Small Claims Court Question
November 17, 2009 4:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out which party to take to small claims court or if i should take both. The band i play in was hired to play at a bar by a promoter we have worked with before. At the end of the night there was no check and still is no check. We have sent a demand payment letter to both club owner and promoter and both claim they are not responsible for paying us. Do we sue both or just the club owner ?
posted by scottbass to Law & Government (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sue both. Easier to drop one later than to add one.
posted by zippy at 4:35 PM on November 17, 2009


Both. IANYL. TINLA.
posted by webhund at 4:35 PM on November 17, 2009


Sounds like the promoter if they hired you, but you might as well file against both and let the court sort it out.
posted by bitdamaged at 4:35 PM on November 17, 2009


Who does your contract say is supposed to pay you? hmmmm...no contract?

I think you may not have recourse to pay anyone, unless you have an impartial witness that heard one of them agree to a specific amount.
posted by HuronBob at 4:38 PM on November 17, 2009


Who do you have hopes of working with again? Go after the other guy.
posted by philip-random at 4:44 PM on November 17, 2009


Do you need 2 forms or both on one ?
posted by scottbass at 4:45 PM on November 17, 2009


I think I'd disagree with HB here. You have plenty of evidence that you played, surely the promoter and venue don't have evidence that you agreed to pay for free. You may have to convince a judge of your going rate (past payments, industry standard stuff, whatever), but you're going to get something I suspect.
posted by zippy at 4:46 PM on November 17, 2009


In such matters you always sue everyone, unless there are real world consequences for such action such as being locked out of a club circuit etc. You drop the non-guilty as their innocence becomes clear.
posted by caddis at 4:58 PM on November 17, 2009


I'm assuming that since you're asking MeFi about this, you didn't have a written contract. I'm sure you'll get a copy of a standard performance contract--or have a lawyer draw one up for you--for next time, right?

IANAL, and the best layperson's advice I can give to you is to try to settle this without going to court.

Get both parties on a conference call: call one of them up, say you want to talk about this, ask them to hold for a moment, then get the other party on the line. Gently explain that you enjoyed playing for them, that you know going to court is a big hassle for everyone, and you wouldn't want it to get around town that they tend to stiff their acts. Ask them to please work out, right now, who owes you for the gig.

Since everyone involved is on the call, you should be able to determine who is responsible for paying you according to the promoter's agreement with the club. If this is in dispute (i.e. the club owner says the payment to the promoter was inclusive of your fee, but the promoter says the club owner agreed to cut you a check separately), then you need to go after the promoter (because you say you were hired for the job by him), and it's his responsibility to resolve his own payment dispute with the club.
posted by brain at 5:00 PM on November 17, 2009


IANAL, TINLA,

But this:
Who does your contract say is supposed to pay you? hmmmm...no contract?

I think you may not have recourse to pay anyone, unless you have an impartial witness that heard one of them agree to a specific amount.


isn't true. You definitely don't need a written document for every contract.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 5:11 PM on November 17, 2009


I'm not your lawyer, I don't represent your interests, this is not legal advice. Sue both.

At the end of the day, you let them point their fingers at each other. As far as you're concerned, all you know is one or both of them owe you money.

Judges get paid to sort these messes out, but you shouldn't have to bear the cost of these two parties and their finger-pointing.
posted by neksys at 5:29 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you may not have recourse to pay anyone

This scenario is unlikely in most US jurisdictions, where hiring someone to perform a specific professional service is itself an implied contract. It's not like these guys just showed up at the bar and played--presumably the gig was advertised, etc.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:30 PM on November 17, 2009


Also, what jurisdiction? Can't answer procedural questions without it.

In British Columbia Canada you would fill out one form with both defendant's names on them. You would be very careful to be sure you got the corporate name correct, if it is indeed a corporation (the bar owner almost certainly is). You would serve both parties with the same Notice of Claim.

In my experience it is the same in most Canadian jurisdictions. I havent' a clue about the US but I imagine it would be similar - talk to a lawyer or visit your courthouse for more information.
posted by neksys at 5:32 PM on November 17, 2009


I mean no offense here, but have you been playing out very long? I've played in a bunch of bands over the years, and in my experience, this kind of bullshit is far too common. Bar owners and promoters tend not to be brilliant at either business or communication, and they always blame each other for stuff like this. You definitely have to get it in writing... and most people won't give you anything in writing either, until you're established enough to headline at the better clubs.

Unless this is a lot of money you're talking about, I'd let it go. Take it as a lesson... and be prepared to eat these kinds of shit sandwiches.

See also "It's A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock n Roll," AC/DC...
posted by Rykey at 5:34 PM on November 17, 2009


let me say that I meant "sue anyone", not "pay anyone"...

but, my guess is that it isn't worth the trouble...as stated, lesson learned, next time get a contract signed...
posted by HuronBob at 5:39 PM on November 17, 2009


Rykey: it's far too common because not enough people do anything about it and just "let it go."

Sue them both, force them to point fingers in front of a judge. I'm guessing it won't get that far and you'll get your money quite soon after they're served with papers.
posted by rhizome at 5:45 PM on November 17, 2009


It's far too common because not enough people do anything about it and just "let it go."

Or recovering the amount of money in question is not worth the court costs, time off work, filing fees, etc.
posted by Rykey at 5:50 PM on November 17, 2009


Subject to the vagaries of location, the time involved in a small claims case is small and court costs can be recovered as part of the judgment.
posted by rhizome at 6:56 PM on November 17, 2009


You might win in court and still be unable to collect. If you show up in personat the club and make a calm request for payment, you're more likely to get some money. Go back again for more.
posted by theora55 at 7:38 PM on November 17, 2009


I'd like to thanks everyone for the comments. Here is a little more info for those asking for it. This happened in las Vegas.
The band i play in is an established act that has been playing here for a while now.I am a musician of 35 years now.
I feel lucky this has never happened to me before so I'm in new waters.
We did this show without a written contract because it was for a promoter we had done a lot of work fore in the past.
So we just did a verbal agreement with him and our manger. a price was set and times were agreed upon.
posted by scottbass at 8:17 PM on November 17, 2009


You could try contacting Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts - 212·319·ARTS (2787), ext. 1. I don't know much about the organization but if you are considered low income you might qualify for pro-bono legal services. I know they have NY and Philly offices but I'm not sure about Las Vegas.
posted by useyourmachinegunarm at 9:22 AM on November 18, 2009


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