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Legal advice please!
Thread poster: Georgina Izzard

Georgina Izzard
Local time: 05:24
French to English
Feb 18, 2014

I'd appreciate a little legal advice please as I'm quite concerned about this...
In 2011, I paid a lawyer based in Belgium to take a client to court (an infamous agency) over unpaid invoices amounting to 800 euros.
The lawyer took the case to court (I paid him 250 euros to do so) and won the case, as they failed to show.
I was then asked to pay 500 euros for the bailiff to recover the money owing, which I paid in May 2012 on the understanding that this would definitely result in my money being recovered. Since then I have barely heard from the lawyer, who just says he will contact me if anything happens.
I had obviously given up on this case but have just now received an email containing an invoice from the bailiff asking for a further 534 euros in costs, and saying that the agency have disappeared!!!

Since I at no point was asked to authorise any further expenditure, what is my position legally? I obviously do not want to spend any more money on a claim that was only for 800 euros, especially as doing so is going to put me into debt.

If anyone can offer me any advice or refer me to any free sources of legal advice I would really appreciate it as this is very stressful.

Many thanks!


[Edited at 2014-02-18 17:39 GMT]


 

ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 07:24
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
You really need an attorney. Feb 18, 2014

I am sorry to read what has happened to you. I just hope there is an attorney translator at ProZ who can give you advice. Good luck.

 

Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:24
English to French
+ ...
Time to cut your losses Feb 18, 2014

Facts:
1) You are already out of pocket by 750 euros.
2) The bailiff tells you that the company no longer exists. At best, it has filed for bankruptcy. I am saying "at best" because one would think that, if that was the case, the bailiff would have said so.
3) You are under no obligation to give any more money to the bailiff.

So, just forget about it. You won a legal victory (one may imagine that the court order you obtain may not have been the only one). At this point, you have spent 750 euros, and the best ( but very unlikely - you could possibly hope would be to recover the full amount, meaning you would have 50 euros paid on your original 800-euro invoice.

There is nothing legal any more about this. You did everything right: hiring a lawyer and then a bailiff. That's it. Why would anyone spend any more money with only the certainty of a loss?

This is not legal advice, just sound advice.


 

Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:24
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
European Small Claims Procedure Feb 18, 2014

I am no legal expert, with no legal experience, but in hindsight, next time worth first contacting a Small Claims Court in the UK and ask about the European Small Claims Procedure.

 

Georgina Izzard
Local time: 05:24
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
To clarify... Feb 18, 2014

Thanks for your responses and advice!
Just to clarify in case I was unclear: my question is where I stand with regard to paying this invoice for unapproved expenditure which has apparently been run up on my behalf without my knowledge.
I had to all intents and purposes written off the money I was owed, after so many months have passed without hearing anything from my lawyer, but now I am suddenly being invoiced for bailiff's costs for work which they are claiming already to have undertaken.
I do not intend to pay this invoice but I'm wondering what my position is legally in this situation?


 

Mark Hamlen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:24
Member (2010)
French to English
+ ...
Check with lawyer, but Feb 19, 2014

You should be able to recover the costs of pursuing the naughty client, the court should be able to force the client to pay your invoices and all the costs incurred in the recovery. Of course, then you need the court to enforce this.

Edit:

Oops, just saw the fact that the client has disappeared, don't know what to say....

[Edited at 2014-02-19 08:39 GMT]


 

Georgina Izzard
Local time: 05:24
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Mark Feb 19, 2014

I have already been through the courts, the problem now is the bailiff is trying to charge me for their services when they haven't even been able to recover my money and I didn't authorise the extra expenditure....

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I had a similar experience Feb 19, 2014

In my case, though, I authorised all expenditure before committing to anything.

My client and I were both in France, so I filed the claim myself. That cost about 40€ and, once approved by the court, the bailiffs wanted money (can't remember how much) to serve the notice. Amazingly enough, the client ignored it. The bailiff then came back asking if I wanted them to really enforce it (i.e. turn up with the police to seize property etc). The client in this case was most certainly still trading so I authorised the additional expense. It took a while but in the end my (ex-)client not only paid my invoices, but also court fees, bailiffs fees, interest... I was out of pocket for a few phone calls, lots of copies, some registered letters, and a few hours of my time. And in the end the client paid out at least double the amount he owed me.

So, it can be worth going to 'the bitter end'. But, and it's a big but, only if the client can be forced to pay in the end. And nobody has any right to present you with a bill for a service you haven't authorised.


 

Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:24
Dutch to English
+ ...
Sad case Feb 19, 2014

Other Belgians may want to check, but I think the law says that a bailiff 'must do everything in his power to get the concerned debt paid', so he doesn't have to ask you to authorise any expenditure. Now, this is the snag: in Belgium, the bailiff only invoices for the 'costs' he has made, and if he cannot recover them from the debtor (who is the one who should pay), he is allowed to recover them from somewhere else, i.e. the person who asked him to do his job, as he needs to be paid for his efforts. As it is, he has probably sent a few letters, done a bit of research and then found out that the company no longer exists, in which case you will be the one to recover from, seeing as there is no debtor any more.

On the upside: you are in another country and you can tell him to stick it. Belgian bailiffs are notorious for pursuing things in a sadistic way, but maybe you'll get away with it as it is not a lot. Another hint: if you don't pay and the bailiff doesn't contact you for another 5 years, the debt automatically expires. Interest is 8% pa I think.

Good luck with it.

If you want to check the validity of the VAT number concerned, surf to Graydon. You can see for free what's happened to it.

[edit] Why did I say 'notary'???

[Edited at 2014-02-19 18:21 GMT]


 

Georgina Izzard
Local time: 05:24
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the insights Feb 19, 2014

I've contacted the Brussels Bar, who apparently offer free legal advice, so I'm hoping they can give me a clear answer as to where I stand.
I'm really surprised if the lawyer/bailiff is allowed to incur these costs on my behalf as I would have thought it would be compulsory for him to check with me before spending such a large amount on recovery costs (which now exceed the original sum!) when they clearly should have given up long ago, or at least warned me how the system worked : (
Another translator, also looking to recover their money, told me a little while ago that their Belgian lawyer did a search on the translation agency in question for a small fee and found that this agency had no assets so they dropped the case before incurring huge expense. I'm wondering why I was never offered this service.
Anyway, I'll keep you posted on the outcome! Fingers crossed...


 

Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:24
English to French
+ ...
Kirsten is right Feb 19, 2014

I concur with Kirsten.

 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:24
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Seriously? Feb 19, 2014

Kirsten Bodart wrote:

On the upside: you are in another country and you can tell him to stick it. […] maybe you'll get away with it as it is not a lot. Another hint: if you don't pay and the bailiff doesn't contact you for another 5 years, the debt automatically expires. Interest is 8% pa I think.



Do you really think this is a good idea? Hint: replace "Bailiff" with "translator" and read your suggestion again.



[Bearbeitet am 2014-02-19 15:27 GMT]


 

Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 04:24
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Consult a lawyer first, of course Feb 19, 2014

efreitag wrote:

Do you really think this is a good idea? Hint: replace "Bailiff" with "translator" and read your suggestion again.

We just had a thread about a translator who did a job he wasn't asked to do (http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/264608-translator_started_working_without_po-page2.html) and the answer was, pretty much, "Tell him to stick it." But in a very, very nice way, of course. If Georgina is positive she never asked for this service, I see no reason for her to pay. Certainly not the full amount. In fact I'd double-check to make sure this wasn't a scam from someone who found the records and thought she looked like a soft touch.


 

Georgina Izzard
Local time: 05:24
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Kuochoe Feb 19, 2014

The bailiff was instructed by my lawyer in Brussels. I paid them 500 euros upfront (an excessive amount in my opinion) in 2012 and the lawyer, when I chased him, said the bailiff was taking his time as (and I quote) "Problem is that the amount is so small, so he isn't very interested !"
Nice eh! I have never received any documentation (other than invoices) from either the lawyer or the bailiff but I have just been presented after 10 months of silence with an invoice (in Dutch so I can't understand it) sent from the bailiff via the lawyer with a brief note attached asking me to pay the bailiff for the costs which he can't recover.
I'm amazed that he has managed to (supposedly) spend 1034 euros on this case, and the fact that I have nothing to show for it in terms of records is galling to say the least.
I think if it turns out that I am compelled to pay out this money then I am going to insist on first receiving some kind of paperwork. Surely I am entitled to a copy of the court ruling?


 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:24
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Difficult case Feb 19, 2014

Dear Georgina,

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. I'm afraid the case will be difficult to solve, you'd probably need a Belgian lawyer (again). I'm not sure whether it's worth it, or even a good idea.

I'm by no means a legal expert, and I have no experience with the Belgian system. The case is all the more complicated since it was actually the lawyer who mandated the Bailiff. So it all depends on what you actually commissioned the lawyer to do, and whether he was allowed to authorise the Bailiff (it's well possible that the lawyer is liable for the 500EUR).

Then there's the question whether the Bailiff acted according to what the lawyer told him to do.

I'm quite positive you're indeed entitled to sufficient substantiation of the Bailiff's invoice. If it's any help I'll be happy to have a look at the Dutch invoice for you.

Anyway, I'd probably consider the money lost. Although I'm all for standing up for your rights, it seems that you've thrown good money after bad.

Knid regards,
Erik


 
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