Four years ago I wrote a one page contract with someone that agreed to pay me for equipment I gave them for their dry cleaners. He never paid me back fully so I added a penalty clause for every month that passed by it would add up more money owed. He also signed off on that. The total back in 2009 was for $5,500 but with a $50 a day penalty since back then it adds up to thousands. The person has numerous dry cleaners now so he is doing well with his business. Can I recover this money?
Debt Settlement Attorney
You have a written document, and it seems you "added a penalty clause" after the original contract was drafted (it's difficult to tell from what you wrote). What your "contract" states and what you say it states may be open to 2 (or more) entirely different interpretations. Without seeing the so-called one page "contract," seeing who signed it and when, the various terms and conditions, etc., there is no way to tell you whether you are in a good position to recover the money or not. You probably should have had a lawyer "draw up" the contract 4 years ago, and then certain safeguards would have been built into the document because that's what lawyers do. But you wanted to save yourself the lawyer's fee, correct? Well saving that fee may have cost you a whole bunch. Don't make the same mistake twice. Take your "contract" to a local collections attorney and get an opinion that you can count on. Then, if the attorney thinks you have a viable cause of action, hire him/her to collect for you. Yes, you will not get as much as if you didn't pay the attorney. but you will also not make rookie mistakes which may cost you even more. Good luck!
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I agree with Mr. Castagliuolo and add that with the right contract and a collectable debtor, you may be able to find an attorney in your area who will take your case on a contingency fee basis. In other words, you only pay a fee if you prevail.
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Commercial Real Estate Attorney
From what it sounds like, yes you absolutely have a claim for breach of contract to recover the money this person owes you. I would start out by sending a demand letter. Feel free to contact me if you would like to pursue this.