Chad Deal 9:26 p.m., June 19
Central Division Small Claims: The Puppy Switch
This afternoon’s court hearing comes after Jefferey buys a puppy from Jelly’s Pet Store, and then has buyer’s remorse. Names are changed here. He now wants a refund on Cheesus. David, the storeowner, frustrated over long attempts to please the customer, one day tells him, “Sue me!” Be careful what you ask for.
Plaintiff Jefferey is accompanied by a 20-something woman, his witness who seems to be a helpful friend by the way she is patiently speaking to him. Jefferey is a nervous little late 30-something guy. The storeowner and defendant, David, is fuming. He hates being here. No doubt. This is the third courtroom we’ve been bounced to for the case. In attendance are Judge Christy, a barrel-bellied bailiff and court clerk, the 2 parties, a plaintiff witness and 1 fly on the wall.
Jefferey paid for Chessus in two installments of $200 and $275, getting a $25 discount on the $500 price. He picked up the Boston terrier on 2/22. Chessus’ warranty promised he was a veterinarian-certified, disease-free doggy. Pets sold at Jelly’s come with free vet care included at a contracted vet’s office.
Less than two-weeks had passed when Cheesus gets “sick, vomiting, not eating, making diarrhea, and having problems breathing”. Jefferey took the dog to his own vet where Cheesus was X-rayed and given meds. No one, including the judge, is interested in seeing the X-ray Jefferey brought to court. She says, “I’m not a doctor. I can’t read this. What am I supposed to do with it?” Jefferey doesn’t have an answer.
Trying to arrange Jefferey’s vet bills by date, the judge finds one is a $402 estimate of fees dated prior to when the dog was purchased. David blows-up out-of-turn, “I told you this was a scheme. He has another dog he’s trying to bring me. A rip-off.”
The judge reminds him don’t interrupt and questions Jefferey. “Why did you take the dog to other vet’s when you could have taken them to the free vet?”
Jefferey mumbled. David interrupts again, “I told him I would take the dog back.”
You could tell how much Jefferey has gone crazy because of Jefferey and Cheesus. His arm muscles and fists were tight and his forehead was burning red. “He kept finding excuses to return the dog; to go to the vet for free treatment. He wanted exchanges, always calling me.”
Looking through the records, the judge questioned something written in for “dog’s name”. She couldn’t seem to understand what NNY was. No name yet.
Jefferey spoke, “He told me to just put him down. Chessus is still sick. We’re seeing a Vet, but he hasn’t improved; he’s still coughing and tired. He doesn’t want to play.” Jefferey has now decided and tells the judge he wants to “return the dog and get a refund”.
No one could say why this little dog was prescribed antibiotics three times and he’s still not well. The judge said, “What’s the diagnosis. There’s no diagnosis.”
David rants, “I offered to return the dog. Usually, if there’s anything wrong, you find out in the first 72-hours. I offered to pay the expenses and let him keep the dog. He decided to keep the dog, but then kept calling me back with all these problems. Most of my problems, I send them to the vet and we pay for it. He told me he had problems giving Chessus his medication. He wasn’t giving the dog it’s meds.”
The witness finally says something. She’s his Social Aide and only helps in afternoons that’s why we’re here in the afternoon, she explained. She also said something the judge liked about the dog's medication.
Judge Christie indicated readiness in wrapping-up telling David, “You run a decent business, but the dog is sick and not getting well. Everyone’s convinced he’s sick.” “You,” gesturing to Jefferey, “return the dog.”
“Return the $475. I’ll give two-weeks, then I’ll dismiss it with proof of payment in 30 days,” to David.
David had difficulty thinking of a time in the next two-weeks then agreed to one, but nixed it right away, getting himself heated up again.
The judge informed the defendant of his right to appeal in 30 days.
“It’s fraud,” David burst-out, raising the puppy switch hypothesis again. “Wait. What if I don’t take the dog?”
“Then I’ll charge you $1000.” The judge hammers the exasperated pet storeowner.
He comes back “I can only be held responsible for 150%. That’s according to the law.”
“What law? The Vehicle Code? Penal Code? That’s a big book. Look at it. Tell me what the law is?"
Not hearing anything more from David, “OK. I’ll take this under review and make my decision in two weeks,” landing her knockout.