Legal question

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Parker, Nov 22, 2012.

  1. Parker

    Parker New Member

    My difficult child 1 managed to get into some trouble while he was drunk when he was 16 (minor) resulting in minor damage. He was charged but was put on a years probation since this was his first offense. He received a bill from the property owners 10x the initial damage report. It seems rather than repairing the minor damage they completely upgraded the area where the damage was done. He's ignored the bills and now he has just received a letter from the property owners stating that if he does not pay the full amount in 10 days they will be putting the bill in the hands of a collection agency.

    The thing is, I know he was responsible for the damages and he would have paid for them if they had been the amount originally quoted (this is in light that he is a minor and there were no conditions placed by the court to reimburse the property owners). That being said, I look at it akin to someone buying a new car because he felt the security system of his old car was inadequate and charging the guy who broke into it the cost of the vehicle.

    Some questions:

    1. Can collection agencies contact a minor? (He's 17 now, but the offense happened when he was a minor)

    2. Can the collection agency come after the parents?

    3. Would the property owners likely have used a collection agency knowing that going the way of lawyers and court is not feasible?

    Any help would be appreciated.
  2. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    A minor by definition cannot enter into a contract. Seems logical then that minors cannot have collection agencies come after them.

    I would think that parents can be held responsible for minors' debts.

    I have never heard of a private individual hiring a collection agency. Seems a bit unhinged, in my humble opinion. Assuming this is a private individual, or is it a business?

    Did the property owners have insurance? Did they file a claim/collect? Would your insurance have covered the damage (I think some policies do)? If insurance would have covered it, seems like insurance company would have come after you for reimbursement.

    The world is a bizarre place, and I would never say never, but seems more than a bit hinky that they've sent a bill when there's no court order, no judgement, and you (hopefully) have documentation of the actual cost of damage. I'm pretty sure you can't just randomly decide someone owes you money and then hire an agency to collect it - but again, never say never. At this point, I think getting real legal advice would be warranted - not sure I'd make *any* payment at this point since that might be interpreted as acceptance of their inflated bill.
  3. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    That's why we insisted on full restitution as part of the court settlement that our neighbor kid perpetrated on our property.
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    If it isn't in the court documentation that he is responsible for restitution... I'd be calling your nearest university law department and reaching a senior law student... the profs LOVE to make them research real-life questions.
  5. Parker

    Parker New Member

    . It was a school, the asshat got drunk and broke in....well, he jimmied a lock on a door, nothing broken.

    Smart of you to do so.

    That's a really good idea, I'll give it a try.
  6. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Well, in most states a parent cannot be held liable for the acts of their children UNLESS they were negligent in the parenting of their children. Such as, did you give your child the alcohol and the tools to jimmy the locks at the school? Did you know that he was going out that night to do such a thing and/or was this the type of thing he was known to do every time he got out of your sight? Did you have him in therapy and were you attempting to do everything you could do work on his issues?

    If all of those things above are answered in the appropriate manner, such as NO, NO, Yes. Well, you arent held liable but he could be held liable but only for the actual damages. Normally a court would order restitution at the time they convicted him but the property owner could later sue for damages. Being that your son is a minor he can still be sued, the judgment would just hang over him until he paid it off. They would have to prove exactly what the damages were and if you have proof of what the bill was back then, well you would show that in court and they would have a hard time explaining why they want a whole new whatever now.
  7. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    You are in Canada too I believe? Was it part of his probation order to pay restitution? I'm trying to get the full picture to offer a proper perspective. If I have it right, he was drunk, broke a lock to enter the school illegally. Was placed on probation for a year. Agreed to pay the repair cost for the door. (Jump in if I'm reading it wrong) If this is the case, the question is, in what format was a agreement put into place to pay the cost of the door. If the court ordered restitution as part of his probation, I would contact probation to alert them that your son is being harassed and threatened with destroyed credit and collections, because he/you refuse to pay the overinflated cost of the repairs. Make it clear that your son is responsible to pay the repair to the door. However, if all that was broken was a lock, that is the cost he owes. Period. If the school did other updates to the area of their own accord, coinciding with the time they fixed the lock, that is nothing to do with your son nor restitution. Nor can someone use a collection agency for a court ordered restitution. They could report to the young offender judge that restitution was not made. They could contact the probation officer if your son is still on probation. That would allow the original judge to mediate the cost (which really should have been clearly laid out in the court order for restitution, as a standard for courts usually), or even the probation officer to mediate it. I'm suspecting this was a promise type thing, as in I, the teen who was stupid and pulled this stunt, agree to pay the cost of repairing the lock that I destroyed. If this is the case, what exactly are they submitting to collections???? There cannot be any contract, even if they drew something up between your son and the principal or whoever, that is binding to a collection agency. They could of course pursue this in small claims court. That may be necessary actually, because your son owes the true repair cost. But no way should a school milk this situation for costs beyond what your son caused them to incur. If this was a verbal thing, or a signed agreement between son and school, here is what you need to do. Send a registered letter (requiring signature of party listed, no third party signatures for acceptance) to the person this was entered into with verbally or by a written "contract". State the facts, nothing more. My son, on such and such date, did illegally enter xyz building. In doing so, he did break the lock on the door at xyz location in xyz building. Following this event, my son verbally/in writing (whichever it is) did accept full responsability for the damaged lock and accepted that he must pay the cost of having the lock replaced. Since that time, a invoice dated xyz date, sent from xyz staff person, was sent to my son outlining the costs claimed by xyz school for restitution costs for the repair of the lock. The invoice outlined costs drastically out of line with the cost of the repair that my son is liable for, that being the replacement of the lock. As the father of this minor child, I hereby notify you that you are to not have contact on this matter with my minor son. As my dependent, I am responsible for legal matters regarding my son. All future correspondence should be in writing, addressed to me a xyz address. Please be advised, that I will not be permitting my son to pay for costs on the invoice provided to me, as they do not reflect solely the damage he caused. This invoice entails other measures done by the school, unrelated to my sons damage to the lock. Please also be advised, that threats to my son to have this invoice sent to collections and to affect a minor child's credit report, for non payment of a invoice far surpassing damage caused by my son, is unacceptable and I demand these types of tactics towards my son cease immediately. I remain committed to ensuring my son pay his restitution for the broken lock. If you submit a invoice reflective of that repair alone, I will ensure my son provides the payment as soon as possible. If this cannot be resolved by the provision of xyz school of a accurate invoice, I will accept a lack of adequate response as acknowledgement of xyz school that the school is no longer seeking restitution from my son for the damaged lock. If I have not received a suitable written invoice within 10 days of your receipt of this letter, I consider this matter closed and will not acknowledge future communication in any form, regarding this issue. Furthermore, a collection agency is not a viable legal avenue and further implications of involving such as a threat toward my son, will result in me retaining my own attorney to ensure that this type of action toward my son is stopped immediately. If you choose to not send a proper invoice, you of course may name me (as the parent of a minor child) in a small claims court motion. I would be more than happy to resolve the actual cost of a repaired lock (vs the inflated invoice provided to my son) with a small claims court judge, should xyz school continue to insist on restitution that extends beyond the damage incurred by sons transgression. I hope this matter can be easily and civilly resolved in the coming 10 days. Should it not be, I consider this matter between xyz school and my family to be closed. Sincerely, XYZ.
  8. Parker

    Parker New Member

    Wow! Thanks for the in-depth response MM! I need to clarify that the only mention of damage costs were listed on the initial police report at 200 to 300 dollars. Before my son went to court he intimated to us the he was willing to pay for the repairs but not to his his lawyer. He was placed on probation without any conditions of reparation of damages so there was no actual costs of such discussed with the school board.
  9. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Wow. And the school is invoicing you for how much above the $2-300 reflected in the police report? Who exactly told your son he would be put to a collection agency if he fails to pay the over inflated amount? This sounds to me, like the school is pushing buttons. Trust me when I say, they know they have no leg to stand on. Is it possible for you to go the police department and request a copy of the report reflecting that cost of damages? If yes, I would amend that letter slightly to reflect the copy of that report I would recommend that you attach to the letter. I would state clearly THIS is the most appropriate reflection of cost to replace a lock. I would enclose a cheque, on the line where you can write what its for I would write : Payment in full re: lock repair at xyz school (ref: insert your sons name). I would finish the letter by stating that this is to NEVER be discussed in any fashion to your son again, it is resolved in you and your sons mind, and reflects the damages costed by police at the time the lock was damaged. Truly, they are bullying your son. Goodness knows why. I wouldn't sweat it, other than making sure that regardless of you providing the cheque, your son should be providing you with the money via cash or services over time to you in form of chores etc to "earn" the money. Other than that, I'd tell your son he is serving probation. He is making proper restitution. He and you should just send that letter off, and wash your hands. The school won't do anything. Is your son in conflict with authority at school for unrelated issues? They may be attempting in their own strange way to use this as a tool of some sort with him, without explaining why to you, nor discussing if its the right approach or not. Either way, a protracted dispute reflects poorly on the school. It also reflects well on your son to honor the police quote for damages and provide it asap.
  10. Parker

    Parker New Member

    Thanks again MM! You're a walking legal aid. :D I'll have to make some kind of response today as the letter was post marked on the 14th and I received it yesterday leaving me just a day to do something before they dump it into a collectors paws.
  11. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Parker, if it does get into the hands of a collection agency, do not speak to them or let your son speak to them.
    If you do answer the phone, give them no information, don't confirm that the person they are looking for even exists, let alone lives at your address.

    I know the temptation is to straighten everything out by providing them with information, but you don't want to go down that road. I'm not sure of all the legal intricacies, but collection agencies are bound by a fairly stringent set of rules. However, if you say something to them that allows them to get around those rules, then they're free to hound you.

    Best to head them off at the pass.
  12. Parker

    Parker New Member give you all a brief update.

    I needed to respond to the letter sent on Friday because I had 10 days to respond when the it was written on the 15th. Nice...I questioned why it wasn't send registered and all she could tell me was that's not what they do. Idiots. Anyway, I said something like...blah, blah, blah,...minor...blah, blah, guardian ..blah, not have permission..blah, blah....taking advantage of..blah....bullying.....cease and desist..blah, blah, action.

    The woman I speaking with was backing up so fast you could her beeping. I just finished writing a letter I'll send off tomorrow and see where it goes from there.