My small cheese & wine business inadvertently, but voluntarily paid $9300 worth of invoices over a 13-month period for wine that was neither ordered, nor delivered. The wine "vendor" replied to a letter we wrote to him stating that the company is no longer in business, & he is now based in Hong Kong. However, we have two apparently active addresses & 'phone numbers for him in Southern California. What kind of recourse do we have? Where do we begin?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Depending on additional facts, you are probably entitled to get the money back. Whether you will be able to get it back is another question. The "apparently active addresses & phone numbers" suggest that he still has a presence in California, but do not prove it.
He may be in the process of shutting down some operations, which means it is important for you to act quickly. You can seek a California judgment even if he really is in Hong Kong now, but enforcing the judgment in Hong Kong might cost more than it's worth.
The amount at stake is small enough that you can bring a small claims case. Lawyers aren't allowed in small claims court, so at least it won't cost you much to sue. You can opt to sue in Superior Court instead if you prefer. Depending on the facts, that may be wise. If you want to start with a demand letter from a lawyer, you should engage one quickly. And if you are a corporation or other entity, you will need a lawyer to represent you in any Superior Court case.
Note that you may have signed a contract with the "vendor" which limits your rights and/or affects your position in other ways. Even if you don't want a lawyer to represent you, it may be wise to have one review the file for you and explain your options.
If you want a lawyer to go into the Superior Court you will need a civil litigation attorney, not a criminal defense attorney.
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