Denver Bar Association
September 1999
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Callers Get What They Pay for on LawLine 9

by Craig Eley

The following legal inquiries are set forth exactly as they were made to Lawline 9 volunteer lawyers. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

I’ve just found out that a bench warrant for a drug-related misdemeanor has been issued for me in Missouri. What should I do?

    Stay out of Missouri.

This is the type of insightful, cutting-edge advice which those of us who participate in Lawline 9 frequently have the opportunity to impart to an inquiring citizen.

Run by Channel 9’s Paula Woodward and her able assistant, Ann King, Lawline 9 gives the common lawyer a chance to grab a little face time on television, although since participants are seated at a long table with phones stuck in their ears, usually the camera angle results in more bald spot time than face time.

I have my house under contract to sell for $200,000. But I just received a property tax evaluation notice from the county which says it’s only worth $180,000. Is it legal to sell a house for more than it’s worth?

    You bet. It happens most of the time.

I am always amazed on those Wednesday evenings as to how many people call in. As soon as the lines are opened, the seven or eight telephones start ringing and never stop.

I bought a used car at Foxy's Autos. The next day, I got in it and it wouldn't start. Wouldn't turn over, no noise, no nothing. So I called Foxy's and told them to come and pick it up, but they say it's my problem. What rights do I have?

    None.

But what about my car?

    It has the right to remain silent.

But what about the Lemon Law?

    First, Colorado's Lemon Law is so ineffectual that "lemon" probably refers to the law itself, not automobiles. Secondly, it only applies to new cars. Did Foxy's give you a warranty?

They sure did. I've got it right here.

    Good. Read it to me.

It says "as is."

Those who have been Lawline 9 volunteers know that it is about the most fun a lawyer can have while still acting as a lawyer. Although a particular legal topic is announced to viewers, calls on all subjects come rolling in. With most attorneys specializing these days, it is a pleasant change to have a chance to answer questions from areas you haven't thought about since law school.

I bought my brother's house 10 years ago. There's a shed on the property. Now he tells me that the shed was not included in the sale, and he wants me to buy it from him for $1,000. Can he do that?

    He can tell you whatever he wants to. Did you have a written contract when you bought the house?

Yes.

    Did the contract say that it did not include the shed?

No. I've looked it over again. It doesn't even mention the shed.

    Then the shed is yours.

But what do I tell my brother?

    That depends on whether you want to maintain good relations with him.

I don't, he's a rat. He only calls when he wants money. And the thing is, I don't even want the shed. It's just a got a bunch of his old stuff in it.

    Then tell him to come and take it away.

But he says he'll sue me and make me buy the shed.

    If he says that again, then tell him you'll counterclaim for storage fees for having his shed on your land for a decade. Even at only $10 per month, over 10 years, I figure he owes you $1,200. Tell him to pay you $200, and you'll keep the shed to make up the other thousand and call it even.

Hey, that sounds great!

    Realistically, he's never going to sue you. And if he does, he will lose. Since it's your shed, you're not really entitled to storage fees from him. If he should sue you, call the Metro Lawyer Referral Service and they'll give you the name of an attorney. Probably the most that will be needed is a stern letter from an attorney, and that won't cost you much.

Many callers need practical as well as legal information. Since volunteers are prohibited from giving out their names, we never have the opportunity to see how our wise counsel pans out (this may be a good thing).

My disability insurance says they're going to stop my payments because their doctor says I can go back to my job. Can the doctor do that?

    He'd better do that, or the insurance company won't send him any more business.

But what can I do about it? I think I'm still disabled.

    What's you disability?

Narcolepsy (a neurologic disease which causes one to suddenly fall asleep at unforseen times).

    Well, lots of narcoleptics are employed. What's your job?

I'm a truck driver.

    A truck driver? And the doctor says you can return to work? Does he know what your job is?

Sure does.

    Then do two things. Write a letter to the doctor along the lines of "this will confirm that you have released me to return to work as a truck driver, knowing that I could fall asleep at any time. Please send a copy of this letter to your liability insurance company."

I see what you're getting at. That will put him on the spot. What's the second thing?

    The second thing is, if you should return to work, call me every day and tell me what part of town you're driving in.

Really?

    No. But call a lawyer who knows about disability insurance policies, and have him or her look over your policy to determine if it pays you only if you can do no kind of work at all, rather than just your old job. There could be a lot of money at stake, and a lawyer can look at the policy and your medical reports and tell you what your appeal rights are, etc. I can give you the number of an agency that will be able to find you a lawyer in this field.

Then there are those who are standing up for truth, justice and the American Way, and just need a little reassurance.

 

I've been a good employee for four years and now my employer says that he's going to make everyone take a drug test. Can he do that?

    Yes.

But what about my rights?

    You don't have many, but you do have the right to refuse drug testing. But there could be consequences.

Could he fire me?

    Yes.

It's not that I have anything to hide, I just don't like the idea of peeing in a cup.

    When you think about it, it's basically something that each of us does a couple of times every day, whether in a cup or something else. What's your problem with it?

I don't have any real problem, it's just the principle. I think my employer should trust us.

    Well, there's an old saying that you can't eat principle. But if it means enough to you, you may just have to find another job. On the other hand, he may not fire you if you refuse to be tested, so maybe you should just wait and see.

Well, if he goes ahead with this, everyone in the plant is going to test positive for something.

    If that happens, he's not likely to fire all his employees, is he? Maybe there might be safety in numbers.

What about the Disability Act?

    That's a law that protects the jobs of people who are disabled. I don't see how it would apply to you.

Isn't smoking marijuana a disability?

    If you were addicted, maybe. Are you?

No, I just like it, and I don't want to give it up. What about the Weekend Law?

    I never heard of it.

You know, the law that says you can't be fired for what you do on weekends.

    There is a law that the tobacco companies got passed a few years ago that prohibits an employer from firing an employee for a legal activity which is undertaken away from the employment. But the last I heard, using marijuana wasn't legal. So that law wouldn't help you.

Hey, you're supposed to be helping me! Every idea I get, you just shoot it down! There must be some way I can be sure to keep my job.

    Maybe there is. Try this--stop smoking marijuana.

For those of you who want in on the fun, contact Dave Ells at the Denver Bar Association, (303) 824-5323.



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