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The Purple Cow: How I Sued A Spammer in Oregon from Virginia
My Cases
 Dec 2002
   - PrintPal

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  1. Received Spam from PrintPal
  2. I received 58 spams for PrintPal.com over a 1 year period. They are all stored in a mail folder.
  3. Contacted PrintPal to Settle
  4. I first sent a letter and a fax to PrintPal asking them to settle the suit. 58 unsolicited bulk email transmissions at $10 per email == $580. No response.
  5. Contacted PrintPal's Registered Agent to Settle
  6. Faxed a settlement request for $580 to PrintPal's registered agent. Called twice to follow up. They said that they were not liable because they did not send the emails, but someone sent them for them. They are wrong, but that is OK, because I will sue them and win.
  7. Filed Small Claims Suit in Fairfax County General District Court
  8. I went to the FCGDC Small Claims window and got two forms: Warrant In Debt and an Affidavit for Service of Process On the Secretary Of The Commonwealth. The first is to file your case. $24 bucks and you are in. I filed under 18.2-152.12B, Unsolicited Bulk Electronic Mail Transmission. See the Paperwork
    Claim:
    $580 net of any credits, with interest at --n/a--% from --n/a-- until paid.
    $43 costs with the basis of this claim being
    [ ] Open Account [ ] Contract [ ] Note [X] Other (EXPLAIN) 18.2-152.12B
    58 counts unsolicited bulk electronic mail messages

    HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION WAIVED? [ ] YES [ ] NO [ ] cannot be determined
    October 22, 2002     Peter Beckman
    Date             [X] Plaintiff [ ] Plaintiff's Employee
    I also filled out the Affidavit for Out-Of-State Defendant.
    Attachments: [X] Warrant [ ] Motion for Judgment [ ] Garnishment Summons [ ]    
    I, the undersigned Affiant, state under oath that:
    [X] the above-named defendant [ ]      
    whose last known address is: [X] same as above [ ]      

    1. [X] is a non-resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia or a foreign corporation and Virginia Code 8.01-328.1(A) 3
    applies (see NON-RESIDENCE GROUNDS REQUIREMENT on reverse).
    2. [ ] is a person whom the party seeking service, after exercising due diligence, has been unable to locate (see DUE DILIGENCE REQUIREMENT ON BACK) and that is the return date on the attached warrant, motion for judgment or notice (see TIMELY SERVICE REQUIREMENT on reverse).
  9. Paid Fees
  10. $24 to file the case, $19 to serve warrant out of state. Paid and filed on October 29, 2002. I have to wait about 6 weeks (out of state notice requirement) so my court date is December 6, 2002, 9:30am.
  11. Proof of Notice of Summons Delivered
  12. Received the Certified Mail Return part. Signed by Jill Jones on November 12, 2002 and received by me on November 16, 2002.
  13. My day in Court!
  14. I arrived on December 6, 2002, promptly at 9:23am, 7 minutes before things started. A mediator stood up before the judge arrived and told us that their services were there if we wanted them, but if the defendant didn't show, they couldn't help. My plaintiff was nowhere to be found. The went through 39 cases, checking to see who was there, and who didn't show at all. There were 3 cases that had no defendant but had the plaintiff (my case), 3 more that had both the plaintiff and defendant, 3 others that were mediated, and the other 30 were either dropped or continued.

    I was the second ex-parte (no other party) case. I stood up, explained to the judge how the plaintiff sent me 58 unsolicited bulk electronic messages, and that I was entitled to $580 statutory damages plus court costs (and any lawyer fees, though I didn't claim any). All 58 of the messages contained "false or forged" routing information. I could have claimed actual damages had I wanted, up to $25,000 per day, but the bandwidth plus the disk space didn't get up to $580, so I took the statutory limit (the amount you can sue in VA under the law, see Spamlaws.com).

    Judgment was mine!

  15. Waiting for the Judgment
  16. Unfortunately, you don't immediately get your judgment. You have to wait 10 days to allow the plaintiff to file an appeal. Well, it's been 10 days today (December 16th, 2002), so it's time to start the collections process. As far as I know, I have a few options.
    • One is sell the judgment to a debt collection agency (DCA henceforth). The great thing is that the DCA can put the judgment on the company's (or individual's) credit report! That rules. Think of 100 pending judgments on a spammers credit report.
    • Another is to go through the court system. You can file a lien, or even a motion of discovery so you can get their bank information so you can attach their assets and effectively freeze their cash until they pay you. However, first you have to get it in your state (another $43 or so), then you have to get it into the court system in the state the spammer does business (more money, under $100 I think). I don't think you HAVE to actually be in the state to get this to happen, but it sounds a little bureaucratic, so I'm avoiding it for now.
    • My idea is to start calling banks nearby the HQ for the spammer and requesting if they have sufficient funds in their account. They need to verify by name of business, since I can call and ask if the company has enough funds for a check. True, I don't have a check, but maybe it will work, and I'll know what bank they bank at. Then I fax them a certified copy of the judgment (or mail), and hopefully they attach the bank account and freeze it until the judgment is satisfied! We'll see.
  17. Received Judgment
  18. Upon receiving my judgment against Printpal, I faxed and mailed a copy of the judgment and this cover letter to the owner and Registered Agent. This was after I got back from Christmas vacation, about January 3, 2003.
  19. Legal Response from Piggyback.com, Inc Law Firm
  20. They respond! Unfortunately it is not yet with a check. Here's what they say:
    January 9, 2003 (received January 14, 2003)

    Lee A. Mills
    Brophy, Mills, Schmor, Gerking, and Brophy LLP
    201 WEST MAIN STREET Suite 5A
    Medford, Oregon 97501
    (541) 772-7123

    Dear Mr. Beckman:

    Our firm represents Printpal, Inc., regarding the judgment you have registered in Virginia. The company did not defend the judgment in Virginia only because of the economics involved, as I am sure you are aware. However, the company not only denies liability, but believes that Virginia was not the appropriate forum to have this case heard, and therefore any attempt to register the judgment in Oregon will be met by an attack on the judgment as being void because of lack of jurisdiction.

    It's a load of BULL! I'll do some more research on it, write a response, demand payment, etc. They must have spent about $600 bucks in legal bills just pulling my chain, and they'll still have to pay me in the end! Doesn't that suck Mike Comish? Actually, Mike is a decent guy from the time I've spent with him on the phone, and Printpal is a decent business; I just don't ever want to get unsolicited bulk email from them (or anyone else) again.
  21. Judgment handed over to Dunn & Bradstreet Collections
  22. I got sick of waiting for Printpal to pay, so I've handed the judgment to Dunn & Bradstreet collections. Nothing yet, we'll see what happens. THEY MUST PAY!
  23. Call to Lee A. Mills of Brophy, Mills, Schmor et al
  24. Just talked to Lee A. Mills on 6/23/2003. He says that they hired the companies that sent the spam to me as independent contractors, and because of that they aren't responsible nor liable for the spam that those independent contractors sent on behalf of PrintPal/PiggyBack. Lee actually explained it to me like this: "If you hired an independent contractor to work on your house, and they dropped a board on a passerby, the passerby would sue the contractor, not you." OK Mister So-Called Lawyer man -- I don't benefit from the board being dropped on the passerby's head. Now if I told the contractor to drop the board on the passerby's head, sure, the contractor could be sued, but so could I. I like my example better: "If I hired an independent contractor to build me a house, and I told them to make it X big, and when they were done the house was 5 feet over the property line, my neighbor would sue me, not the contractor." Either way, they are stupid examples; they are trying to avoid admitting that the suit that I won against them met both personal and subject matter jurisdiction, and that an Oregon court would uphold the judgment.

    So they still haven't paid, they are giving D&B the run-around, and they are using stupid analogies. Either Lee A. Mills is really inexpensive, or they are scared to death of losing this fight, because I must have cost them at least $1,000 in lawyer fees by now.

  25. Lee A. Mills of Brophy, Mills, Schmor, Gerking & Brophy, LLP makes a glaring error
  26. So a few days ago (like 7/5/2003) I got a letter from D&B Collections saying that PrintPal contests the claim. See their letter.

    Notice that they say "West Virginia." Ummm, well folks, it's pretty clear to see from the VIRGINIA WARRANT IN DEBT form that has been sent to printpal and this lawyer several times that the suit was filed in Virginia, not West Virginia.

    Holy Crap. Is Printpal actually paying for this representation? How do you make such a glaring error? Man. Maybe it was the secretary, but geez. Check your work!!! I've written back to D&B telling them that the state is Virginia, not West Virginia (which they repeat twice -- hilarious). I just feel bad for the clients of Brophy, Mills, Schmor, Gerking & Brophy, LLP -- this is truly a sad day for them.

    I wonder how much it cost Printpal just to have Lee send that letter. $100? $200? It's laughable. I'm hoping to drag this out as long as possible, until I decide to take a vacation in Oregon. Whee!

  27. Time to Register the Judgment in Oregon
  28. 12/30/2003 -- D&B, for all their usefulness, are boneheads. First they try and collect. Then they hand it to a lawyer in Ohio. Ohio. Right. The lawyer in Ohio says it doesn't make monetary sense to file a lawsuit. YOU MORONS! I filed the lawsuit and won! A judgment already exists! Collect the judgment! Ugh. So D&B was about to mark my claim "Not Collectable" when I called all pissed off, telling them they needed an Oregon lawyer to register the judgment in Oregon so that they could attach assets. I went down to the General District Court today and got what they call a Triple Seal -- basically three signatures saying that the judgment is valid in Virigina, so that Oregon will accept it and allow my lawyers to attach PrintPal assets to the judgment until they pay up! The law rocks.
  29. A payment forthcoming?!?
  30. April 2, 2009 -- A gentleman by the name of Tim Redmond came across my site a few years back, mentioning that he did Judgement Collections in Oregon (and now most any other states, contact him for details), and would be happy to take my case. I was skeptical, as always, and replied back. He was friendly and helpful, and I thought "I'm gonna try this guy out."

    Only took me two years to finally get the paperwork notarized and mailed back... I suck. Anyway, got an email from Tim today:

        Peter,
        JP Morgan Chase says they mailed the check today...full amount.
        PrintPal called me in shock on the twenty fourth. I think, since I hit them
        on Friday, some payroll checks may have bounced.
        Let you know when it comes.
        Tim
        
    What? 3 weeks later you got the check?!? Man, if I ever have another judgment to recover in Oregon, I'm calling Sound Judgment Recovery and Tim Redmond first!!! Wow. I kinda hope he recorded the phone call from PrintPal... hehe

    So I'm thrilled. Unfortunately the law firm that Dunn & Bradstreet got for us were worthless at closing the case, but they attached their costs to the judgment, so they get paid too. I'll never use Dunn & Bradstreet again though. They found a small lawyer who got the judgment registered in Oregon, but nothing after that.

    So Tim, here's to you my man. I may not get the full judgment myself, but having this saga over, and soon getting my check will be reward enough! I'll post the check as soon as I get it.

    I've matured over the years, and I'm more even tempered about all this. Reading back I seem a bit angry and vindictive and kind of mean-spirited about it all. I've matured, if only slightly. I'm willing to bet PrintPal actually sells a good product, since they are still in business 7 years later. I assume Mike Comish is a nice guy, just running a business. I secretly hope that no payroll checks did actually bounce at PrintPal. But in the end, PrintPal decided to hire a marketing firm that broke the law in Virginia, I sued and won, and 7 years later the issue is finally being settled. I've got no regrets, and I harbor no ill will towards PrintPal, Mike Comish or anyone over yonder in Oregon.

  31. Settlement Complete: USD $623.54
  32. April 7, 2009 -- SUCCESS!!! After more than 6 years, the Judgment is fulfilled. Tim Redmond is the man.


If you want to talk to me about any of this, email me! beckman at angryox dot com.


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