Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Man sued for $30K over $40 printer he sold on Craigslist (usatoday.com)
250 points by uptown on June 6, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 219 comments

Under a sensible legal system, this is a crime. It's called "barratry": filing baseless lawsuits in order to harass or to extract a settlement. In most US jurisdictions, however, it's not legally recognized as a crime, and so it's widespread. From a defendant's point of view, however, it's basically equivalent to getting mugged.

It's usually called vexatious litigation, and many jurisdictions have list of vexatious litigants, whose filings go through a special judicial review before being accepted into the system:


How has this asshat not been declared a 'vexatious litigant' by some court? There's a legal process to deal with people who file an exceptionally larger volume of repeated bullshit lawsuits.

He has. I believe this lawsuit predates the official judgment.


This fellow came up with some innovative stuff to perpetuate his nasty way of life:

"One example, the court noted, is Zavodnik's penchant for making filings under often "bewilderingly lengthy titles" such as:

"Appellant's Verified Motion to Compel the Clerk of the Trial Court to Provide the Entire Record as Opposed to the Partial Record and to Extend Time for Brief to Be Filed Due to the Fact that the Appellant Does Not Have the Full Certified Record and the Record Needs to Be Complete and Fixed (Which Will Require Time) Because of the Clerk's Error in Providing Only a Partial Record or Alternatively to Relinquish Jurisdiction Back to the Trial Court by Mandating It to Fix the Record (the CCS) and to Provide the Court of Appeals and the Parties with the Corrected Full and Complete Fixed Record or Alternatively to Order the Clerk of this Court to Fix the CCS and to Provide the Complete Record or Alternatively to Allow the Appellant to Use His Own CCS Printed out by Him from the Odyssey Website."

The rambling titles burden court personnel and opposing parties and other attorneys, who must struggle with Zavodnik's filings."

If you think that's amazing, check this out:


Hmm my money is on him moving to a different state and picking up there.

Barratry does exist in the US. It's just not enforced at all and considered a misdemeanor in most states. When you look at how long it took for Jack Thompson to be disbarred it's obvious that the real problem is the lack of any accountability in a system wholly run by lawyers.

Which "sensible legal system[s]" are these, and which ones punish plaintiffs for it rather than lawyers?

Edit: I originally said "punish defendants", but meant plaintiffs.

Or judges? I would want to sue the judge that awarded $30,000 for an allegedly broken printer.

Edit: Found this article from Sep. 2014. [0]

"The [Indiana] state high court, in an order issued Tuesday, called Zavodnik 'a prolific, abusive litigant' and put him on notice. In the unanimous ruling, the five justices warned the Ukraine-born U.S. citizen that he 'can expect any further abusive litigation practices ... to be met with appropriate sanctions and restrictions.'"

0: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2014/10/01/enoughs-enough...

The problem is that it seems that the judge made the legally correct determination, and that the majority of judges understand that this type of suit is ridiculous, but they have no tools to stop it.

> The problem is that it seems that the judge made the legally correct determination,

Judges are supposed to use some digression. I doubt very much that the litigants losses for a $40 printer are $30K. Especially since he conveniently lost the printer.

I just don't believe that there are any laws which require the judge to (a) decide in the litigants favor with zero supporting evidence, and (b) allow $30K in damages for a $40 printer.

FTA, the court of appeals pretty much stated the above The $30,000 in damages "had no basis in reality," Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

I'm left wondering why anyone supports a position which the judges describe as having no basis in reality.

As quoted, "Edens acknowledged the amount is "seemingly high" and the judgment "may seem extreme for the breach of contract for the purchase of a printer." But he wrote that he's constrained by how the Supreme Court had previously interpreted a state trial rule, called Rule 36, which sets the 30-day deadline for responding to requests for admissions."

Arent such notices supposed to be handed in person via a process server? How could the person be held liable for a default judgement without being personally handed court documents?

suggested edit: s/digression/discretion/

> Judges are supposed to use some digression.

Yes, and they do, however sometimes their hands are tied. In this case by rule 36 of a series of peer approved rules which states what action the judge in this case has to take. When submitted to appeal the judges who passed the rules then said the ruling "had no basis in reality" about their own rules, hopefully they will fix them and/or future judges will use this as precedent to in cases like this.

This part of the system is functioning correctly, it's the ridiculous litigation from pro-se plaintiffs that's at fault. Most jurisdictions have an equivalent to spam filter that passes down criminal charges on people who act like this.

> The problem is that it seems that the judge made the legally correct determination, and that the majority of judges understand that this type of suit is ridiculous, but they have no tools to stop it.

If they had the tools to stop it, and chose to use them based on their determination rather than the "rules" (no matter how nonsensical they be), we'd be throwing a fit about activist judges legislating from the bench.

The separation of powers is there for a reason and it's not the judiciary that needs to solve this.

Perhaps someone could tell me what happens exactly to a judge that goes against the law in a case like this? If it goes to a higher court and what he has done is overturned what is exactly the practical significance of that? In other words the "my hands are tied" how valid is that in terms of what actually does happen as opposed to what theoretically can happen?

Sometimes judges do go against the law or at least make a legally ambiguous ruling. That is what appeals courts are for.

It wasn't legally correct, at least in the opinion of the appeals court which, as the article states, ultimately reversed the $30,000 award.

The majority of judges understand that this type of suit gives them incredible power relative to the average person, and work in a way that preserves their power.

He represents himself, there is no lawyer to punish.

He acts as his own lawyer in the 123 meritless lawsuits he has filed since 2008. He probably couldn't afford to pay lawyers for this even if anyone would take the case.

The concept is far from obsolete, but the use of the word barratry implies a body of law that for the most has vanished from use.

In most sensible common law jurisdictions being a common barrator was a common law offence; most such jurisdictions have allowed common law offences to fall into disuse, and many have outright abolished effectively all of them in favour of codified criminal statutes.

There is statutory relief available against litigious harassment in most such jurisdictions, either directly in the criminal code, or in the statutes controlling the bodies that regulate the legal profession. Additionally, the codification of rules of practice in litigation also controls what litigants without professionally regulated representation may do without facing their case being struck out on application by the counterparty. There is also often statutory relief against baseless litigation (such as you might find in SLAPP).

The bar for a successful prosecution against egregious litigators is quite high because it is a non-strict-liability criminal offence; you have to prove intent as well as action. For single isolated cases that may have some surface merit, it is easier to get the trial court to strike out the case, or to arrive at an early judgement with costs consequences. If the prima facie vexatious party continues litigation courts are generally empowered to consider indemnity orders on costs (which turns on accelerated interest on all the costs payable by that party) and to require costs deposits (where the prima facie vexatious party must leave with the court the costs that will cover the litigation expenses of the other party on the grounds that an adverse costs order is probable), and finally courts are also generally empowered to make interim costs orders in especially bad cases, wherein the prima facie vexatious party must pay some of the other party's costs before final judgment (this is to avoid a rich vexatious litigator from forcing an adverse settlement upon a party that is likely to ultimately prevail).

Finally, there is usually a modern distinction drawn between a compulsive claimant (who is probably mentally ill) and a vexatious one (who usually targets one or a small group of defendants).

The law in England and Wales offer several means of dealing with both.

As one example, the Civil Rules of Procedure rule 3.1 and Practice Direction 3A allow a district court to impose a civil restraint order on litigants that tightly controls what they may do in the remainder of the current proceedings, or for a period of time in any district court, or generally in the courts of England and Wales. CROs require people served with them to apply in writing to a court before making various applications or claims, and if permission is not obtained, the application or claim is automatically dismissed (with costs consequences).

In issuing CROs courts will generally consider, among other things, the tendency of a subject to engage in frequent litigation, the manner in which litigation is undertaken, the subject's responsiveness to the courts and the other parties during the course of the litigation, whether litigation is being needlessly and wilfully prolonged, and the effect that the litigation has upon the defendant or defendants.

Alternatively, the Attorney-General (of England and Wales), a member of the government, may apply to a High Court for an order under the Senior Courts Act to declare a litigant vexatious. This applies in all courts -- not just district ones -- and may further require a claimant or applicant to seek permission from the Ministry of Justice as well as the Court. A list of people who have had such orders made against them is here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vexatious-litigants

Few of these people would have been convictable as barrators under the pre-1967 common law definition; and additionally a few of those on this list whose orders date back before 1967 likely would have been the subjects of district court CROs instead.

Most of them, on the other hand, suffer from intractable -- or worse, untreated -- mental illness. :-(

Finally, bringing a ridiculously large claim in England and Wales cannot be done in the district courts, and the High Courts will generally quickly reject -- with costs consequences -- claims that are on their face too large for the damages particularized in the statement of claim. In England and Wales, district courts are used for claims under £10 000. "Go back to a district court and get on the small claims track as you cannot prove the money value in your claim of £millions" is a very expensive order to receive from a High Court, and that is almost certainly what the claimant in the case in the article would have to overcome.

Two thoughts:

1. The plaintiff exploited a loophole in the Indiana small claims rule regarding "res judicata," which normally acts to prevent a party from re-litigating a decided matter.

[The rule states](http://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/small_claims/), "A judgment shall be res judicata only as to the amount involved in the particular action and shall not be considered an adjudication of any fact at issue in any other action or court.

So the plaintiff lost a $6,000 claim in small claims, but somehow he was not barred from bringing claims in superior court on the same set of facts for a larger amount of money. I think the judge should have seen through this...

2. Requests for admission are the most abused discovery tools in modern litigation. There is no limit on the number of requests for admission. They are designed to streamline and focus areas of dispute, but hyperactive litigants are always trying to sneak case-killer facts into them to get "admitted" either by accident or failure to respond, the latter of which happened here.

My guess, and i'm honestly a bit lazy to find the filings, is that he changed the claims slightly.

I think the article says he added additional claims to the second lawsuit, but they all flow from the same set of facts/transaction, it should be Res Judicata. Odds are Defendant can Vacate the Judgment on:

1. Improper Service of Process; and/or 2. Defenses on the Merits, including, Res Judicata.

Assuming the Defendant can establish Plaintiff knowingly obtained default based on improper service, and show Plaintiff knew or should have known the claims weren't supported by fact or law the Defense should recoup their fees on the Motion to Vacate Default Judgment through sanctions.

>The printer's buyer was Gersh Zavodnik, a 54-year-old Indianapolis man known to many in the legal community as a frequent lawsuit filer who also represents himself in court. The Indiana Supreme Court said the "prolific, abusive litigant" has brought dozens of lawsuits against individuals and businesses, often asking for astronomical damages...Zavodnik, a native of Ukraine who moved to the United States in 1987 under a grant of political asylum, sued Costello, accusing him of falsely advertising a malfunctioning printer with missing parts, and pocketing Zavodnik's money

This is absolutely ridiculous.

Is anyone familiar with the legal system enough to know how we can help out his current victim or (legally) bring an end to this smug conman's thievery? Could public opinion or data that tells a compelling story help?

'Special Judge J. Jeffrey Edens' is damage in the legal process that I'm sure can be routed around and this story is ripe for the media.

Not that it will help this particular individual at this time, unfortunately, but check out this Ask HN I posted yesterday about crowdfunding lawsuits, still on Ask front page: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11842051

>bring an end to this smug conman's thievery

If the courts declare him a "vexatious litigant", he'd have a much harder time filing these suits.

If I'm reading correctly, the key bit is:


Because Costello did not respond to all three requests for admissions within 30 days of receiving them, and did not ask for an extension of time, as required by Indiana trial rules, Costello admitted to the liabilities and damages by default. He also did not appear at a July 2013 hearing, according to court records.

Costello said he never received the requests for admissions and was not notified of the hearing.


If Costello just ignored these requests for some reason, maybe thinking they'd go away or whatever, that this is kind of on him.

If, though, Zavodnik has figured out a way to serve people requests without them actually knowing about it... Well, that seems like a much larger legal loophole that needs closing.

But without digging into this, the whole article falls apart. If someone sues you and you don't respond, you risk a default judgment against you.

>If, though, Zavodnik has figured out a way to serve people requests without them actually knowing about it... Well, that seems like a much larger legal loophole that needs closing.

Not likely the case. The rules of civil procedure establish the various methods of lawful service of process, as a result there are a lot of safe guards. In fact, it is more likely a Plaintiff's lawsuit is dismissed for failing to properly serve the Defendant within the proper amount of time after filing suit than actually collecting on a default judgment where there was improper service of process.

In this particular case, if the Defendant can show the Complaint and admissions were improperly served, and the Plaintiff knew or should have known his claims were not supported by fact, he could be sanctioned, including, but not limited to: a) all the legal fees it took the defendant to vacate the default judgment; and b) a dismissal of the plaintiffs lawsuit.

>If someone sues you and you don't respond, you risk a default judgment against you.

Definitely. Plaintiffs can also establish to the Court the Defendant is actively evading service, but there are many legitimate reasons one can't serve a Defendant. Still, even in the event of defaults the Courts will readily Vacate (set aside) default judgments in circumstances including, but not limited to: 1. improper service; and/or 2. defenses on the merits.

I don't know, my buddy works as a Process Server, and I can imagine lots of situations where the person never actually receives the paperwork.

He only has to try to serve the papers a few times, and then can leave them. If the defendant were out town for a few weeks, he would never get it. He doesn't have to check ID, so someone could say they were the person, he would hand it over, and be done with it. That person might never hand the papers to the right person.

I don't think assuming papers served always get to the right person is a fair assumption.

I think I addressed most of your concerns:

> Plaintiffs can also establish to the Court the Defendant is actively evading service, but there are many legitimate reasons one can't serve a Defendant. Still, even in the event of defaults the Courts will readily Vacate (set aside) default judgments in circumstances including, but not limited to: 1. improper service; and/or 2. defenses on the merits.

>I don't think assuming papers served always get to the right person is a fair assumption.

It is a fair assumption, because that is what the rules require, and your friend or any other process server must sign an affidavit under oath and penalty of perjury for the exact steps they took to serve a party. Now assumptions be damn, you are right service won't always be done properly, but I mention safeguards such as a Motion to Vacate Default Judgments for lack of proper service.

>He doesn't have to check ID, so someone could say they were the person, he would hand it over, and be done with it. That person might never hand the papers to the right person.

Because you used right person you may or may not be acknowledging the fact that the actual party (defendant) in not necessarily the right person to serve or the only person who can be served to qualify as valid service of process. For example, if I sue a company I don't generally serve the company I serve their Registered Agent (ironically from time to time the Registered Agent is the same company as the defendant); more generally I can serve anyone residing at the defendants residence who is over 15 years old (FL rule); or I can serve a defendant's employer instead of the defendant.

I am not arguing any of your points. I am just saying that the legal requirements for serving papers can be met, and the person could still not have known about any of it.

I mean, the simplest example is, "What if someone is traveling in another country for 2 months?"

From the judgement (http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/05231602nhv.pdf):

"More fundamentally, the plaintiff in General Motors Corp. did not ask the defendant to admit liability 400, 4000, or 8000 times greater than the amount originally in dispute, as Zavodnik did here. Zavodnik’s misuse of Rule 36 is plain. He did not send requests claiming $30,000 and $300,000 and $600,000 in damages because he believes those figures are legally justified and thought Costello might agree; he sent them because he hoped Costello would not respond, rendering the matters admitted by operation of Rule 36. An important purpose of the rule is to more quickly and efficiently reach a resolution based on the actual facts; Zavodnik used the rule as a way to avoid such a resolution. The trial court’s partial denial of Costello’s motion to withdraw served to ratify Zavodnik’s blatant abuse of the rule."

Zavodnik was using these admission of discovery as a weapon. Note that these are not suits themselves; Zavodnik is clearly trying to abuse corners of the legal system for his own benefit. It's unrealistic to assume a lay-person will know the full legal ramifications of such things, particularly after already winning a case related to the matter. The most recent judge recognizes this, disagrees with you, and has overturned these admissions.

> If someone sues you and you don't respond, you risk a default judgment against you.

There are entire companies set up with the purpose of suing people who don't respond. They purposefully use bad law to operate these mills, and absolutely no one seems to actually care. Google pocket filing[1] if you want to see those that abuse this the most.

In my state serving someone (for small claims) is simply tossing a first class letter in the mail (no tracking or registration required) to the "last known" address. Well, last known address is trivial to game - just pull a credit report send that letter to an address you know they no longer live at and attest to the judge you did your best. Or send them something that looks very much like spam mail, so hopefully they don't even open it and toss it into the trash.

When you create massive incentives to cheat what outcome do you expect to get? Legally serving someone without them knowing is trivial, and I'd argue becoming the normal default behavior for petty litigants like debt collection lawsuit mills.

There are zillions of ways around process serving, from petty little games like the above all the way down to hiring corrupt process servers. The latter almost always get away with it, and I've literally recorded them tossing paperwork in the trash without ever knocking on my door while attesting to the court I was properly served. The court seemed to think this was completely normal and didn't blink an eye.

Basically process serving is entirely broken and relies on the plaintiff serving you being an 'officer of the court' who would never even think about doing anything illegal or immoral! Literally that is the sole protection most defendants get - a piece of paper submitted to the court that someone really really totally served you - honest, and they are double-dog dare you not lying, promise! This piece of paper is treated as gospel by judges, even when you have video evidence showing otherwise.

My few experiences with the American legal system basically have shown me the entire process is designed around corruption and getting "free" judgments outside of court by intimidation/shady tactics around having you lose on a technicality before you even show up. Once in court if you have money to defend yourself you generally do alright - but good luck getting there when the entire system is designed to keep you out of court and ensure you are at a disadvantage before you even start.

1: http://caveatemptorblog.com/647/minnesota-is-a-friendly-stat...

> The latter almost always get away with it, and I've literally recorded them tossing paperwork in the trash without ever knocking on my door while attesting to the court I was properly served

Jesus christ, what kind of life do you lead?!? I'd be terrified to even be served once, let alone to feel it necessary to set up a sting to uncover a conspiracy between process servers and evil litigants. Hope you manage to stay sane and safe!

Haha, I had an interesting few years I'd like to sometimes forget... But it was certainly an eye opening experience into the inner workings of this system.

And just a security camera the process server didn't notice :)

That's assuming Zavodnik sent the requests via certified, registered mail. Zavodnik could have easily scribbled the address in unreadable gibberish and slapped a simple 1st class stamp on, in which case they would never have actually been delivered. Costello claims he never received anything.

Wouldn't the onus be on Zavodnik to prove he sent the documents by registered mail?

Since the opposite would be entirely impossible to prove (that Costello did not receive any mail), it certainly would be on Zavodnik to prove they were sent and received.

This is what the whole "You've been served" process is about.

That is if he wanted those delivered. I think the idea was he didn't because he wanted to get the default judgement.

Whether he wanted them delivered or not, the legal system should require proof on behalf of the server that the person being served was served correctly. Basic first class mail should never suffice.

It should but it doesn't obviously. Perhaps a video recording of delivery and asking for a signature should be required. Obviously some defendants could just start running away and refuse to sign, thus delaying the lawsuit forever. But also throwing the packet of paper in a mail with a stamp or dropping it on the front porch while yelling "you've been served" is also not quite cutting it. Something in the middle is needed.

You do realize that rules around this already exist, right? For example, in california: https://www.serve-now.com/resources/process-serving-laws/cal...

and here in california, my anecdote entails me learning via first class mail that there's about to be a judgement entered against me because I failed to respond to papers I never received, because the plaintiff had apparently served them to an old address of mine (probably intentionally by this shady lawyer filing the small claims suit against me).

Parties cannot be represented by attorneys in small claims court in California[1]. Unless the person suing you was the "shady lawyer" you're talking about, your anecdote doesn't make any sense.

[1] California Code of Civil Procedure §116.530 http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=ccp&gr...

Yes, the person suing me in small claims court was the shady lawyer himself.

Oh, I know. I made another comment in this thread about all the ways you could miss being served, even if the server follows all the laws.

> You do realize that rules around this already exist, right? For example, in california: https://www.serve-now.com/resources/process-serving-laws/cal....

Except the article talks about Indiana. It helps to read the article. You, did read the article, ... right?

> It should but it doesn't obviously.

I think you've lost track of the conversation in this thread.

How so?

Oh of course, however you think logically you would need to prove delivery of documents. The default judgement is when the defendant hasn't responded in 30 days. Therefore you would assume you would have to prove the defendant had something to respond to.

Usually one needs the delivery receipt associated with a registered letter to prove notification. At least, this was the requirement of notification before I could re-litigate my divorce.

In my jurisdiction the family court, which handles divorce, requires notification via sheriff.

The general district court requires notification via posting on the front door of the last known address and delivery via standard 1st class mail. This can be and is easily abused by cherry picking the last known address used. The plaintiff just needs sign an affidavit that it was the last known address they were aware of. You could challenge that they didn't make a reasonable effort to get a good last known address, but the burden of proof is on you and you won't win.

Also if you rented a property and have vacated it, for example if your lease has ended, your landlord can post on the front door and mail notice to the vacated property and this is considered sufficient notice.

Default in court is just broken. Facts matter more then did someone show up. This is just broken.

If you can avoid adverse judgements by just not showing up for court, you incentivize people to not show up. That's not any more fair. There has to be something to lose for not showing up and default is what the legal system has chosen.

>If you can avoid adverse judgements by just not showing up for court //

That's not what the parent said though. If you don't show up IMO the court should not take any default position but should decide the case on the facts put before it. That's not avoiding an adverse judgement, that's just not assuming one side is right just because the other side hasn't presented its case.

That doesn't work either. What happens, for example, if I sue you, you don't show up, I tell the judge you owe me a million dollars and show him a bill I printed on my computer that morning for a million dollars. You aren't there to tell the judge otherwise, so going on the "facts" I present doesn't solve the problem either.

Well, if I were the judge on that case, I would simply ask if you had any evidence to show that the bill presented was not printed on your computer that morning and actually was presented to the other party. Just presenting something in court does not make it a fact, actual real evidence is required.

> Just presenting something in court does not make it a fact, actual real evidence is required.

It actually kinda does... If the other party does not challenge it.

If I show up in court with a bill that shows you owe me a million dollars, I attest that we agreed to it, and you don't challenge that fact? That's the truth as far as the court is concerned.

However, the overall point I believe still stands. Weigh the case based on the evidence presented - if it later turns out that a plaintiff committed fraud to get a favorable ruling you now have actual evidence of foul play on the record.

>If I show up in court with a bill that shows you owe me a million dollars, I attest that we agreed to it, and you don't challenge that fact? That's the truth as far as the court is concerned. //

Absolutely not. A court shouldn't sit on "anything said that isn't challenged is 100% true", it should look in a tort case on the balance of probabilities. IMO courts should attempt to discover what is true and rule on that, not attempt to find who can afford to pay for the best lawyer.

"IMO courts should attempt to discover what is true and rule on that"

But how do the courts do that when only one party is presenting the evidence? The only way that would work is if you filed a case, a neutral investigator from the court investigated your claim, and the judge ruled on what the investigator found.

Otherwise, the court has to base its decision on the evidence provided. If only half the evidence is provided, unfortunately the decision must be made off that evidence.

IMO, the default judgement is the best solution. It is fairly easy to get a default judgement overturned if you truly want to or believe that it is wrong. Otherwise, you are admitting you owe the amount with a default judgement. So in reality it would be like you showed up and the plaintiff proved you owed the debt. Either way you have to pay.

I believe somewhere in there the judges have the ability to ask questions and determine things on their own despite what either party wants or desires. It's the whole point in having a judge. If everything could be decided solely on evidence presented without question then people are not required for most cases, just an elaborate evidence decision tree is needed.

Completely agree. However, when only one party is there to answer questions, the judge is left with whether to believe or not believe what the plaintiff is saying.

If that is the case, the reverse would also have to apply. Currently if the plaintiff doesn't show up the case is dismissed. If only one party is required though, now the defendant is left to argue why he/she is not guilty. That doesn't work either.

What about simply being held in contempt instead of being found guilty?

This is actually an option in some courts if a plaintiff asks. I had a friend in Florida who owed a credit card bill the card company sued him. He missed the court date, his wife was in the hospital, and a warrant was issued by the judge for contempt of court. About a month later he got pulled over for speeding and was arrested on the spot. He had to post a bail that was released when he attended the new court date for the original claim. Ironically, he ended up winning the entire case on a statute of limitations technicality.

In what world is an allegedly broken used printer that has since been thrown away worth a years salary? This shit should have never gotten past a filing stage.

How do you decide which cases are worthy of getting past the filing stage without holding a trial for the trial?

Not a lawyer, but isn't that what pre-trial hearings are for?

You're setting up both a strawman and a false dichotomy. People are not arguing that you should win by not showing up. (Unless the suit is clearly fraudulent.) It's just that the default judgment should not be so disproportionate. There is no reason to give a 30K judgment about a 40$ printer. That's almost a 1000x multiplier. A 400$ judgment would have sent the right signal without being crippling.

>If Costello just ignored these requests.....this is kind of on him.

I disagree. If someone is trolling outrageously with something that is clearly of no merit ($30000 for a $40 printer) ignoring them should be an option.

Ignoring the requests was certainly dumb, and he is at fault for that. But a $30k penalty for that is excessive.

Which is why appeals are a thing.

Stupid question: if the printer was worth $40 ($75 with shipping) how come the damages are worth $30k ? Even if Costello was right I cannot see how "damages" suffered could exceed those 75 dollars by such a huge margin. In Europe even if he had won the case he would have been awarded $75 in damages, and probably another $50 in legal costs, that's all. Not possible to win $30k out of thin air. But the difference is that in Europe "damages" mean "money lost", not "feelings hurt".

"According to court records, Zavodnik initially filed a lawsuit in Marion County Small Claims Court, where he asked for the maximum damages of $6,000. Zavodnik lost because he had thrown away the evidence (the printer), court records said. ...In 2010, Zavodnik sent Costello, who also was representing himself in the lawsuit, paperwork asking him to admit that he was liable for more than $30,000 for breach of contract, fraud and conversion. The trial court dismissed the case, along with 26 others filed by Zavodnik, who appealed all of those dismissals, court records state. ...Zavodnik also had sent Costello two more requests for admissions. One asked Costello to admit that he conspired with the judge presiding over the case, and that he was liable for more than $300,000. Another one requested Costello to admit that he was liable for more than $600,000.

Because Costello did not respond to all three requests for admissions within 30 days of receiving them, and did not ask for an extension of time, as required by Indiana trial rules, Costello admitted to the liabilities and damages by default."

There's no argument anywhere that this is proportional. He just filed that he was liable for the maximum possible in each case. Conceivably he could have been found liable for $600k by default.

"Stupid question: if the printer was worth $40 ($75 with shipping) how come the damages are worth $30k"

That part is about the admissions, where the plaintiff requested the defendant admit damages were 30k (or whatever), and anything not responded to is considered admitted.

What legitimate use does that request serve?

It was originally meant to allow undisputed facts to enter the record, etc.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Request_for_admissions

You can look at the history of the FRCP to see the changes over the years in how harsh/not harsh this rule has been.

None, which the most recent judge recognized.

An adversarial system depends on the involvement of both sides. The defendant here failed to respond to a set of allegations, which made him lose by default.

That sounds incredibly stupid. Can I just start a spamming operation where I "allege" people owe me money and hope they don't respond within 30 days?

As others have noted, this is a thing some scammers do. It's probably tough to turn a profit after paying court fees, service costs, and trying to collect. And if anyone decides to give you a hard time (because you accidentally targeted a lawyer with too much free time, for example) then you could end up in a world of hurt.

Yes you can, if you're willing to drop a few 10's of bucks on stuff from ebay, which is exactly what this guy did.

You'd be declared a vexatious litigant at some point, which puts some blocks on what you can do.

On a unrelated note: every time I read an article on USA Today's website it magically disappears and then it takes me a minute to realize that the entire thing was in a modal and clicking in the blank space on the right or left makes the modal go away.

What an atrocious user experience.

Happens to me 9 times out of 10 when reading an article on that site!

And not just USA Today; the same thing happens on every other Gannett-owned site, which includes lots of local newspapers and TV stations.

Blocking Javascript on those new sites that do this fixes the issue and makes the experience much better overall.

This article has persuaded me to never sell anything on Craigslist. Okay, the odds of running into a troll are tiny, but for a few bucks, it's just not worth the risk. Maybe Craigslist and similar sites need to start offering some kind of free insurance policy against trolls.

You should also never walk on a sidewalk, for fear of bumping into someone who trips and falls and sues you for personal negligence. You may be safe if you insure for this, though. Ask your Attorney.

wonder if a general liability policy would cover this sort of thing although they would probably just settle. of course they might show up with an army of lawyers.

An umbrella policy for general liability seems like it could be really useful. They typically cover rather large sums of money, in excess of one million dollars, and they aren't terribly expensive.

I can imagine someone suing over a misunderstanding because of an X/Y problem. Person A asks a really obtuse programming question, Person B answers it literally, and then Person A goes on to use Person B's answer to build a nuclear reactor controlled by a raspi. Person B then gets sued by Person A when it melts down.

Obviously that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn't hard to imagine a point in the future where programmers will be held to the same standards as certified professionals such as lawyers, doctors, and engineers. While it's really unlikely any particular programmer will be sued over advice they gave online, it would really horrible to be the person that someone chose to make an example of.

Navigating into off-topic waters: Where would one go about obtaining such an "umbrella" policy? Just call up the same company that you buy your car insurance from? How do they price this? Do they probe your life to see how risky you are ("ooh, you have a tile floor which is easier to slip and fall on, that'll be $X extra per month!)

Most insurance companies offer them. You will have to raise the liability limits on your car insurance to the maximums if you have a car. I don't think they do any sort of risk assessment specifically for the umbrella policy.

Most personal umbrella policies exclude professional, business property, or business liability. At least mine does.

In this case it would not help. He got sued and did not cooperate with court, insurance would not cover that.

Just use a burner email and never give them your name. Meet in a public place and there's no tracing the item back to you. I imagine if you responded with mycraigslistemail@gmail.com and asked to meet in a public place, if you did happen to come upon a troll, they would stop the deal.

I've always done my Craigslist sales that way, sold a number of cellphones at the corner station. Then tried to sell an AppleTV but they wanted to come to my house to make sure it worked.

No random Craigslist clown is coming into the house where my wife sleeps, even if I escorted them in with a gun to their head because they could scope it out and come back later. I said I'd record a video of it working and send that over. No more replies. :)

This is easy with smaller items, but what if you wanted to sell a couch or a treadmill? In the past I thought it would be nice if there was a sort of consignment style store where people could park their Craigslist goods for people to come look at. I think this might go against Craigslists terms of service though... I am very apprehensive to have strangers over to my house, but I also don't know of a better way to sell these types of items without owning a large truck.

That's an interesting thought. I'm not sure how I'd handle that either. Like you said the pickup truck is the default answer. I will say in lieu of a truck, I have a hitch on one of my cars and a small flatbed trailer[0]. :/ Mine has boards on the sides and bottom of it so I can haul rock and dirt. But the thought of wheeling a treadmill around is for some reason kind of hilarious. I'd take it to the gas station though to meet someone and use a video to demonstrate it prior.

Worst case, I would probably have it in the garage and they can look at it there. Probably a risk you have to take to have someone cart off a big old treadmill.

One thing I would definitely do is probably sell it fairly cheap. Just to make sure it moves with the 1st person who is interested. Rather than get a bunch of time online and gazers coming over. People are also less likely to complain about something if they get a deal on it too so it's a win/win. Well other than the cash lost but I'd make that deal.


Yeah... I'd hate to haul a treadmill around for tire kickers... That thing is like 350lb's!

One other thought is to use a more localized service like Nextdoor where you are only selling to people in your subdivision/neighborhood. I would think this would cut down on the riff raff, but also cuts down on potential buyers.

I admire your cautiousness. You certainly are a strong male and will surely be rewarded with offspring for being such a gallant mate.

We've banned this account for repeatedly breaking the HN guidelines. If you don't want it to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com. We're happy to unban people when there's reason to believe that they'll only post civil and substantive comments in the future.

He threw away the printer, so any judge should throw away his case.

i totally laughed out loud when i read that line, how would he have any evidence for further cases? i guess he did though...

Nope, he had no further evidence in the subsequent cases.

The problem is that, legally, Doug Costello (the victim who sold the printer) admitted that he owed the money. The system is set up so that if one party doesn't even show up, they are assumed to have agreed with everything the other party says. They HAVE to have some kind of a rule like this or people would just not show up and then be immune lawsuits. The law DOES say that you must notify them personally so they know about the lawsuit and the court date -- that is normally done by personally handing them the papers, but sometimes it can be done other ways like mailing them. In this case Gersh Zavodnik (the asshole who bought the printer) swears he mailed it (although Doug claims he never received it) so that counts.

The problem here is that the judge believed he didn't have the authority to exercise judgement and rule that this was an abuse of the system. Fortunately, the appeals court DID think the law allowed judges to exercise that judgement, and they did so.

They HAVE to have some kind of a rule like this or people would just not show up and then be immune lawsuits.

Not really. That's the easy way to do it, but the compromise would be that if the defendant doesn't show up, the plaintiff gets to present their evidence and argue their case, and the judge decides based on that.

Under these rules, in this case, if Zavodnik had shown up, and Costello hadn't, Zavodnik would present the zero evidence he had, and the judge should have thrown it out.

That is just how the rules ACTUALLY work.

If the other party does not show up then you get a "default judgement". This does NOT mean an automatic win. But it DOES mean (roughly) that the judge has to believe every claim you make (all uncontested claims, and no one is contesting it). Usually that means you win the case.

> Special Judge J. Jeffrey Edens issued a ruling. He awarded Zavodnik a judgment of $30,044.07 for breach of contract.

Holy cow. This guy needs to be fired immediately. That is beyond gross negligence.

To be clear, he ran unopposed in 2012 to win his seat on the circuit court. I don't think he can be "fired," but rather "opposed in the next election so he loses his seat."


This is the problem with these small, nonpartisan offices. Virtually nobody votes in these elections because very few people can make an informed decision, and those informed few have incentives not to endorse/oppose. If the elections are partisan, voters have more information, but elections will become politicized on abortion/social issues (whether or not the judge can rule on such matters). Even in cases of judicial shenanigans, voters choose based on name recognition and advertising, and the incumbent's advantage is enormous, they run unopposed.

I am strongly pro-voting, but voting for dogcatchers and low-level judges is really bad.

Depends: are judges supposed to spot-check claims for whether they're reasonable? Or do they leave that entirely as "the defense's job"? Remember, these were default judgments.

Yup, sounds like a $40 default judgement to me. I always thought it would be great to be a judge, but I'm far from jumping through all those hoops. If I were one, I'd grant exact, verifiable damages in cases like this. It would have to be a civil case over child molestation, assault, murder or rape to get me to award funny money. In those relatively extreme cases involving heinous crimes, I'd be sure to ruin the life of the perp.

"are judges supposed to spot-check claims for whether they're reasonable?" - duhh Yes.

Florida has a "vexatious litigant" law that allows a defendant to require a plaintiff to post a deposit with the court under certain circumstances (ostensibly to pay defendants court costs should the defendant prevail). I would bet this guy would qualify

Would be nice to have a 'loser pays' court system for civil trials. These kinds of trolls would go away quickly.

The problem with 'loser pays' is that it can actually encourage frivolous litigation like this. Often there are civil suits where the defendant and plaintiff agree that there are some valid claims, but they disagree on the specifics and amount of the damages. If the plaintiff knows that eventually they will 'win' their fees and costs regardless, they have an incentive to disagree with settlement offers.

It looks like this:

You sell me a broken printer for $30 and I hire a lawyer to sue you for $30,000. I refuse to settle for less and tie things up as long as possible in court. Eventually I 'win' with a court finding of $30 in damages. Then you pay my attorney $50,000 in fees and costs because you 'lost'.

Edit: Possible improvement would be to pay based on the distance between the award and settlement offers?

> Edit: Possible improvement would be to pay based on the distance between the award and settlement offers?

That's how it works in Germany, basically (the so-called "Baumbach'sche Formel"). You want $30k and get $30: you'll pay (30,000-30)/30,000 = 99.9% of court and attorney's fees. Also, the amount of attorney's fees that can be reimbursed is regulated and therefore capped at a reasonable amount. Finally, you may be required to make a deposit for the court fees beforehand.

That isn't how it always works. In some countries when the other party agreed to pay $30 up front then they would be considered the winner. You would pay their legal fees for trying to extort $27,970.

>> You would pay their legal fees for trying to extort $27,970.

Also, the cost of the legal fees may not be the same as what "they" paid. In some countries, I think the judge can determine what the fair price for the legal fees. This way the "loser" of the case isn't burned because the other party chose to hire a $1,000/h lawyer.

Who pays if the actual damages are somewhere in the middle?

You could do it like baseball does arbitration. Each side presents a figure they think is fair, and a judge picks one of the two (she can't pick somewhere in the middle, she has to pick one or the other). That way, each side is encouraged to present a reasonable amount, otherwise the other sides value will be chosen.

Ah, the old trick my mom used for dividing goods: one kid makes the division, the other makes the first choice.

But in that case you do not profit from the frivolous lawsuit; which, I think, was the idea behind suggesting loser pays to help prevent such lawsuits. Of course your lawyer may profit nicely.

Now, if you were representing yourself...

'loser pays' has a couple disadvantages:

* It encourages people to pick the best, most expensive lawyer in town for every case no matter the expense, because your opponent will be picking up the tab.

* It discourages people from using the courts to resolve their disputes, which means people without resources tend not to get any justice. If, say, your landlord steals your $1500 security deposit for no good reason, are you really willing to risk $5000 in lawyer's fees over $1500? Of course not, you'll let it slide and some little injustice will remain unresolved.

* It makes the courts a weapon of last resort rather than the standard dispute-resolution mechanism. You used to see people dueling in the streets to resolve their problems.

The disadvantage of course is that people can raise disputes with you, and you have to answer them much the same way you can't ignore filing your taxes.

A lot of those points are simply not true in a loser pays system, such as the UK or Australia.

> It encourages people to pick the best, most expensive lawyer in town for every case no matter the expense, because your opponent will be picking up the tab.

The court determines whether fees being claimed by the winner are reasonable. Bar associations (or the local equivalent) publish fee scales, and the courts will often require winners to cover a portion of their expenses if they determine them to be excessive.

If a litigant was found to be deliberately using the most expensive legal representation in an attempt to bankrupt the other party they'd almost certainly be sanctioned.

> If, say, your landlord steals your $1500 security deposit for no good reason, are you really willing to risk $5000 in lawyer's fees over $1500?

Most loser pays systems offer similar small claims courts, which don't require lawyer. So your $1,500 dispute would go there, rather than to a trial court.

> It makes the courts a weapon of last resort rather than the standard dispute-resolution mechanism

You have misunderstood what the courts are. They are a measure of last resort. Ask any judge or lawyer: courts expect parties in a trial to attempt to settle. That includes going to non-binding arbitration and making reasonable settlement offers. Courts take a very dim view of parties that don't attempt to settle.

In fact, if the loser made a pre-trial offer that was higher than the amount eventually awarded, the courts will often make the winner pay some or all of their own costs. This is on the basis the winner has wasted the court's time: they had a better offer, and they refused to take it.

One clarification regarding "the loser pays" system (here in Canada), is that the loser paying isn't the default. The default is each party pays their own costs. Then later the judge can decide to punish the loser if it was frivolous.

I've been through the small claims process twice recently. In one, the judge had power to make a binding decision and he put an end to the case against me after 10 minutes. In the other, it was a non-binding settlement meeting where he told the other party that they had no chance in court.

My point is that if you give the judge more power, good luck trying to game him and the system.

* In the UK the court has considerable discretion when awarding costs. It has an obligation to deal with cases "justly and at proportionate cost". Both sides must produce budgets that the court may order to be adjusted if it sees fit. If one side tries to outspend the other then the court can refuse to award costs.

* No one in the UK needs to spend $5k on representation to get their landlord to return their deposit, and I think the court would take a dim view of anyone who tried! The law is pretty simple: if the landlord does not return the deposit, less agreed deductions, then the court will order them to return the money, and in addition award a sum between 1x and 3x the value of the deposit. A tenant in your situation would only be out the cost of a few stamps.

* This is a feature, not a bug! Litigation _is_ the last resort, and should only be attempted after all other attempts to settle have failed. The court will take a dim view of a litigant who has not made reasonable attempts to settle, and/or undergo some mediation or other alternative dispute resolution.

>> If, say, your landlord steals your $1500 security deposit for no good reason, are you really willing to risk $5000 in lawyer's fees over $1500?

Where I live (Ontario, Canada), the upper limit of small claims court is $25K ($19.5K USD), so you wouldn't necessarily be required to have a lawyer to sue.

In your second example, wouldn't "loser pays" make the plaintiff more likely to persue, since he is likely to recover the $5000 in damages from the landlord who took $1500 for no reason?

Imagine that the case is pretty good, but not airtight--let's say there's 2:1 odds, or a 75% chance, that you recover your money.

The expected value of the lawsuit is therefore (0.751500) + (0.25-5000) = -$125, which means that very few people will go after the crooked landlord. If the leasing company has deep pockets, they could slant the outcome even further in their favor. Spend $10,000 instead and the expected value is now -$1,375. This seems wrong.

On top of this, you also have to worry about the risk of ruin. Imagine a bet where Bill Gates pays you $15M if a coin comes up heads, but you pay him $10M if it comes up tails. This bet has a positive expected value (+$5M), but most people won't take it because the losing outcome is completely devastating (unless someone rich is backing you).

I wonder if anywhere has a rule where the winning side receives min(loser's cost, winner's cost). That seems like it might be reasonably fair (if you can keep both sides from cooking the books).

Such a debt (to Bill Gates) would be dischargeable in bankruptcy, so most poor people should take that bet. (Also, the +EV is $2.5MM, not $5MM.)

I like the Spanish mechanism: Loser pays is possible, but it is definitely not the rule. For the loser to have to pay costs, you have to show that the suit was filed in bad faith, typically with a completely baseless claim. This occurs a good enough percentage of the time to deter people from suing at random, but it's not in any way guaranteed to happen every time you lose: There are plenty of civil suits are there where both sides have legitimate arguments, and where everyone eats their own expenses.

There's also rules about what reasonable legal costs are, to deter major bill padding.

Yes, like most of the rest of the world.

But the trial lawyers send tons of money to one of the parties, so our current legal system stays in place.

That's correct. The Republican party has been trying to pass a loser pays system since the early 1990s at least, when they included it in their so called "Contract with America."

The fear mongering has been going on ever since:


Relevant portion from the Wikipedia article on "Contract with America."

> An act to institute "Loser pays" laws (H.R.988, passed 232-193, March 7, 1995), limits on punitive damages and weakening of product-liability laws to prevent what the bill considered frivolous litigation (H.R.956, passed 265-161, March 10, 1995; passed Senate 61-37, May 11, 1995, vetoed by President Clinton [2]). Another tort reform bill, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act was enacted in 1995 when Congress overrode a veto by Clinton.

I recall an 8 year stretch during that period when the Republican party held the presidency, and longer periods when they have controlled the house. It doesn't seem to be an especially high priority for them.

The blocker was always the Senate when Republican presidents were in power.

Well, except for 2002-2006 when the Republicans controlled all three branches.

They only had a simple majority in the Senate.

Had this been me, at some point I'd have driven to the bar, and asked the biggest guys I could find if they'd take $500 to show up at the guy's house and scare the living crap out of him. Escalate accordingly. There aren't that many situations left in this country that call for intimidation / violence, but malicious litigation is one of them.

I'm not condoning violence in my observation here, but I know how the world works. And this reminds me that dude in NYC selling sunglasses that turned out to be a sham, and who was intimidating customers who complained: keep it up long enough, and I'll be surprised that your knee caps remain in like-new condition.

Thankfully, speaking from the point of view of maintaining the fabric of society, the real world isn't like TV and movies and the odds of pissing off a genuine bad ass are slim (anonymous Internet tough guys like myself don't count). But $30K is beginning to look like "real money", and for some folks under some circumstances, physical violence begins to look like a viable solution to the problem.

And truth be told, the less enlightened side of me says, "that dude needs a good ass kickin'."

The problem with that is that they can sue for assault, intimidation, harassment, or any other valid laws that apply in those circumstances. Thus landing you not only a large lawsuit, but also a possible criminal charge as well.

If you want laws against malicious litigation, campaign for them, but intimidating people because you believe the litigation to be malicious is childish at best.

The point of the intimidation is to encourage him to pick softer targets. If he insists on continuing to pick on me, then I will escalate, making his life a living hell. He lives somewhere, he works somewhere, everybody has weak points that you can exploit. Eventually he'll say 'uncle', it's just a matter of when. If he's smart he'll do it before his wife's car reeks of fish. (I will have already 'fished' his car so his wife will understand that this is now her problem as well)

The guy has devoted his life to harassing people through litigation. I assume it's profitable enough to keep him in beer & Skittles. Your plan is to become an even more dedicated troll than he is, but doing direct intimidation and violence instead of legal harassment?

Sounds like a good way to get a felony conviction.

> The guy has devoted his life to harassing people through litigation.

Exactly. He's probably not that well-versed in physical security. Maybe he's got a gun he shoots once in awhile, that's probably going to be the extent of his precautions. He's not going to be some unassailable hermit with aggressively unreasonable defenses. Guys like that are too busy doing that to earn law degrees.

So I can learn how to effectively harass him faster than he's going to be able to learn how to effectively defend himself. He might be able to win a judgment against me, but not before I've reduced his life to a shambles.

John Boyd, considered by many to be the finest military strategist since Sun Tzu, invented something called the OODA loop. Essentially, the faster you can react and respond to opposing threats, the more control you can exert over the terrain, the greater command you have over the outcome of the battle.

Winning is just the start. John Boyd was one of the greatest pilots who ever lived, and he didn't just beat you in simulated air combat, he utterly trounced you in a way that left no doubt.

If faced with somebody seriously threatening my lifestyle, my secret weapon isn't going to be my willingness to fight dirtier, it's the fact that my 'weapons' work faster than his. The first intimidation attempt is going to communicate, in a way that's absolutely impossible to mistake, that we're not just playing law here. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but only because it's backed up by guys with swords. If you don't have any of those, then you're going to lose, and he won't until he wins his case.

The communication here will be calculated to be overwhelming and total, yet breaking only the minimum of laws. I'd trade a criminal case for assault, the state is going to be more reasonable than this asshole is, over what was described in the article.

If he doesn't go away, then that means I failed and I need to know why. I will have already considered the failure modes as a part of planning the initial intervention. Future interventions will be carefully orchestrated to hit him hard where it hurts while causing a minimum amount of attention-grabbing collateral damage. The idea is that if he complains to law enforcement, they won't have much to prosecute me with. (faced with this, I'll absolutely start making some cop friends, guaranteed they're going to hate him more than they'll hate me. Their input on how to resolve this would be very welcome)

I don't have to actually break laws in order to convey the fact that I am not someone to be fucked with. I can attenuate my response such that likely reprisals are easier to deal with than the actions they were intending to deter.

The idea though, is that he just finds a softer target.

The problem with this intimidation approach is that if it works, then it can be applied not only abusive litigants, but against anyone who who sues.

Society in general and legal system in particular would not want that to happen.

So if you execute that intimidation strategy then you are likely to become a prosecution target of legal system.



Threat, Criminal threatening (or threatening behavior) is the crime of intentionally or knowingly putting another person in fear of bodily injury. "Threat of harm generally involves a perception of injury...physical or mental damage...act or instance of injury, or a material and detriment or loss to a person."


But why even go that physical intimidation route at all if there are good legal ways to repel these baseless claims?

> So if you execute that intimidation strategy then you are likely to become a prosecution target of legal system.

Possible? Sure. Likely? Hardly. The same legal system that failed to deliver justice to this asshole's victims, is the same legal system that will fail him when he pokes the wrong bear. He's not the only guy out there with the skills to skirt the law.

Perhaps it is likely that the legal system takes assault, harassment and other criminal charges, more serious than litigation?

I dunno, man, as cathartic as that sounds, it reminds me of the old schoolyard bully tactic: pick on a kid until they punch you, then show the teacher your bloody nose.

When I was in high school, a big kid decided to use me as a verbal punching bag off and on for like two years. It didn't particularly bug me, he didn't do it often enough to cause me to want to retaliate, I'd endured worse in middle school, but it was annoying.

Junior year I decided to teach him a lesson. We were making presentations for science class and you know how they have the steps of the scientific method? Well, for the hypothesis I spontaneously opted to, out of nowhere, rip him a new one in front of the whole class, tying the experiment to the fact that he was a giant fat-ass.

He jumped up and came for me, the class held him back, I got a tongue lashing from the teacher, and he never bugged me again. We even worked together on a shop project later on that year.

Some people are taught respect by their parents, others have to have it taught to them by strangers. I'm pretty good at that when I need to be.

I had a similar experience. In 7th grade, I was fairly small in size (almost 6'2" today) and a relatively larger kid used to come into my history class late most days. He'd pass by my desk, behind my chair, and "push it" each day.

After school, I got similar verbal harassment from the same guy while with his friends while walking home.

Long story short, I got sick of it and one day in History class, grabbed the sides of my chair and waited for him to push it as he walked by. When he did, I sprang up rapidly while holding my chair and pushed back, flipping him over the desk behind me. Huge disruption to the class, etc.

Teacher looked over, made no expression, and continued teaching the class. Never heard a peep from the guy after school the rest of the year, and that was the last time he touched my chair. :)

I agree under 2nd Amendment authority. All others have to be exhausted, though, before that can apply. So, first try your Congress people about passing laws limiting it. See if the LEO's will do anything about the abuse. Try the courts. If they all ignore the corrupt behavior, you're left with no choice but using violence to deter the aggressor. Just make it untraceable with an alibi.

It's definitely worth a few phone calls, I personally have some connected people I could turn to if I ever had to deal with something like this, but I didn't always.

What makes violence a viable option is the fact that you're dealing with one person and not an organization. If it's more than one person's efforts you have to counter, then yielding is the better recourse. A group of people will have a goal in mind when taking action against you, all you have to do is help them reach that goal and they'll bugger off. You can fight a group effectively but it's generally not worth it.

I've actually done similar things to that, many times. I come from "salt of the Earth" folks like you describe.

I'm a programmer and all around nice guy, I hold doors for folks. I'll walk out of my way to go open the door for you if your hands are full everytime. And just last night a drunk driver ran into a parked car outside, it wasn't one of mine but I went out and took photos of everything for whoevers car it was (including of the perps license plate that fell on the ground). I gave a statement to the police about it today. I always take time out of my day to help a random person. The poor girl whose car it was hugged and hugged me, she said "people don't do that". I just shrugged. I grew up working on a farm, fairly Earth-salty midwest guy. I'm not a self proclaimed tough guy, I'm actually pretty soft but probably hard by today's standards. My brother is far more rough and tumble than I am.

I do have a lot of stories, but I've done just what you describe. I had a TV stolen when I was in college, I generally knew who did it. I got my band of merry men together, knocked on the door and when they let us in, we blasted in turning it upside down searching the apartment for the TV. One of the occupants pulled a gun out on us, we took it from his hands and beat him to the ground with it. Then we tossed it outside into the snow and continued to pound on the guys.

The TV didn't end up being there, but they knew who took it. They were at their house the night it disappeared. They called who stole it and allegedly said, "I think these guys mean business". That was correct. We were going to hunt them down like animals at their next bonfire/party they had planned and it was going to be very bad for them. And we weren't going to stop there.

Needless to say, I had a brand new TV in the box on my doorstep at 9:30PM that night! Problem solved and I shook on it with one of the guys who stole it. They were drunk and broke in to steal it, I just wanted my TV back.

I've protected many men who have done me harm, financially and physically from being harmed by calling off my goons who wanted to come after people in different situations. They simply hadn't earned what was coming their way so I prevented it.

All that said, this guy if he had done this little racket to my family he would be in very serious trouble. I normally do absolutely zero questionable behavior, I'm absolutely by the book day to day. At work, I'm a non-toxic angel who would never step on anyones toes. I keep my head down, work a hard, honest 8 hours and mind my own business. I'm not even a condescending smartass or funny-guy little punk like most people try to be. I'm live and let live.

But I would haunt this man for the rest of his days. Likely me, my brother and many others who are big, strong midwest giants who are not nice. I've been screwed over in life in many situations, I do not retaliate like this ever or normally.

But stuff like this story is beyond the pale. You're right, people like this need to be handled correctly. This eastern European is one of the people who are not to be dealt with in court. He'd realize we do not live in "new age" where you can say and do what you want to. Something can happen to you. Worse than any stupid Anonymous online hack or geek vengeance. He's laughing at us here in the USA, but I assure you it's not safe for people like him.

This Ukrainian guy simply got very lucky with picking the right victims. If my brother called me in on a situation like this, this Euro trash would be haunted physically, mentally, and materially for the rest of his life.

The immigrant plays with fire that he doesn't fully understand. We do not live in a New Age, where you are safe. Things can happen to you.

> we blasted in turning it upside down searching the apartment for the TV.

Wait, so the occupants hadn't taken your TV, but because they didn't snitch, it was OK to enter their house and turn it upside down??

I don't know their exact involvement, but they were involved. Did they help carry it out? I don't have the play by play. It wasn't a court case and I didn't care. The guys who drove off with it it were staying at their place that night. I knew it was one of two groups of folks or all of them at the house that evening. So I knew damn well I had the right people who could get the situation resolved in an efficient manner.

You're right they didn't snitch, amazingly. They thought they were tough guys. Maybe even as they were beaten to their knees? For the record, they weren't harmed until they pulled a gun out. But they were going to snitch eventually whether they thought they were going to or not.

Sound like you had no idea if these guys had been involved in taking your TV, you just knew they where involved with the group that did. If a bunch of guys broke into your place in similar circumstances, would you be ok with that?

> For the record, they weren't harmed until they pulled a gun out

It seems reasonable to pull a gun on a bunch of strangers invading your home.

> It seems reasonable to pull a gun on a bunch of strangers invading your home.

In a lot of states it would be reasonable to use the gun too.

Yep. Now tell me something. You ever gonna steal this man's TV? Or be involved with the kinds of people that would?

Guilt by association?

So if anyone attacks his friends or family, alls fair, because they chose to associate with the kind of person that would illegally invade someones house with a mob...

If someone attacked his friends or family, God help them, because nobody else will.

Fairness is not a universal concept. What is fair is determined by who has the bigger clan and the most guns. Some places, that's the state. In far more places than you would believe, the state is too weak to enforce its version of justice, so it's left up to men like Buck and his brother. Are they going to do it to your standards? Probably not. So it's on you to not piss them off.

All for the sake of a stolen TV? I seriously doubt Bucks "nice guy" credentials if he resorts to home invasion for his own satisfaction.

Come on. I probably shouldn't respond to your post. But spoken like someone who have never been taken advantage of. Or had so much provided that you didn't care. And home invasion for my own satisfaction? Yes I love fighting for my dignity. It feels great to be walked on.

It wasn't just a "TV". It was my only possession worth anything at all. I've worked nonstop since I was 12. I started working on a farm (not my farm, we had no farm, it was the neighbor's) and delivering papers. No one has ever given me a thing. I was born fighting in my childhood, literally fighting almost daily. My money has come very hard earned. As has any career advancement, skill acquisition. I've never been given a job through a network connection, I don't have a network. I had a full hernia on my right side at 16 from manual labor. And I have a strong sense of justice when something is wrong, like breaking in and taking a poor working guy's $700 television. I was working 35 hours a week to pay for going to school fulltime. That may not have been much money to you, but it was to me. I felt very taken advantage of. You must not know what it feels like to have little and have everything taken from you because it's likely you've had a better existence or maybe life didn't require much grit to get through. I've clawed my way to where I am now. I never had any money. No ones going to take what I have, not a TV, nothing. Even to this day when I have a lot more. Doesn't matter how little it is, over my dead body. Damn right, all for the sake of a "TV".

I am a nice person. I do have some anger but I wouldn't harm a soul that didn't have it coming. I defended the homosexual kids who were bullied in my high school way back when. Verbally and physically. No one did that in the rural midwest. I hated seeing people get picked on. I rarely, if ever picked on anyone. But I have squared off with men who thought I was a target, you'll have to beat me to the ground I'm not quitting. As a developer, I believe people who say "I can't" should be fired on the spot. I feel like I'm ready for retirement and I'm not old. Everything seems like an obstacle. I'm completely sympathetic with poor people in the US and around the world. Hell, I'm a Bernie supporter. But if robbed or my wife is hurt, I'm going to come after you and I'll haunt you like a ghost.

There's a lot of different people on HN. People have different experiences and different perspectives. I think you're over the top with the 'satisfying home invasion' talk though. I know the odds of success when you don't start life at the finish line. People born at the finish line think they've accomplished something. Yeah so what, I've been involved in what is basically gang violence. Not everyone is going to match up with your exact sensibilities.

You sound like you're trying to win some debate. You shouldn't assume things about someone else's story to win one. Creating your own strawman then proceeding to beat it up about how I invaded their home.

When we 'blasted in' we didn't kick the door in. We knocked, started quizzing the guy who answered the door about the TV, one of them said to come on in and look around. Then we blasted in.

The gun could've gotten him killed. He pulled it out but clearly wasn't willing to use it, he waved it around as if we were going to be scared. I wasn't, he got it ripped from his hands then he was beaten to the ground his own gun. This kind of non-macho posturing is typical. Then we got that stupid gun out the door and settled it.

Anyway this wasn't that big of a deal, just a robbery resolved as cordially as you can in an efficient manner. It worked out for both parties. Especially well for them, considering they were involved with breaking, entering and theft. Not to mention whatever charge comes with pulling a gun out threatening to kill people. He did say he'd shoot us. I'd say they got off rather easy, other than bruised egos. They were my neighbors and I assure you, they didn't want anything to do with me again.

You seem touchy about it for some reason like you were on the receiving end of a similar situation. I personally don't like to be taken advantage of or have my home robbed? This was a relatively tame story I was willing to post publicly.

Zavodnik, has no idea what waits for him out there. It's not all fun and games when you play with peoples lives as he does. Wait till he finds someone intelligent, aggressive, willing to go to the edge or slightly over the rule of law and with a strong sense of justice. Street justice, not the courts. I could be that man for sure, but like most people reading this- I would only interrupt my life for someone who affected my family. Possibly a local child rapist or similar heinous criminal could face my wrath. It would take something like that to activate my mob violence gene.

That guy just needs some anonymous midnight beatings by some of the victims and their families and he'll stop. Yeah it's the "wrong answer!" even though our nation-state does much worse. He's just gotten off with zero retaliation so far so he's going to continue to stay within the rules but abuse our judicial system.

So wait, you entered, and they just pulled a gun? They weren't trying to get you to leave?

> Especially well for them, considering they were involved with breaking, entering and theft.

You implied that they weren't involved, that some other group was, and they had just stayed there.

I've never had my home invaded, do I need to be personally affected to sympathise with it?

You don't know me either, I'm just taking your post at face-value. it suggested you turned someones place upside down, despite having only the suspicion that they associated with the people that took it.

Yes it was risky. I thought long and hard before committing that I had the right people. I didn't know specifics on what happened or who exactly was involved, I just knew that they either had it or knew. But I knew it came from there for sure so I went for it. There were many people there. One invited us in, others wanted us out including Billy the Kid.

They definitely made the mistake of inviting us in. We weren't going to break and enter and good chance with a verbal confrontation someone says "come on in!" at some point, which they did. I don't think they knew how serious we were. They weren't expecting us rampaging through. If I was wrong, I was wrong but I either did something or I didn't. I feel like you're asking for perfection when I was just trying to achieve a goal. Bottom line is that I was right and within an hour I had an identical, brand new TV in the box on my front doorstep with an apology. I'm not sure we ever know anything for certain in life right? I had to try.

It is true: I did not have forensic evidence, but I knew it was them. I suppose I could be a bad man but it was a judgement call. I never doubted after that day that I made the right call. It was aggressive but not the worst story I have. Not sure what else to add. I don't remember every detail as time has passed and everything I was told, but I'm pretty sure at least one of those guys helped toss the TV into the pickup truck that carried it away.

They weren't angels right, no one came over to tell me I had been robbed. They were probably going to keep quiet. Maybe bad guys met worse and got an unpleasant surprise.

> That guy just needs some anonymous midnight beatings

> Possibly a local child rapist or similar heinous criminal could face my wrath. It would take something like that to activate my mob violence gene

Jesus Christ.

What's up with the xenophobia? Does it help?

Wow,just wow! Here in Scotland, that man's behaviour would be called vexatious.

Vexatious behaviour is not tolerated in the courts here; most of the time.

This technique is also used by debt collectors. They sue and most often people ignore a court action. This causes a default judgment against you. This will give them a power to garnish your wages, place lien against your property and even freeze your bank account.

> Because Costello did not respond to all three requests for admissions within 30 days of receiving them, and did not ask for an extension of time, as required by Indiana trial rules, Costello admitted to the liabilities and damages by default

This is awkwardly similar to the other John Oliver story in today's HN, in which debt buyers exploit this fact to have as many people admitting liabilities as possible.

Not that this isn't absurd but CL is for shit you can't ship. eBay is for stuff you can. CL acts purely as a platform to list classified ads and leaves dispute resolution up to the users. That's why this happened. Add this to the other 9000 reasons you only do business via CL face to face and with cash. Move along, nothing to see here folks.

Would ebay's contracts or customer support prevent this situation? They have arbitration on-site, but what stops a buyer from going to the legal system?

California for example [1] has a list of vexatious litigants [2].

1. http://www.courts.ca.gov/12272.htm

2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vexatious_litigation

Does it help to have a generic boilerplate contract (jurisdiction-wise) signed by both buyer & seller for such transactions, where the buyer would sign that they have inspected the item to their knowledge and assume full responsibility of the purchase, and that they won't hold the seller responsible for blah blah. At the same time, the seller assumes that they have given up ownership of the said item for whatever money they've received in this transaction ?

I rarely use Craigslist, as it's a cesspool of fraud. But when I sell used stuff online, I lost the terms as "As is" and don't make representations as to working condition.

The problem is a system where pieces of paper are sent by mail (often with addresses mis-spelled), and the supposed recipient is in trouble for not responding.

There needs to be a better system.

There is, it's called registered mail. And there's a better solution than that, too- it's called a process server. All of them are vulnerable to corrupt middle-men, but the article doesn't really say what method was used to contact the defendant, so there's really nothing to speculate about.

Anyone have any idea why so many judges recused themselves?

My civpro prof loved Rule11 and told us many tales of nefarious attorneys being humiliated by judges as punishment for this sort of behavior. It can happen even to the pro se as a party.


Is this not a risky precedent to have in a legal system?

If John Q. Public know they will have to jump through legal hoops any time someone makes a claim against them, will this not encourage some folks to take the law into their own hands, thus encouraging actual damages vs. claimed?

There's no good reason not to be relatively anonymous when buying or selling on craigslist.

When money changes hands, short of using something like cash, how does John Doe remain anonymous?

I assume once the matter is in front of a court it is only a matter of time before your identity is readily available.

Some form of obfuscating one's name and/or address may raise the bar a bit, but I don't see how this is a solution to the problem of malicious litigation for selling something on craig's list.

Short of using something like cash...for buying something off Craigslist? What else would you use? Why do you make it sound so difficult to use the most easily accessible form of currency around? Joe Craigslist isn't going to have a debit/credit machine for me to pay on. I'm not writing him a personal cheque. Use a burner email, don't give names, meet in a public place..how would you track somebody down like that?

Because buying something online might mean the item has to be shipped? Since buyer and seller may not be able to meet up for some reason? Mailing cash seems like a terrible idea. Do you think we should find a cash escrow service too?

Craigslist is for in person deals. Craigslist itself warns against shipping items[1].

[1] http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams

So this discussion doesn't apply to other online sites which do ship items?

What stops an ebay buyer from the same malicious litigation?

Usually markets like ebay have reputation systems for both sides, and it is easier to enforce disclaimers and arbitration agreements.

None of that stops a willful malicious individual like the topic of this post.

And that's just ebay. The comments in this thread were about generic online transactions between strangers, not about any specific site.

Short of using something like cash? I bet most transactions on Craigslist are done through cash (those under $1k or so). Correspond through CL or using relatively anonymous email, meet in public, use cash, and then go on your merry way.

The point is to keep trolls like the one in the article from being easily able to serve & sue you. Realistically, they're unlikely to go through elaborate chains of subpoenas; they'll find an easier target.

It doesn't make any mention about the plantiff's ability to actually collect the damages. In Texas at least, it's extremely difficult to actually collect damages, which make small claims court somewhat meaningless.

It also means the courts aren't being utilized as much, so there is time to handle the cases for patent trolls.

Going to be a bit flippant here, but if I sold somebody a $40 used printer and they mugged me using the courts for $30,000, I would seriously consider murder to be a viable option towards resolution.

Good on this guy for keeping his wits about him through all this. Guy probably needs a long, relaxing vacation.

That is a very legitimate and real risk that zavodnik should take into account. If he got a judgment of $600,000 against me, causing me to lose my business and my home... I'd seriously be weighing pros and cons of sacrificing my freedom in order to rid the earth of this scum.

I'm sure many people get away with perfect murders every day.

People dying due to a malfunctioning car or some other kind of unlucky event ... I bet there's a lot of clever and quiet murder that goes on in the world with a plausible deniability, alibis and everything else set up.

The murderer carefully covers up evidence of sabotage or malice and the victim succumbs. People think "oh my, what a tragic accident" and regretfully move on in life - never being the wiser.

Probably every day.

I find your comment in poor taste, but I'll bite because it's kind of interesting.

I'd recommend watching The Perfect Murder[0] documentary, although what they detail isn't exactly practical. Less than 15% of murder is committed by strangers [1].

I think if you aren't caught directly after the initial act, you don't have any relation to the victim and no DNA is left, your chances of "getting away" is relatively high.

Your comments on a "malfunctioning car" are misguided, given that any fatal automobile accident, provided the reason the driver "crashed" is not apparent, will result in someone looking at the car to see WHY it malfunctioned. A cut brake line or similar would obviously scream foul play.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjEBb4LhQdU

[1] https://top5ofanything.com/list/8a1bf3d1/Murders-by-Relation...

This was the subject of a Freakonomics podcast titled, The Perfect Crime.


I absolutely would lose my cool in this situation.


> People like this should be lit on fire

Please don't comment like this here.

This guy should be packed and shipped back if there is any sanity in the legal system here at all. What a loser who ruins other peoples' life for his ridiculous greed.

I wonder if he has a (destructive) mental illness.. it just seems too far-fetched for him to believe that Costello was conspiring with the judge against him and develop what seems to be a persecution complex.

Where is Peter Theil when you need him! Getting your legal team behind this could ameleorate some bad PR.

If Trump was president this guy would never have gotten into this country in the first place.

While there are certain things about Trump that are worth admiring, one character flaw of his is that he does seem to routinely file a lot of petty lawsuits himself.


We've banned this account. Please don't make HN worse by creating accounts to violate the site rules with. Instead, find a civil, substantive way to make your point, or just don't comment.

Send him home.

I remember what a lawyer said in a case that I served as juror, "the US justice system is not perfect but it's the best justice system in the world."

Reflexively saying "The US has the best everything in the world" is what will bring it down eventually. There are plenty of areas the US is way behind.

It's like when I applied for a mortgage back in 2007 and the mortgage people told me incredibly silly things, like, "take a balloon mortgage and get a bigger house, real estate always goes up!". Real estate was considered too big to fail and too certain to go wrong.

I was smart enough to realize how stupid that was. Just not savvy enough to draw the line to seeing that I should short the market...

As a former colleague of mine was fond of saying: "The United States offers the best justice system money can buy."

My friends who have sat on juries and grand juries would gag at that thought. The way criminal trials work for the poor is a sham.

The way criminal trials work for the poor is a sham.

That might be true, but that does not mean that the system referenced isn't the best we've got at the moment.

It might be easier to state that you are selling your time and not the item, the item is a free gift you are giving to the person that you agree to meet with for your time.

"Oh you like this printer? Well the printer is free, but if you want it, you have to pay me $40 for 1 second of my time."

You meet, say hello. Collect $40. Give the free printer.

You might be surprised at how judges react to that sort of sophomoric cleverness. A better solution is to include a simple waiver form such as you've probably signed a thousand times saying "seller is not responsible for any damages blah blah blah". You can find generic versions of those online.

>sophomoric cleverness

True but my way works for craigslist sales and my gigolo side business, so I've got that going for me..

Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact