Do I have a case? (need some legal minds/lawyers here)

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    Mar 02, 2013 9:35 PM GMT
    This isn't so much an urgent thing but just something I've been thinking about in a "what if" scenario in a couple of weeks but let me start:

    In 2010, I did a friends wedding photography. When she asked me, she said she'd compensate me and I said okay. So wedding pasts - I do the job - and the young couple is getting started so I didn't push it. I didn't do an album though I did push for that but it just never materialized. I gave a gift of $100 after the wedding just so they can enjoy a few weeks newly married. Foolishly though, I never had her sign a contract as was constantly suggested to me by others. I trusted her to pay me for the services and we never agreed on a price.

    Fast forward, I ask a few times if she was able to pay me and she said no and I always just said "okay, don't worry about it." Fast forward again and every time we'd talk (since we were friends) she'd say things like she's getting a divorce or she doesn't have any money and so I didn't ask about paying me - seemed inappropriate. Stupid, I know but this has been going on for two years after the wedding.

    Jump to this past October. I'm at my sisters engagement party and feeling a bit buzzed. Jokingly, I send her some very VILE texts. I've done this before though not on this scale of utter disgustingness so I figure this shouldn't be a surprise coming from me. She doesn't take it well and we start fighting whilst I'm bringing up that she doesn't pay me amongst other things that make her a lousy friend. She offers to pay and I said I don't want her money since I'm not mad because of the money etc etc. And we cease talking.

    Jump to February. I think it's appropriate that she pay me. I send her an invoice for $700 (just under) and she says $500 seems fair to her (this is all texting btw though the invoice was sent to her email). I figure it's pointless to get blood from a stone so I agree that she'd pay me $250 this month and then $250 next month.

    Now I'm just thinking that I'm betting she'll decide she doesn't want to pay me. She said that she wasn't under any legal obligation. I figure even before she was legally obligated pay me SOMETHING since even though we didn't have an actual contract or set price, it's still constitutes a verbal contract that can be proven via texts AND witness (who I REALLY don't want to bring into this since it's going to force her to choose which friend she'll keep).

    So - if she refuses to pay - do I have a case in civil court or will a judge say that I waited too long and had said that I didn't want it and thus dismiss it?

    (wow this was long, I'm sorry guys who read this)
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    Mar 02, 2013 9:46 PM GMT
    I don't think you have a case.
    - It doesn't seem like you two agreed on a price ahead of time, or terms of payment.
    - You waited 3 years.
    - You texted to her that you don't want the money. If she saved that text, your case is pretty much over.

    I'm not a lawyer. So I may be wrong. But the above is just how I see things.
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    Mar 02, 2013 9:54 PM GMT
    xrichx saidI don't think you have a case.
    - It doesn't seem like you two agreed on a price ahead of time, or terms of payment.
    - You waited 3 years.
    - You texted to her that you don't want the money. If she saved that text, your case is pretty much over.

    I'm not a lawyer. So I may be wrong. But the above is just how I see things.


    this
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    Mar 02, 2013 10:01 PM GMT
    All of the above^

    it's unfortunate that it had to turn ugly / petty....chalk it up to experience.
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    Mar 02, 2013 10:47 PM GMT
    The fact pattern is a little convoluted. That being said, it would appear, based on the facts presented, that you may have a case in that there appears to be an offer, acceptance, performance, consideration and meeting of the minds. While there does not appear to be a written contract between you and your friend, there does appear to be an oral contract. Oral contracts can be valid and enforceable, although often they are difficult to prove. Determining the terms of an oral contract can be very challenging because the trier of fact, i.e., the judge, must rely upon testimony to show the absence or presence of an agreement and, if there is in fact an agreement, its relevant terms. In essence, one party’s word is pitted against the other party’s word, which then ultimately becomes an issue of credibility. Thus, if one of the parties fails to perform and the “breach” is brought before the court in the form of a formal complaint, the result can be unpredictable. In your case, it would appear that you had performed, albeit partially. Also, there's an equitable relief called "unjust enrichment/quantum meruit." This basically means that when a person unjustly benefits from someone's labor/work, the person who provided the benefit is entitled to compensation. Note that (i) there's this legal concept called "statute of limitations," which basically says that you must file your complaint within the relevant statutory period, or you will lose the right to sue (for example, in Virginia, the statute of limitations for ORAL contracts is 3 years and 5 years for WRITTEN contracts (notice the distinction, which is very important)); and (ii) assuming the statute of limitations has not lapsed, you may have no choice but to file your complaint before your state's small claims court (most small claims court can entertain cases where the damage amount is no more than $5K). I hope this helps. I would suggest that you consult a qualified, licensed attorey in your state.

    THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE, AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS CREATED HEREBY.
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Mar 02, 2013 11:17 PM GMT
    No legal claims can be made. If you wanted to be paid, you should have had her sign a contract with terms included. While you had a verbal agreement, it wouldn't pass muster in court. There isn't enough evidence other than the assertion of the parties. You also said, "don't worry about it" afterward.

    My suggestion is that you move on from the experience. If you do photo work in the future, get everything in writing.
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    Mar 02, 2013 11:24 PM GMT
    This is why I don't do creative work for family and friends. It's just a bad idea to have them as clients.
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    Mar 02, 2013 11:32 PM GMT
    HndsmKansan saidNo legal claims can be made. If you wanted to be paid, you should have had her sign a contract with terms included. While you had a verbal agreement, it wouldn't pass muster in court. There isn't enough evidence other than the assertion of the parties. You also said, "don't worry about it" afterward.

    My suggestion is that you move on from the experience. If you do photo work in the future, get everything in writing.

    Other then the last text message (and I don't delete any messages) stating that she agrees to pay $500?

    But yes - this was the last time I do any work like this for anyone really. icon_lol.gif
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    Mar 02, 2013 11:38 PM GMT
    I've always wondered what are all these semi-attractive people doing on RJ, when they could be out with friends. Turns out they're too passive-aggressive and lacking EQ to get along with real people.
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    Mar 02, 2013 11:41 PM GMT
    kennykwan saidI've always wondered what are all these semi-attractive people doing on RJ, when they could be out with friends. Turns out they're too passive-aggressive and lacking EQ to get along with real people.

    Yeah - I'm sorry but whoever you are - doesn't know the entire picture of my relationship with this...client. Which is irrelevant. This strictly business and law.
  • Jerebear

    Posts: 329

    Mar 03, 2013 12:01 AM GMT
    IceBuckets said
    HndsmKansan saidNo legal claims can be made. If you wanted to be paid, you should have had her sign a contract with terms included. While you had a verbal agreement, it wouldn't pass muster in court. There isn't enough evidence other than the assertion of the parties. You also said, "don't worry about it" afterward.

    My suggestion is that you move on from the experience. If you do photo work in the future, get everything in writing.

    Other then the last text message (and I don't delete any messages) stating that she agrees to pay $500?

    But yes - this was the last time I do any work like this for anyone really. icon_lol.gif


    My suggestion is to move on too, and I agree with HK that you dont have a case as far as a verbal contract goes, but out of curiousity doesn't IceBuckets own the copyright to the pictures, and couldnt he offer to transfer the copyright to her in exchange for the money. Is that an angle that could work?
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    Mar 03, 2013 2:38 AM GMT
    Jump to this past October. I'm at my sisters engagement party and feeling a bit buzzed. Jokingly, I send her some very VILE texts. I've done this before though not on this scale of utter disgustingness so I figure this shouldn't be a surprise coming from me. She doesn't take it well and we start fighting whilst I'm bringing up that she doesn't pay me amongst other things that make her a lousy friend. She offers to pay and I said I don't want her money since I'm not mad because of the money etc etc. And we cease talking.

    Jump to February. I think it's appropriate that she pay me. I send her an invoice for $700 (just under) and she says $500 seems fair to her (this is all texting btw though the invoice was sent to her email). I figure it's pointless to get blood from a stone so I agree that she'd pay me $250 this month and then $250 next month.''


    Too bad this isn't on Judge Judy
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    Mar 03, 2013 2:51 AM GMT
    beneful1 saidJump to this past October. I'm at my sisters engagement party and feeling a bit buzzed. Jokingly, I send her some very VILE texts. I've done this before though not on this scale of utter disgustingness so I figure this shouldn't be a surprise coming from me. She doesn't take it well and we start fighting whilst I'm bringing up that she doesn't pay me amongst other things that make her a lousy friend. She offers to pay and I said I don't want her money since I'm not mad because of the money etc etc. And we cease talking.

    Jump to February. I think it's appropriate that she pay me. I send her an invoice for $700 (just under) and she says $500 seems fair to her (this is all texting btw though the invoice was sent to her email). I figure it's pointless to get blood from a stone so I agree that she'd pay me $250 this month and then $250 next month.''


    Too bad this isn't on Judge Judy

    If it were, i honestly don't know the outcome. Hence why I am asking. I'm inclined to believe that this chick would start acting out in someway and piss off Judge Judy.

    In all honesty, I do not like courts or lawsuits. Even if I had a clear cut case, I probably wouldn't file a complaint since that isn't who I am. I'd just like to know if I do. Which from what I see, most of you say no with one or two saying maybe...

    (and statute of limitations is 6 years in NYS)
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    Mar 03, 2013 2:53 AM GMT
    Yes, you DO have a case.

    Even though there is no contract, a physical evidence, you two had a verbal agreement.

    Even though there was no price agreement, once you present your case to the judge, he/she will ask you how much you think the job was worth. He/she will then decide if the amount you've given is appropriate or if it matches the quality of your work.

    Your case is an example of how two parties should act based on human ethics. She agreed to compensate, but did not. Youll win this easy.

    But why go through all that hassle? Just ask her to pay and give her an ultimatum
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    Mar 03, 2013 3:09 AM GMT
    This will be governed by state law. I don't know the law of the state you're in (unless is FL or NY), but here are the general concepts:

    * Usually only certain types of contracts have to be in writing to be enforceable; those types are often real estate agreements. The area of your state's law that discusses this is probably called the "Statute of Frauds."

    * Assuming a contract for your services need not be in writing to be enforceable, then you still may not have a contract because, as another poster suggested, you didn't seem to have agreement with respect to salient terms (i.e. price).

    * Not having a contract may actually benefit you, as you can sue under a theory of "unjust enrichment" (a/k/a quantum meruit). Under this theory, there was no contract between the parties, but one party was unjustly enriched and the other party should be compensated to make things right. Your gal pal was unjustly enriched by receiving your services without paying for them. If successful, you would receive the fair market value of your services; and that might be more than the $500 - $700 you mentioned.

    * There is a statute of limitations that governs your dispute. In contract cases (which this is, even if there is no contract), the parties usually have three to six years to file suit. You need to check that in your state's law.

    Hope it helps.
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    Mar 03, 2013 3:12 AM GMT
    I am not a lawyer, but I do study accounting and we have to take some law courses as accounting and law go hand in hand. In my law class, which I'm currently in, I've learned a lot about stuff like this. I can tell you the following:

    1. A contract does not have to be in writing, if you made an offer, she accepted, its legal, she and you are over 18, then you're good.
    2. There is a statute of limitations which says you cannot sue a person for something that occurred to long ago, but we spoke of an example in class regarding a car accident and the person was not able to sue about 4-5 years after the accident. In your case also, since you guys would talk about the payment and she would verbally express to you that she would pay you, then every time she said that, she renewed the contract. If you, lets say, go bankrupt and default on all your payments, you do not have to pay them; however, if you after a year decide to make $25 payments to one of the credit cards you owed, you have brought up that debt again, you have reinstated the contract.
    3. When you said "it's fine, don't worry about it." when she would tell you she was going to pay you, you negated payment, you dismissed the contract. However, when she said she would pay you in two installments for a total of $500, that was a counter-offer, a NEW contract starting on that day. So the day she said she would pay you those two payments is the contract you have to consider, and you accepted that offer so forget about the $700 invoice, irrelevant, point is she made an offer to pay $500 for past services and you agreed, so you are entitled to those $500. Any service or product for $500 or under does not have to be in writing.

    To sum it up, I think you're golden man, and you have a good case. She made a promise to pay you $500 for your services in two payments, doesn't have to be in writing, get your money ; )

    Hope this helped!
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    Mar 03, 2013 3:12 AM GMT
    I don't think you have a case either ! Like some of the guys already said, there's no written contract and I just had a sense of you're being a little too nice or too naive (kinda wishy washy about wanting to get paid and not) then blew up on her with the texts and then said, no I don't want it.

    The way I see it - legally she owes you nothing but as a friend on a more morals level, she does ! but you need to prove evidence in court and not just based on hurt or upset feelings.

    The other thing I like to point out is - if you set the price say $700 from the beginning, she has the right to reject your services or use you because she thinks it's too high or whatever but she never had the chance because there's no clear contract or $$$ set price terms of agreement, thus I think the *obligation to pay is VOID.

    I studied a little bit of law and speaking as a Libran fairness guy.


    Learn from it kiddo and move on, people get screw over by $$ all the time. Consider it a wedding gift for her.
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    Mar 03, 2013 3:16 AM GMT
    Yeah, statue of limitations was the only thing that raised a red flag.

    It doesn't matter if it is in writing or not or if you absolve the debt through text message, there's a thing called consideration in which one party gives up something in return for a benefit.

    The contract is still enforceable irrespective of the fact that you became frustrated and walked away. Services were still rendered and one party benefited at the expense of another. (Both Im assuming agreed before hand to enter into this contract even though you didn't really establish all the terms which is dumb).

    Seems like you could file a small claims suit, but you'd have to represent your self in court to make it worth while.

    Getting a judgment doesn't guarantee getting paid. You might not be able to collect either or if she is a habitual dead beat.

    Also, the damages awarded probably wouldn't come out to what you are hoping for.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 03, 2013 3:38 AM GMT
    Like I told you before when we talked about this, SPEAK TO AN ACTUAL LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE. Asking the multitude of opinions belonging to RJ members who you have NO CLUE if they even know the law is pointless. Even if they have legal experience, who's to say they're actually providing good legal advice regarding your situation? Talk to a law professional in your state who knows what the hell he/she is talking about...besides you can get free legal advice.
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    Mar 03, 2013 3:42 AM GMT
    DOMINUS saidThe fact pattern is a little convoluted. That being said, it would appear, based on the facts presented, that you may have a case in that there appears to be an offer, acceptance, performance, consideration and meeting of the minds. While there does not appear to be a written contract between you and your friend, there does appear to be an oral contract. Oral contracts can be valid and enforceable, although often they are difficult to prove. Determining the terms of an oral contract can be very challenging because the trier of fact, i.e., the judge, must rely upon testimony to show the absence or presence of an agreement and, if there is in fact an agreement, its relevant terms. In essence, one party’s word is pitted against the other party’s word, which then ultimately becomes an issue of credibility. Thus, if one of the parties fails to perform and the “breach” is brought before the court in the form of a formal complaint, the result can be unpredictable. In your case, it would appear that you had performed, albeit partially. Also, there's an equitable relief called "unjust enrichment/quantum meruit." This basically means that when a person unjustly benefits from someone's labor/work, the person who provided the benefit is entitled to compensation. Note that (i) there's this legal concept called "statute of limitations," which basically says that you must file your complaint within the relevant statutory period, or you will lose the right to sue (for example, in Virginia, the statute of limitations for ORAL contracts is 3 years and 5 years for WRITTEN contracts (notice the distinction, which is very important)); and (ii) assuming the statute of limitations has not lapsed, you may have no choice but to file your complaint before your state's small claims court (most small claims court can entertain cases where the damage amount is no more than $5K). I hope this helps. I would suggest that you consult a qualified, licensed attorey in your state.

    THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE, AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS CREATED HEREBY.


    Looks like DOMINUS is probably an attorney because this is a pretty good analysis of the issue in your case. As a practical matter, the cost of filing suit and serving process is several hundred dollars total. Plus the court may require you to mediate the dispute which will likely result in you accepting less than what you want for your service to begin with.

    You may run into issues of the statute of limitations because you have an "oral" contract. As a practical matter, take what she offers and call it a day. You'll will very likely find that going to court is not worth it. Remember, even if you win (which is never a guarantee), you still have to collect on the judgment which can be very difficult itself.

    At the end of the day, you probably have a case (depending on the laws of your state), but take what you can. You'll spend more money going to court and have very little to show for it when you are done.

    As DOMINUS said, this does not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is created or assumed as a result of the information above.
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    Mar 03, 2013 4:02 AM GMT
    blasiankid saidLike I told you before when we talked about this, SPEAK TO AN ACTUAL LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE. Asking the multitude of opinions belonging to RJ members who you have NO CLUE if they even know the law is pointless. Even if they have legal experience, who's to say they're actually providing good legal advice regarding your situation? Talk to a law professional in your state who knows what the hell he/she is talking about...besides you can get free legal advice.


    If you bothered reading some of the responses they are coming directly from an actual legal representative.

    Contract Law is something you can easily google, anyone that watches Judge Judy could tell you that.

    Also, the disputed amount is a couple hundred dollars, a lawyer wouldn't even take on the case unless you want to pay more than the judgment would ever afford.

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    Mar 03, 2013 4:07 AM GMT
    Contract Law 101:

    Typically, in order to be enforceable, a contract must involve the following elements:

    A "Meeting of the Minds" (Mutual Consent)

    The parties to the contract have a mutual understanding of what the contract covers. For example, in a contract for the sale of a "mustang", the buyer thinks he will obtain a car and the seller believes he is contracting to sell a horse, there is no meeting of the minds and the contract will likely be held unenforceable.

    Offer and Acceptance

    The contract involves an offer (or more than one offer) to another party, who accepts the offer. For example, in a contract for the sale of a piano, the seller may offer the piano to the buyer for $1,000.00. The buyer's acceptance of that offer is a necessary part of creating a binding contract for the sale of the piano.

    Please note that a counter-offer is not an acceptance, and will typically be treated as a rejection of the offer. For example, if the buyer counter-offers to purchase the piano for $800.00, that typically counts as a rejection of the original offer for sale. If the seller accepts the counter-offer, a contract may be completed. However, if the seller rejects the counter-offer, the buyer will not ordinarily be entitled to enforce the prior $1,000.00 price if the seller decides either to raise the price or to sell the piano to somebody else.

    Mutual Consideration (The mutual exchange of something of value)

    In order to be valid, the parties to a contract must exchange something of value. In the case of the sale of a piano, the buyer receives something of value in the form of the piano, and the seller receives money.

    While the validity of consideration may be subject to attack on the basis that it is illusory (e.g., one party receives only what the other party was already obligated to provide), or that there is a failure of consideration (e.g., the consideration received by one party is essentially worthless), these defenses will not let a party to a contract escape the consequences of bad negotiation. For example, if a seller enters into a contract to sell a piano for $100, and later gets an offer from somebody else for $1,000, the seller can't revoke the contract on the basis that the piano was worth a lot more than he bargained to receive.

    Performance or Delivery

    In order to be enforceable, the action contemplated by the contract must be completed. For example, if the purchaser of a piano pays the $1,000 purchase price, he can enforce the contract to require the delivery of the piano. However, unless the contract provides that delivery will occur before payment, the buyer may not be able to enforce the contract if he does not "perform" by paying the $1,000. Similarly, again depending upon the contract terms, the seller may not be able to enforce the contract without first delivering the piano.

    In a typical "breach of contract" action, the party alleging the breach will recite that it performed all of its duties under the contract, whereas the other party failed to perform its duties or obligations.

    Additionally, the following elements may factor into the enforceability of any contract:

    Good Faith

    It is implicit within all contracts that the parties are acting in good faith. For example, if the seller of a "mustang" knows that the buyer thinks he is purchasing a car, but secretly intends to sell the buyer a horse, the seller is not acting in good faith and the contract will not be enforceable.

    No Violation of Public Policy

    In order to be enforceable, a contract cannot violate "public policy". For example, if the subject matter of a contract is illegal, you cannot enforce the contract. A contract for the sale of illegal drugs, for example, violates public policy and is not enforceable.

    Please note that public policy can shift. Traditionally, many states refused to honor gambling debts incurred in other jurisdictions on public policy grounds. However, as more and more states have permitted gambling within their own borders, that policy has mostly been abandoned and gambling debts from legal enterprises are now typically enforceable. (A "bookie" might not be able to enforce a debt arising from an illegal gambling enterprise, but a legal casino will now typically be able to enforce its debt.) Similarly, it used to be legal to sell "switchblade kits" through the U.S. mail, but that practice is now illegal. Contracts for the interstate sale of such kits were no longer enforceable following that change in the law.


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  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 03, 2013 5:04 AM GMT
    Your art is your livelihood...not getting paid for it can mess with you...
    BUT...you have to be firm and clear with clients...

    ..I think the problem here is a friend doing a job/favor for another friend with very loose business ethics..
    I hope it works out.. icon_smile.gif
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    Mar 03, 2013 6:51 AM GMT
    Painted said
    blasiankid saidLike I told you before when we talked about this, SPEAK TO AN ACTUAL LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE. Asking the multitude of opinions belonging to RJ members who you have NO CLUE if they even know the law is pointless. Even if they have legal experience, who's to say they're actually providing good legal advice regarding your situation? Talk to a law professional in your state who knows what the hell he/she is talking about...besides you can get free legal advice.


    If you bothered reading some of the responses they are coming directly from an actual legal representative.

    Contract Law is something you can easily google, anyone that watches Judge Judy could tell you that.

    Also, the disputed amount is a couple hundred dollars, a lawyer wouldn't even take on the case unless you want to pay more than the judgment would ever afford.



    Thank you for proving my point! As you stated, "anyone could tell you that." And no one said get a lawyer to take a case...never came out of my mouth nor typed in my response. I'm simply telling him to go talk to an actual law representative in person who lives and practices law in his state to give him advice. There is such a thing as "free legal advice" and I know this from personal experience. Also, just because someone comes on here and types a comment sounding like an "actual legal representative" doesn't mean they are one. You can't possibly verify who they are nor what they do let alone if the information they provide is indeed accurate unless you talk to an actual legal rep in person.

    Anyway, Michael take my advice as I told you earlier on the phone.
  • Adozark

    Posts: 299

    Mar 03, 2013 6:55 AM GMT
    I am no lawyer, but from what you've shown, you have a case that can go either way depending on how the judge feels that day.

    In our county, the filing fees + cost to serve in small claims is ~ $150. I wouldn't be surprised if you can get her to cough up the money simply because she was served, and you can then just drop the cause.

    Though the best advice is always to seek the advice of a lawyer.