Legal Question in Credit and Debt Law in North Carolina

Stop Payment on Check

I sold a dog to a lady in SC but met her halfway which was in NC and she only paid for half. After several attempts to collect she said she didn't want the dog anymore so I agreed to come back to the place of exchange and refund her money for the dog. She did not show up. I then called the sherriff of the county where she lived and they accompanied me to her house to get the dog. I gave her the hundred dollars in cash that she gave me but she then insisted that I owed her $25 for feeding the dog. I wrote her a check because the sherriff said I could not take possesion of the dog unless I satisfied her so I wrote a check and when returning home stopped payment on the check. She is now trying to take action against me with a certified letter saying I now owe her $50 ($25 service fee) and if I don't pay within 10 days she will take action.I think that I have a good case because I drove 1 1/2 hours the 1st time she agreed to met me and 1 1/2 back and then drove 3 hours there and 3 hours back to retrieve the dog. I also have vet bills because the dog was sick when I regained possesion. I do not want to have to drive to court in SC but want to know if she can be sued for the money this has cost me? There was nothing in writing.

Asked on 1/04/02, 10:33 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

John Kirby Law Offices of John M. Kirby

Re: Stop Payment on Check

I don't have a clear answer, but I'll add a few more thoughts. The first issue is whether she can sue you in South Carolina; i.e., do the Courts of SC have "personal jurisdiction" over you. Based on the facts you have presented, that is not clear. The initial transaction was arguably insufficient to subject you to jurisdiction there, as the transfer was made in NC. The subsequent transaction, however, may have had enough SC ties to give SC jurisdiction over you, and hence there is a very good chance that a SC court could exercise jurisdiction over you, and hence a Judgment obtained in SC would probably be valid in NC.

As for the merits of the transaction, it seems that initially you and she mutually agreed to rescind the deal, and you were going to give her her $$ back for the dog; i.e. there is not presented a "breach" of contract with respect to the sale of the dog. The dispute arose when she wanted an extra $25 for feeding the dog. Assuming that you had not "breached" your contract (e.g., by giving her a sich dog ), then she probably had no right to insist on the $25 for feeding. Therefore, if she simply sued you for the $25 for feeding, assuming you did not give her a "bad dog," I would think you would win, with some room for argument. The problem I foresee for you, however, is that you may have exposed yourself to liability by the manner in which you obtained the dog -- i.e. the writing of the check. I am concerned that the check could be seen as a concession of liability, or an "accord and satisfaction" of some sort, obligating you to the payment regardless of the underlying dispute. As a practical matter, the Courts can generally be expected to frown upon this practice (writing a check with an intention of not paying it). This might even constitute a crime (e.g. obtaining property by false pretenses). Ideally, perhaps you should have returned to NC with your $100 and sans the dog, although certainly that was not a pleasant prospect under the circumstances. Also, stopping payment could have other consequences, such as a penalty or the imposition of attorneys fees, which probably depends on SC law (as the check-writing was done in SC, my best guess is that SC law would apply to that transaction). So, my impression is that you have some real risk. Regarding your counter-claims (or offsets), I am not persuaded based on the facts you have presented. I am not sure you can prove that the vet bills are necessarily related to any breach or negligence by her. I do not see that your driving time and expense are recoverable, as you had apparently agreed to those losses, and I'm not sure how they're linked to any breach or negligence by her. So, I don't have any 'good news' for you. As the other responder noted, you may need a SC lawyer. But considering the small amount in controversy, you might be well advised to pay her the $50, or try to negotiate it.

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Answered on 1/06/02, 10:09 pm

James Weeks Law Office of James B Weeks

Re: Stop Payment on Check

your case would be in the form of a counterclaim to offset her claim

If she files her claim in SC, you would have to file the c/claim in SC and would need a SC atty because I am not licensed in SC

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Answered on 1/04/02, 7:17 pm

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