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  1. #1
    BigQuestions is offline Junior Member
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    How to sue a municipality

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? MA

    Can one sue a municipality, or only individuals within the town government/structure in small claims? Are there any legal loopholes?

    For background, I was hired to do a piece of contract work (under $2K), which I completed. I submitted a bill and they have ignored me completely. I have tried calling (they don't return calls) and have sent a demand letter (also ignored). I have a letter of intent to pay (the town assuming financial responsibility for payment for my services), as well as emails which indicate that I have successfully completed the service, and yet they will not pay.

    Whom should I sue, and is there anything else I have to do before filing suit? It seems like a very clean case to me (I have loads of documentation), but I am wondering what they could possibly have up their sleeves if they are ignoring me.

    Any help or advice would be most welcome.
  2. #2
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigQuestions View Post
    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? MA

    Can one sue a municipality, or only individuals within the town government/structure in small claims? Are there any legal loopholes?

    For background, I was hired to do a piece of contract work (under $2K), which I completed. I submitted a bill and they have ignored me completely. I have tried calling (they don't return calls) and have sent a demand letter (also ignored). I have a letter of intent to pay (the town assuming financial responsibility for payment for my services), as well as emails which indicate that I have successfully completed the service, and yet they will not pay.

    Whom should I sue, and is there anything else I have to do before filing suit? It seems like a very clean case to me (I have loads of documentation), but I am wondering what they could possibly have up their sleeves if they are ignoring me.

    Any help or advice would be most welcome.
    Have you filed a formal claim with the town? This may need to be on a specific form and submitted to a specific address/department.
  3. #3
    BigQuestions is offline Junior Member
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    I have written a demand letter. I don't know what a formal claim is, and have googled this until I am blue in the face.
  4. #4
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigQuestions View Post
    I have written a demand letter. I don't know what a formal claim is, and have googled this until I am blue in the face.
    Try calling and asking the procedure...
  5. #5
    BigQuestions is offline Junior Member
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    Whom would I call? Is this a "consumer protection" question? (I think not, but no one answers that hotline).

    There doesn't seem to be a clear procedure here, and if I hire a lawyer to answer my questions, I will eat up the fee that I am owed because of the town's breach of contract.

    Basically, I want the most efficient way to collect my money, without incurring a lot of cost.
  6. #6
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigQuestions View Post
    Whom would I call? Is this a "consumer protection" question? (I think not, but no one answers that hotline).

    There doesn't seem to be a clear procedure here, and if I hire a lawyer to answer my questions, I will eat up the fee that I am owed because of the town's breach of contract.

    Basically, I want the most efficient way to collect my money, without incurring a lot of cost.
    Call the city and ask what their procedures are...
  7. #7
    tranquility is offline Senior Member
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    The city will have some process of you asking for your money. It is not a demand letter, but a special process/form. Each governmental agency is different on the specific form which is why you have to ask. Because it is a contractual issue, the reviewer of the form will make a recommendation to pay or will deny it. If denied, only then can you sue the boss person of the agency contracted with for your money. If you don't go through the process within strict statutory rules, the government will not give you permission to sue them and they will be immune from suit. Immune. Not real hard to sue, immune.

    Call the governmental entity or go to their website. At worst, call the controller who was going to cut you your check. They'll know.
  8. #8
    BigQuestions is offline Junior Member
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    This is what I am trying to figure out. I should say that it is the school department; is that still considered a "government agency" where these statutory rules prevail? I looked on the town website and cannot find whom to call for these answers. Any ideas? There are a lot of personnel.

    I can't believe they could get away with simply stiffing me on the payment, and when I called the school billing manager and her assistant, both simply ignored my calls.

    Why don't they have to respond to a demand letter, and why can't I go straight to suit in small claims court if it is a clear case of breach of contract?
  9. #9
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigQuestions View Post
    This is what I am trying to figure out. I should say that it is the school department; is that still considered a "government agency" where these statutory rules prevail? I looked on the town website and cannot find whom to call for these answers. Any ideas? There are a lot of personnel.

    I can't believe they could get away with simply stiffing me on the payment, and when I called the school billing manager and her assistant, both simply ignored my calls.

    Why don't they have to respond to a demand letter, and why can't I go straight to suit in small claims court if it is a clear case of breach of contract?
    Have you ever heard the phrase "You can't sue city hall?" Well, you CAN, but you have to follow the rules. And those are the rules.
  10. #10
    BigQuestions is offline Junior Member
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    I am not being deliberately obtuse, but I am not a lawyer, and don't know "the rules", nor whom to call to ask these questions. I have spent all day googling, and cannot get the answers I need in clearcut language.

    If anyone can answer the question of WHOM to call in the city/town, what to ask for, and a bit more about the statutory rule or procedure on this, I would appreciate the information. Now I think the town/city knows that I could "sue wrong" and they won't have to pay, which is why they are doing nothing. I want to do everything by the letter of the law, but I also can't have it cost me several hundred or thousand dollars to get the info. I just want to know whom to call to get the appropriate form, and what to do from there.

    Was the demand letter useless, or should I be glad they have been given a head's up?
  11. #11
    tranquility is offline Senior Member
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    Because, it's good to be king.

    It's called governmental immunity.

    Info edit:
    The demand letter was useless.

    Talk to the school district for their rules. Sorry it's not easy to sue the government. It's almost like those who make the laws make them in their favor. Wild.
    Last edited by tranquility; 06-17-2009 at 03:27 PM.
  12. #12
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigQuestions View Post
    I am not being deliberately obtuse, but I am not a lawyer, and don't know "the rules", nor whom to call to ask these questions. I have spent all day googling, and cannot get the answers I need in clearcut language.

    If anyone can answer the question of WHOM to call in the city/town, what to ask for, and a bit more about the statutory rule or procedure on this, I would appreciate the information. Now I think the town/city knows that I could "sue wrong" and they won't have to pay, which is why they are doing nothing. I want to do everything by the letter of the law, but I also can't have it cost me several hundred or thousand dollars to get the info. I just want to know whom to call to get the appropriate form, and what to do from there.

    Was the demand letter useless, or should I be glad they have been given a head's up?
    Ok, look. Find the number for the school district...the general "front desk" number. Call and tell them that you would like to file a claim. That person will either tell you who to talk to or transfer you to that person (or both). When you talk to that person, ask what their procedures are for filing a claim against the district.
  13. #13
    BigQuestions is offline Junior Member
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    Are they "required" to provide the form? I haven't gotten anyone to even return calls, so I could just see them not responding to this either. What do I do if they don't give me the form?

    And they do an internal review based on their form? How long does that usually take? And only THEN can I go to small claims?

    At a minimum, it seems like it could take months and months to finally get paid, if I ever do.

    What I have learned from this, is don't do contract work for government bodies. Sad to have come to this.
  14. #14
    tranquility is offline Senior Member
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    At a minimum, it seems like it could take months and months to finally get paid, if I ever do.
    Yes, except that government tends to pay its legtimate bills unless there is profound cash flow issues where everyone is hurt and going to small claims isn't going to make it better. So, either we're all in a place that's bad, or, there is some dispute over the legtimacy of the bill.

    What is the dispute which you will litigate in court?

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