From Toronto to London
The reason I was in Canada was for a court case. The short of it: A former volunteer for my organization, WHOA had me speak at an art exhibit in London, Ontario in November of 2005 and had me send her 30 copies of the 1st edition of Net Crimes & Misdemeanors to sell while there. Only two copies sold, which I signed and since this was a non-profit event, I waived my speaking fee and asked only for travel be paid and to pay me the equivalent of $13 USD/book. They could then sell it for up to the cover price of $33.95 CDN and keep the rest.
When i left, I asked her to send me the books and I'd pay the shipping and customs fees. She felt she could sell more, so I let her. She then began behaving erratically with victims (she was an advocate) and I had to let her go from WHOA in March of 2006, when I also asked her for the books back. She then led me on a looong journey of hell, which landed me in London this past Thursday. Here's the timeline that I read to the judge and entered as evidence, then I'll write what happened in court:
March 9, 2006 - I emailed Ms. Bhat and asked her to return the remaining books to me, again reiterating that I would pay shipping and customs fees
March 9, 2006 - Ms. Bhat replied that the box of books was at the SWIM office and suggested I contact them to arrange the return of the books.
Thus followed a series of emails to Ms. Rickets at the SWIM office (the non-profit who put on the show) and phone calls made on my behalf to Ms. Rickets by one of my volunteers, Cassandra Jacobs.
Ms. Rickets was extremely hard to get hold of and after a week claimed she did not have the books and that Ms. Bhat did. Cassandra called Ms. Bhat and offered to drive to her location to pick up the books. Ms. Bhat then gave both Cassandra and me the runaround and refused to return my books. Cassandra told Ms. Bhat and Ms. Rickets that I was more than happy to pay the original customs fee of $66 CAN that had already been paid by SWIM, once the books were returned to me via Cassandra. There was never going to be any costs for SWIM or Ms. Bhat to pay, since Cassandra had generously offered to personally pick up the books.
In desperation, I contacted Ms. Bhat's father on April 15, 2006 to help resolve this situation. He informed me on April 21, 2006 that the books had been delivered to the SWIM office, but when they were contacted, they insisted that Ms. Bhat still had possession of the books. Ms. Bhat has consistently refused to return the books.
I tried to settle this through a settlement conference on October 18, 2006 and made a more than reasonable offer, but Ms. Bhat refused to settle.
She then had the nerve to email me the following:
From: "R B"
Subject: RE: Fwd: Re: Celebrating Women
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2006 12:34:27 -0500
Thanks for this Jayne but I had asked for (and the settlement conf. judge had instructed you to send) a copy of the email communication you said you had from Ann-Marie saying what Cass had told you she had said. The email below again only shows what Cass is relaying to you.
If you'd like my help in retrieving the books in question from SWIM, I will need a waiver of liability from you. I will be contacting the Dispute Resolution Centre for London (DRC) to assist you and me in reaching a resolution. The DRC service is free and impartial. It is an inexpensive alternative to the court process. I hope they are able to mediate via long-distance teleconference. If so, someone from their office will be in touch with you over the phone soon.
I responded with:
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2006 13:40:30 -0400
To: "R B"
Subject: RE: Fwd: Re: Celebrating Women
I have already filed the settlement offer paperwork. You should have offered this yesterday during the settlement conference. I will not accept a phone call from anyone involved with DRC. You should have handled this more professionally yesterday and resolved the situation when you had a chance.
My father-in-law died of cancer on November 5, 2006, then my husband committed suicide the next day. My associate and witness, Cassandra Jacobs, sent the following to Ms. Bhat on November 21, 2006:
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 19:02:22 -0500
From: "Cassandra S. Jacobs"
CC: "Hitchcock, Jayne"
Subject: Settlement papers
Ms. Bhat, this is my last attempt to contact you regarding the settlment papers that were mailed out to you on October 27, 2006.
According to the tracking information, the papers are still at the post office and have been there since October 30, 2006. If they are not picked up soon, they will be returned which will be taken as a refusal by you to settle in regards to the court case.
Jayne is going through a lot right now as her father-in-law died of cancer and her husband committed suicide the day after. This only happened two weeks ago.
Please pick up the settlement papers and accept them. Don't force Jayne to take this to court... she's going through enough right now and she doesn't need the added stress this is putting on her right now.
Regardless of her personal situation though, if you don't accept the settlement, Jayne will be pursuing it in court, and it was quite obvious in the settlement hearing that this is not going to go in your favour. The settlement papers are your last chance to get out of this with as little impact as possible.
Please have a heart and take the settlement. Don't make Jayne come up to Canada to deal with this. Please contact me and let me know the status of this.
Ms. Bhat responded with the following, again denying having the books in her possession and refusing to return the books and ending the whole matter so that I would not have to go to court:
From: "R B"
Subject: RE: Settlement papers
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2006 11:10:24 -0500
Hi Cass -
Your email contained such traumatic and tragic news - please convey my condolences and regards to Jayne and her family.
Re. the mailed items - I have not received them. Can you send me the tracking # so I can call for delivery? Also, please make sure the address is mine
I am confused as to your involvement in all of this. My recollection of the settlement conference is different from what you wrote below. You were not at the settlement conference, so I do not understand your comment below re. conversations during the conference which were confidential to those present at the conference.
I have offered to help negotiate between Jayne and SWIM in getting her books back to her if she waives my liability. I have also offered to have an independent third party professional mediator from the Dispute Resolution Center help us reach a resolution via teleconferencing on this issue thereby avoiding the expense and time involved in court proceedings. Those offers are open for Jayne's consideration, please do ask her to reconsider her decision not to take my offers.
Again, my condolences to Jayne.
To which Ms. Jacobs responded with the following:
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2006 07:55:31 -0500
From: "Cassandra S. Jacobs"
To: R B
CC: "Hitchcock, Jayne"
Subject: Re: Settlement papers
The settlement papers were sent to your address as well as your parents' address. The latter was returned as "no longer at this address" and the former was returned as unclaimed. I sent it registered and I have all the documentation and proof needed to show that you received notification of it but failed to pick it up.
If you want to accept the settlement offer, I will send it out again and you have until November 30th to accept it. Jayne is not going to waive liability at all... this is going through proper legal channels. You forced Jayne to go this route and go through the settlement conference... it's being finished through this process, not some third party organization.
My involvement with this situation has been from the beginning when I first contacted you about the books. Jayne asked me for help because I lived in close proximity to you and it was cheaper for me to call long distance within Canada as opposed to her calling from the US. I was also standing in as a neutral party to help out. I was more than willing to pick up her books from you at no cost or inconvenience to you or SWIM but both Jayne and I met with resistance and then flat out refusal from both. I'm involved as a friend and as a witness to these dealings.
So that's the run down. No, Jayne will *not* work through a third party organization, nor waive your liability. You should have thought of this during the settlement conference instead of trying to work your way out of it afterwards. If you want the settlement papers, I can send them out tomorrow in registered mail and you have until November 30 to accept them.
Because Ms. Bhat forced me to go to trial, I am losing income from a speaking engagement I could have booked – this was the only week the organization wanted me, as well as having to drive with my two dogs, as I have no one to care for them at home. I am still extremely distraught over my husband’s and his father’s deaths – the estates of both have been hard to take care of and to deal with.
If the books had been returned to me when I originally asked for them, in November, and also in March of 2006, I could have sold them for their cover price. As it is, now that the 2nd edition of the book has come out, the books in Ms. Bhat’s possession are worth practically nothing now and I have lost money on them. In fact, Amazon.ca has them selling for as little as $.91 CDN; the USA price is $.024.
So, court. Cass was dropped off at where I was staying in Toronto at 6:30 am. We got stuck in the driveway, managed to get Jurgen out and were off. We were making good time until traffic jammed - a car accident. We had given ourselves three hours to get to London, which should have taken 2 1/2. Now we'd be late. I was starting to get stressed out. Cass called the court and they said not to worry, just get there.
We finally made it 20 minutes late. I let Cass park the car while I ran into the courthouse. All that rushing and it turns out another case was in front of us and hadn't even been heard yet! So I waited for Cass in the hallway.
A blonde woman came out, a witness in the first case and we chatted. Then Ms. Bhat came out and ordered me to move my things out of the courtroom. I wouldn't look at her. The blonde woman asked her to hold the elevator, but Ms. Bhat didn't and the blonde asked me if that was who I was suing. I said yes. She said, "I hope you win."
Got a good laugh out of that.
The bailiff came out and said it wouldn't be a problem getting my things and to come back in an hour. So Cass came up and he told us about a closer parking lot - I was worried about the dogs. So we moved the car and walked Bandit and Guin, then went back upstairs. And waited. And waited. The blonde came to chat with us, then she was called in. A small woman going through a nasty divorce chatted with us, then we waited some more. Ms. Bhat came up and asked what was going on. We pretty much ignored her. I guess she just didn't get it.
FInally, we were called in. The judge was very nice (and funny) and said they needed to take a lunch break (it was 1:20 pm) and to come back at 2:30. So we went to Harvey's, a Canadian "McD's" and got burgers for us and the dogs. Filled up Jurgen with gas, then went back and were early. Ms. Bhat was 15 minutes late. One demerit.
The judge said he'd gone through the file and called me up. I entered my timeline in as evidence, then began reading it. He interrupted with questions as needed. When I got to the part about Chris and Dad dying, I began to cry. It had been a long, stressful trip, the email from his sister and phone call with SWMNBN had upset me and I was a mess, even with taking xanax. I pulled myself together. The clerk had given me tissues and the bailiff gave me water.
Ms. Bhat had a chance to ask me questions and they were assisine (with an emphasis on the "ass" part). She was basically running in circles with the questions. I sat down, then Cass got up. She said her piece, then the judge asked me if I wanted to ask her questions or should he. I let him. I've watched enough Judge Judy to know that keeping as quiet as possible is better. Then Ms. Bhat got up and began asking Cass assinine questions. Then she said she had an email from Cass to me where Cass called Ms. Bhat (and I quote), "a bint" (but pronounced it like pint, not like flint. Bint is British slang for stupid girl. The judge interrupted her and said he didn't care whose nose was out of joint (and she's nodding her head with a smug look on her face, not realizing yet he's talking about *her*) and to stick to the facts.
Ms. Bhat got up. I let the judge ask questions after she tried to claim she had nothing to do with the books. When she did. From the beginning. She sat down and the judge railed into her, saying the whole situation was appalling (she's nodding and looking smug) and the looked right at her and said, "Your behavior was truly appalling, this woman trusted you with her books, you were responsible and you will pay."
The smug look vanished pretty quick. He railed into her some more, gave me a judgment of $537 CDN (I was asking for $390 CDN) and said I couldn't be reimbursed for travel and said to Ms. Bhat that I should never have been forced to appear in court and shame on her. He then told her she could go to SWIM and make them pay. I hope she does. They'll hand her ass back to her. If she's smart (which she is not), she would pay me and get it over with.
The court will consider the matter settled only when I send them a letter stating I received payment in full. So we'll see.
We drove back to Toronto, Cass' boyfriend Stu brought over pizza and wine to celebrate and we stayed up until 1030 pm chatting and talking. I was relieved.
Drove back to the Ramada in Oriskany yesterday. They had gotten *more* snow. When I took the dogs out to pee, the snow was as high as my shoulders and I am 5'6". Wow.
We're heading home this morning. We're all stressed. Can't wait to get home. I have two days to get ready for my New Orleans trip. I am exhausted and think I'm getting a cold, so I'm taking loads of Airborne.
But I won! Thanks, Cass. You ARE the absolute BEST!