Either You Work The System, Or The System Will Work YOU!

Our country is wrought with instances of professional misconduct. I can hardly turn on the television without seeing something about this surgeon doing back-alley boob jobs, that accountant who was a little too "creative" with the company's books or another police officer who beat up kids for skateboarding. What I almost never see, surprisingly enough, is reporting on those whom society often brands as the most ethically devoid -- the lawyers.

Our legal system is complicated, and its intricacies and procedures are generally more than the layperson can handle. This fact has its ups and downs. On the one hand, it keeps a lot of frivolous lawsuits from ever finding their way into a courtroom; but on the other hand, a lot of legitimate cases are never heard because the attached dollar value isn't high enough to attract the attention of a lawyer to represent the damaged party. That is a problem in and of itself, but of far greater concern is when the lawyers, for whom the matter of finding capable representation is not an issue, bring frivolous lawsuits against the layperson, using their knowledge of the legal system to exploit those who do not have the benefit of a law degree.

Recently, a friend of mine -- we'll call him "JP" -- had just this experience. The dispute started over a surfboard, custom made using a unique manufacturing process developed by JP. The price tag was $1500 (a steal of a deal, considering what the buyer was getting), plus $200 for delivery. The buyer got the board and was happy to write that $1700 check, as he knew he was getting a lot more than $1700 worth of 'stoke' from his new toy. After a few weeks and several surf sessions on the new board, the buyer sends an email to JP complaining about some damage done by the buyer! Having no responsibility to do anything, but being a stand-up guy and wanting his customers to be happy, JP made a very generous offer to the buyer -- (1) to make a new board and exchange it for the board the customer damaged; (2) to buy back the damaged board for $1500; or (3) to have the board repaired locally at JP's expense. The buyer really loved the board and wanted to keep it, so he jumped at option #3. JP located a local surfboard repairer with a good reputation and paid him $200 to repair the damaged board. Unfortunately, that individual then outsourced the job to another repair person, whose work was sub-par. The buyer picked up the repaired board and inspected it prior to accepting the board, but then complained to JP that the repair was inadequate. JP again offered to buy back the board for the full $1500 (even after having just spent $200 out of his own pocket on the repair), but apparently that wasn't good enough -- the buyer wanted $1700. He sent JP a series of lovely emails, first threatening his reputation, and ending with a nice rant of name-calling and profane suggestions.

Where does the sleazy lawyer element come into play? Well, it just so happens that the buyer's wife is a member of the California Bar. Her name is Jill Hunt, and she is currently practicing at the Irvine, CA law firm of Keller, Weber & Dobrott. The quality of her practice is apparent by the fact that she works at a law firm that consists of only four attorneys, three of whom are named partners, and she isn't one of them. It also helps to explain why she doesn't mind her husband's frivolous if not downright abusive claim increasing her caseload. Regardless, they filed a lawsuit against JP for "breach of contract," claiming that JP failed to deliver a "surfable board" as promised. Now, given that the buyer damaged the board after surfing on it repeatedly and still was so happy with that exact board that he elected to have it repaired rather than replaced or refunded when he damaged it, how could any rational person possibly give an ounce of weight to this ridiculous claim?! Clearly, this action was filed hoping that JP would just settle to make it go away, and while JP is a man of principle and would happily have fought this to the bitter end, he was even more concerned with the thought that, even after JP won the case, this individual would still retain ownership of the board that JP lovingly made. JP didn't want this person, or anyone like him, riding a board that he so painstakingly crafted by hand and sweat, and so he sent a check for $1700 and made arrangements to have a friend pick up the board. The law firm promptly cashed the check, but weeks went by when JP made repeated attempts to contact Jill Hunt about picking up the board and received no response . . . Until today, when JP received an email from saying that she will not return the board or drop the case until he now pays her an additional $260 for "legal fees and costs."

Jill Hunt -- you are an embarrassment to everyone who has ever practiced law anywhere; and both you and your husband to the human race as a whole. To borrow a most eloquent line from your husband's last email to JP -- "go f--k yourself!"