MIDDLETOWN, KY (WAVE) - It's known as "the people's court." Every year thousands turn to Jefferson County's Small Claims Court to get money they're owed.
But when a Middletown couple couldn't force a contractor they sued to pay up, they called the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department. Troubleshooter Eric Flack did some digging and found out when it comes to small claims court convincing a judge is only half the battle.
Thomas and Nancy Spencer have been married 53 years.
"We have always tried to be loyal to people," Nancy said. "Help them, very trusting."
But a lifetime of experience couldn't keep them from getting involved with a repair man that left them all bent out of shape.
"It's not fair, we know that," Thomas said. "He took our money."
He is David Spears, owner of Spears Home Remodeling in Jeffersonville. The Spencers hired him to fix two leaks in the basement of their Middletown home and paid him $2,895 to do it. But the Spencers say the leaks came back. So did Spears. Twice.
But when he couldn't get the problem patched up Spears proposed a new project with a new price tag.
"He said I'm going to have to go outside and dig," Nancy said.
"And he wants more money," her husband added. "$1,600 more."
But the Spencers' original contract included a guarantee. So they hired someone else to fix the leak and took Spears to Jefferson County Small Claims Court to get their money back.
Spears didn't show and the judge awarded the Spencers a $2,500 judgement, the maximum in small claims. But nine months later, the Spencers are still trying to collect.
Judge Gina Kay Calvert, a Jefferson County Small Claims Judge, said when it comes to small claims court winning your case is just the start.
"The court is not, it has never been, set up to be a collection system," Judge Calvert explained.
If the defendant doesn't voluntarily hand over a check, plaintiffs have to file paperwork to garnish wages, bank accounts, or ask the sheriffs department to seize property. All of which costs more time and money.
"And sometimes, it's just not worth spending good money to chase bad," Judge Calvert admitted.
The Spencers, in their mid-70's, said they didn't have the energy to fight Spears for their money.
"I said I know somebody will find him," Nancy said with a laugh. "Guess who," she added, referring to WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Eric Flack.
The Spencers contacted the Troubleshooter Department to track down Spears for them. By phone he told Troubleshooter Eric Flack he didn't know about the small claims case or the judgement against him. When confronted with a court summons with his signature on it, Spears agreed to pay the $2,500.
Spears denied there were any problems with his work but admitted he dropped the ball by not showing up for court. The Spencers hope Spears makes good now.
"He's ducked the courts, so what's going to make us think now he's going to bring us a check?" Thomas said.
Judge Calvert suggests that before you file a case in small claims court, read the small claims handbook. You can find a copy of it by clicking here.
Pages 14-21 lay out what you have to go through to get your judgement, including resources for finding attorney's who will get your money for you, provided they receive a percentage of the payment.
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