Doug Costello sold a used black and white printer on Craigslist back in 2009. It was probably the worst decision of his life. The profit of $40 wasn’t worth the years of legal trouble it’s caused thanks to a sue-happy ahole.
He (Costello) would find himself liable for about $30,000 in damages. He would pay a lawyer at least $12,000 in his battle to escape the legal mess.
And it all started with a piece of hardware he sold online for about $40 in 2009. With shipping and other costs, the total was less than $75, according to court records.
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. Most, according to court records, involve online sales and transactions.
Zavodnik accused Costello of “falsely advertising a malfunctioning printer with missing parts” and pocketing his money. According to a filed complaint, Zavodnik “tried to resolve the issue with Costello to no avail, leaving him with no other choice but to take legal action.”
Zavodnik originally filed a lawsuit in Marion County Small Claims Court. He sought the maximum $6,000 in damages but lost because he had thrown away the printer, the only evidence in the case.
Costello thought he’d heard the last of Zavodnik but NOPE. Zavodnik sued AGAIN and requested $30K in damages for breach of contract, fraud, conversion, deceptive advertising and emotional distress. The trial court dismissed the case, along with 26 others filed by Zavodnik. He appealed all of those dismissals.
Here’s where the story goes nutty bananas.
The Indiana Court of Appeals in March 2012 revived the lawsuit against Costello and sent the case back to the trial court, where it remained stagnant for another nine months until a hearing was scheduled later that year.
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. 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.
The case remained dormant for a while, bounced around to different courts and judges, and finally reached the courts. In March 2015 — six years after the original sale of the printer — a judge issued a ruling in favor of Zavodnik and a judgment of $30,044.07 for breach of contract.
Just kidding. That would have SUCKED, right? Here’s what happened.
Costello appealed the ruling. On March 23, the appeals court issued a sharply worded 13-page opinion in his favor. The $30,000 in damages “had no basis in reality,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.
And in news that should shock absolutely fucking no one, Zavodnik will likely will ask for a re-hearing.
[via USA Today]