attorney as there is a possibility you may be sued.

Car totaled, the other driver was at fault. Can I sue?

Q: Since I owed more on car than actual cash value, after settling my car note on totaled vehicle, I now have no car, which I need for work. Can I sue for distress or inconvenience? (West Mifflin, PA)

A: Your vehicle coverage is based on the value of the car, not on what you owe. If you were injured you can sue for pain, suffering, inconvenience and lost wages. I would consult with a personal injury attorney.