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Breach of Contract

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I entered into a business venture with an ex-attorney who happens to be my landlord and, I thought, friend. I am a Computer Programmer/Analyst, by the way. This man is very wealthy and claims to have many legal and political connections local in my area. The agreement was verbally made, and no documents were ever signed. It goes as follows: He would finance a business start-up company offering music management and recording services to unsigned music artists, something he has always wanted to do. The business would be operated out of his paralegal service office, for which he just renewed his lease for two more years to support the music business. He asked me to assist him for free, but I would receive 25% of his net profits if any were made. He also stated that at anytime, for any reason, I was free to leave the business, that this would be "OK".

I agreed.

In the months that followed, I worked extremely hard for an average of 40 hours per week with no pay. He paid for resources needed for the business, and I implemented them.

During this time, I discovered that this man was seriously mentally disturbed. Also, he would make it very hard for me to work for his business because he was always talking to me and demanded my full attention. He even went so far as to impose on the time I was working for my "real-employer", a job I was working from home on. During these one-sided conversations, he confessed to continuing to pratice law without a license, falsifying income taxes by stating that he used me as an income-tax write off (among others) for dinners I supposedly attended, asked me to keep a relationship he was having with a woman a secret from his wife, repeatedly expressed discriminatory remarks against women and gays, that he had seriously contemplated murdering one of his clients who he helped get off on a murder charge, only to subsequently find out that the client was guilty, and finally... he once attempted suicide ten years ago by stabbing himself with a nine-inch blade. He also became angry and would raise his voice for no apparent reason other than telling me about one of his life experiences that made him very mad.

As time went on, I began to raise some of my concerns with him. This led to a series of arguements, all of which seemed worse than the previous one. I finally decided that I could no longer tolerate this man nor this working environment and submitted my resignation in writing. I did, however, offer to continue to answer any of his questions, using email only so I would not have to meet with him, for a limited time to allow him the opportunity to find a suitable replacement while still moving forward with the business. He reponded by thanking me. But when he committed me to come back to his office to set-up more computer equipment, I refused by stating that I would only set-up the computer if he had someone bring it to me at my home; that I was, in fact, resigned. He then responded by stating if I did not return to his office to resume my duties that I originally agreed to, he would initiate a lawsuit against me for breach of contract and/or fraud.

This person never once informed me that we were entering into a formal contract. I thought we were just a couple of friends out to have some fun and maybe make a few bucks because he had told me that he did not care if he did not make a dime, that he "just wanted to have some fun". He never once stated that if I did excerise my right to leave the business that I would be the target of his lawsuit. If I had known this beforehand, I would have never agreed to a working relationship with him and would have stayed away from this man at all costs.

I responded to his threat with an email stating that I would not be forced into a working relationship with him, and did not want anymore contact with him until I sought out legal counsel. I also stated that I would consider any attempt on his part to contact me to be an act of harassment and that I would report the incident to the proper law-enforcement authorties.

At this point, my wife and myself are worried. Not just because of the impending lawsuit, but because this man is very wealthy, powerful, and obviously in need of psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

I did some checking the status of his law license. It turns out that he is "resigned facing pending charges". I get the feeling there is more going on with this man than I know.

All I want is to end this relationship and go on with my life. My wife just had a baby and I just started working a new government job and am now recovering from being laid-off from the private sector earlier this year. I don't cause trouble for anyone and try to lead a simple life. Now, I feel as if my life is in jeapordy.

Can he actually win if he follows through? Do I have a counter-lawsuit opportunity? I have thought about seeking a lawer, but really can't afford one. If I did seek a lawyer, what kind would I need?

Please respond. Thank you.

[This message has been edited by Misled (edited August 23, 2000).]


JBK Georgia

A lot more information regarding your oral contract needs to be known to determine whether or not you could be liable if he sues you. From the information you submitted, it does not appear that you are liable. As to potential counterclaims, check with your local Department of Labor. There are some states with local minimum wage laws that might apply since you were not paid even the minimum wage. (Federal minimum wage laws probably would not apply --the company needs at least $500,000 in sales to be covered.) If he does sue you, a civil litigation or business litigation attorney would be the type of lawyer you would want.

This post contains general advice only, not specific legal advice. Check with an attorney in your area before taking legal action. No attorney/client relationship has been created or should be implied. This post is not a solicitation for business.

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