Q. I was sued in small claims for some money I owed, and my creditor got a judgment against me. I wasn't working at the time and couldn't pay it off. My credit went bad as a result of it.
I now have a job and would like to pay off the judgment. The problem is that the store to which I owe the money has closed, and no one seems to know where the owner is. I really need to get this judgment off my credit report, since I now have to buy a car and no one will lend me money for it. Please help!
A. You are in luck. The state Legislature has just passed a law that would allow a small-claims debtor to pay the amount of the judgment to the court that heard the case. Once the court receives the judgment amount and interest, the court will show that the judgment has been satisfied, and the debtor's credit record can be cleared.
The court will then notify the judgment creditor and advise the creditor on how to get the money. Any judgment that is unclaimed will go to the county.
The court may charge a maximum of $25 for this service. This fee must also be paid to the court before any judgment will be shown as satisfied.
Contact the court that heard your case for more details on how to use this new procedure.
Q. I was involved in an automobile accident in which my car was rear-ended as I waited at a red light. At the time, I didn't feel hurt, so I told the other driver that I was all right. I did get her name and driver's license number.
Recently, I've begun to feel some back pains. I don't have any insurance and would like to know if I could get some money from the other driver to cover my medical bills. Is it too late?
A. Unfortunately, you do not mention when the accident occurred. You generally have one year from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit based on any personal injuries you may have suffered from the accident.
You should consult an attorney before you attempt to handle the lawsuit by yourself. This is particularly true because the amount of your damages will determine which court (small claims, Municipal Court or Superior Court) will handle your case.
Q. I signed a rental agreement for the apartment I live in. My landlord later agreed that I could have a roommate but did not ask him to sign any agreement. My mother got ill, and I had to leave the state for several months to take care of her. My roomie promised me that he would take over the rent while I was gone.
When I came back, my roomie told me that he hadn't paid any of the rent. My landlord has now served us with a three-day notice to pay all the back rent owing while I was gone or to get out.
There isn't any way that I can pay all of this money. It seems to me that the landlord should be going after my roomie, since he was to pay the rent during my absence. Don't you think I'm right?
A. Unless you had a specific agreement with your landlord that you were not responsible for any of the rent during your absence, you are still liable.
Your roommate, however, should repay you for any amount you pay to the landlord, since it appears that the two of you had an agreement that you would pay no rent while you were gone. If your roommate refuses to do so, you may sue him for that amount. If the amount is $2,000 or less, you can sue him in small claims court.
B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers' questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life.