As an example for videogame journalists, I’m detailing a small claims suit I filed against a travel magazine that was led by, in this case, a less-than-honest editor in chief.
So what happened when I took the train downtown to court on a chilly spring evening?
In front of a genial mediator, I pled my case. I showed him the contract, the email threads and the receipts for expenses to South Africa.
The editor pled her case as well. She said she didn’t have the money to pay me. The mediator leaned forward and said, “Are you paying your staff?” “Yes,” she said. “But…” The mediator interrupted, “Are you paying them every week?” “Yes,” she said.
The mediator asked if that was her signature on the contract. “Yes,” she said. “But…” Again the mediator interrupted. “Then you have to pay this man. This man has a contract. He did the work. This contract is legally binding. And you’ve incurred interest as well,” he added.
I was happy, to say the least.
As an aside, it used to be that you had to travel to downtown Manhattan to file a claim. The process took hours. Now, through a third party service, you can file a claim electronically for a mere $14. But you do have to travel downtown to small claims court for the case itself. Once you arrive for your court date, the legal representative for your publisher may ask for more time and the case may be adjourned. That means another trip to court. But you’ll get your day with the mediator. And, as detailed above, the mediator generally looks kindly upon you, the litigant – as long as you can prove you’re owed money.
What happens once you’ve won the case? How do you collect your payment? And, once you’ve sued, can you ever write for the same publication or Web site again?