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Can I sue someone in small claims court for money owed?

Killeen, TX |

I was asked by a friend to be her wedding planner (I have proof in an email, by her that I was the wedding planner). Because she was a friend, I only asked for her to pay back the cost of materials and for making the cakes and did not ask for a contract (the labor and planning was my wedding present to the bride and groom). I kept all receipts and when her beautiful wedding was done, I gave her a copy of the receipts and the price of the cakes. Then to top it all off, she was requiring me to do more than what I agreed to, but so as not to ruin her day, I complied. She has stated that she will not pay me for the materials. What can I do?

Attorney Answers 1


I can't refrain from saying "no good deed goes unpunished". However, what you have is either a claim for reliance damages or a claim for Quantum Meruit. OK here's what that means:

By the fact that you posted the question I think you know that contracts that are not in writing are not generally enforceable, especially if they are for over a certain amount, depending on your state. However, the exception to that rule against enforceability is reliance damages. In your case, you relied upon her promise to pay and in reliance upon that promise you changed your position and suffered damages, that is, you paid for all of the things for which you wisely saved receipts. You may also have changed your position in that you refrained from taking other remunerative work in your business on that date. These are on the contract damages, sustained in reliance on the promise which your "friend" breached.

Quantum Meruit is an equitable concept that does not rely on the existence of a valid contract. Instead, this theory says to the court that you conferred a benefit onto the other party and that you are entitled to the value of the service. It matters not whether there was a contract or not, this is the "equitable" thing to do, and the law recognizes this as a valid cause of action for recovery. This would include not only the materials for which you saved the receipts, but also the value of your services as a wedding planner, the benefit of which, had you not done this for free, your "friend" would have had to pay another wedding planner for.

The rules of civil procedure allow us to make multiple and even contradictory claims in court pleadings. So, my bottom line recommendation is to file a small claim complaint, set it up in two very brief counts, and take all of the receipts and two copies [one for you and one for the "friend"] on the day of the hearing. I wish you the best.

I am attaching a guide on "how to do it" in the small claims court.

I wih you the best. (Some of my worst clients have been "friends", I hope they do not read this.)

This answer is provided for informational purposes only. Legal advice can only be given in an office appointment by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction with experience in the area in which your concern lies.

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