Back in the over sized room and still feeling like I got rail roaded in mediation my accuser and I waited our turn to appear before the judge. While sitting there I took notice of all the different kinds of people in the courtroom and wondered about each one. Some were in suits and ties while others had cut off t-shirts and looked like they just rolled out of bed. What did these people do to be here? How could so many people be in trouble I thought, are they criminals, rip offs or worse? I couldn’t help but feel like everyone was looking at me and thinking the same thing and I wanted nothing more than to get outside and get away. Calling our case the judge barely looked up and mumbled a date as he dug through a mountain of papers and told us to pick up our information at the clerks office. Walking out it suddenly dawned on me that what I hoped would be the end was just beginning and I really wasn’t looking forward to coming back.
The case was to be heard in about a month and during that time I got little to no sleep. I again made the rounds of calls and probably made a pest of myself to all who would listen. Everybody agreed with my side of course and encouraged me to stick to my guns. I contacted our state inspector who gladly forwarded me any information on the case he could but he avoided any extra comments like the plague. His advice was to pay the woman and run for the hills regardless of the facts and that really threw me for a loop. I wrestled with the idea again and again about a lawyer and even called a weekly talk radio show that featured two lawyers who answered questions. They too, were of little help and didn’t wish to say anything concrete so I made up my mind to go it alone and represent myself.
To prepare for the trial I gathered every bit of evidence I could and even asked two current (still are) customers if they would come and speak on my behalf. The one who agreed was a client who had termites re-infest his home after a job I did. The termites destroyed a door jam and we worked it out to have his door fixed and upgrade his service to a baiting program in a way that was fair for both. My thought was to show the judge that I am not an unreasonable monster and my customer was happy to oblige. As part of the process both my accuser and I were to send disclosure forms stating everything we would be bring as evidence including witnesses. Her list included the Home Depot employee who identified her baggy of bugs, the exterminator she finally hired to treat her home and the damage repair specialist. I knew I could blow the Home Depot guy out of the water and I wasn’t worried about the exterminator but the repair specialist was something I wasn’t sure of. I looked on line and could find nothing about his technique of discovering damage (still can’t) and his yellow page ad offered up nothing for me to get an angle on. Out of pure curiosity or paranoia I decided to go by his address listed in the book. I don’t know what I expected to find but the dump I pulled up to was surely not it. If this guy was any kind of specialist he sure didn’t reflect it in his choice of wash machine and old tires yard art.
Needless to say the days dragged as this lawsuit consumed me far more than I ever thought it would but when the day finally arrived it seemed as if it was all to quick to come. Our time was set for late afternoon and I was surprised that we were called to a small conference office rather than the normal court room. My witness and his wife were dutifully there and my wife sat beside me. My heart had been pounding all day but as I looked across the table and saw a sloppy young termite ‘salesman’, my tormentor and no one else I suddenly grew confident. I knew this kid knew next to nothing about termites and without her “specialist” present I figured the judge would not consider his malarky anyway because this would be considered here say evidence and not allowed. Did I tell you I was consumed? I even had the lingo down pat. Besides I had my ace of ‘piercing the corporate veil’ and the wdo itself which anyone can read says;
THIS REPORT IS MADE ON THE BASIS OF WHAT WAS VISIBLE AND READILY ACCESSIBLE AT THE TIME OF INSPECTION AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A GUARANTEE OF THE ABSENCE OF WOOD-DESTROYING ORGANISMS (WDOs) OR DAMAGE OR OTHER EVIDENCE UNLESS
THIS REPORT SPECIFICALLY STATES HEREIN THE EXTENT OF SUCH GUARANTEE.
And the State of Florida’s own web site states;
“What does a “clear” report mean?
A “clear” report means that there was no evidence of wood destroying organisms infestation or damage visible and accessible to the inspector at the time of the inspection. It does NOT mean, however, that the buyer can be absolutely assured that there are no wood destroying organisms infesting the structure or that there is no damage from termites or other wood destroying organisms.
So with all the momentum on my side (or so I thought) I was set and as far as I was concerned he could hammer down his gavel and call “case closed” for lack of evidence but that shows how little I know. He didn’t have a gavel as he settled in to his huge leather chair, smiled and said, “I know bring this case to order.”
To be continued;
Please see Being sued for termite damage, the mediation debacle which is part one of my story and Have You Reached A Verdict which is part three.