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Case closed due to lack of evidence, can client take us to small claims court?

(20 Posts)
BallsforEarrings Sun 03-May-15 16:53:00

Hello, I am so upset about this, if anyone can help advise me I would be very grateful...

We are a cleaning company and one of our newer cleaners was accused of stealing jewellery by a client she had cleaned.

We had had previous trouble with this client trying to hold us accountable for losing a small inexpensive item she needed, we did not take responsibility for this as I told her 'important items and valuables should be stored away before a clean lest they get lost during a thorough service, however a ember of staff has kindly offered to track down a new item for your such and such'. She harassed this member of staff and was pressing her to hurry up and get the part for her (the employee was not the same one accused of stealing btw).

This client is not well off and when she reported her jewellery missing to me, I believed her and wanted to compensate her because she was so earnest and because the cleaner in question was new and not well known to us. It seemed real although she had no proof of owning any of the items and she said some things that were a bit strange, I was determined to pay for the items but I wanted a police investigation to try to get the items back and find out if the cleaner was a thief.

Long story short, we had a horrible time being investigated, one cleaner was arrested and her house searched, the other questioned under caution and it transpired that our staff were shown some of the items on the clients statements which to my horror were not true and nasty lies to discredit our company and make us look dodgy and unprofessional.

Obviously I now think the client is a con, the police closed the case soon after as there was no evidence to link our staff to the missing items at all but the lies within the statement were not known about to the police as they didn't speak to me first despite me calling them, they just closed the case due to lack of evidence.

The client then emailed me demanding the value of the items (several hundred pounds) to be recouped via our insurance. The insurance said without a conviction they will not pay out. (I did not tell them she lied). The police advised me to have no contact with the client and to deal through other agencies ie insurance co and solicitor in case she harassed me.

She then sent another email stating if I didn't get in touch she was taking me to a small claims court for the balance.

Police advised me to tell her the case was closed, there was no evidence found to connect our staff to the jewellery and that we were under no obligation to pay anything to her and to let her know this and that if she continued to contact me I would report her to police for harassment, which I did by email.

I asked the police man if I should pay just to get it over with as she was threatening with small claims court and he said no say (the above) because if you pay out it will imply guilt and leave you wide open to her asking for more money after that and we could end up being constantly blackmailed for more money.

Can she take us to small claims court and win? I am losing so much sleep over this. sad

YonicScrewdriver Sun 03-May-15 20:02:46

I'd be very surprised if she could as the police have investigated and as you've asked your insurers to handle it. What would her case be?

<not a lawyer>

BallsforEarrings Sun 03-May-15 20:34:30

Thank you Yonic I really do appreciate you're opinion, even if you're not a lawyer as I'm second guessing myself due to the stress of the whole thing and lack of sleep.

When the police closed the investgation we were all so happy, within half an hour she had emailed demanding her money from insurance, I only saw it the next day as it was later in the evening she had sent it, I felt sick!

I am a little afraid of her now she seems a bit unbalanced. I would rather find the money than have even one more direct contact with her but I see the police's point of view that it could go on and on after that if she decided more items were taken.

FadedRed123 Sun 03-May-15 20:50:44

Again I'm not a legal expert to any degree but I think anyone can take a claim to a small claims court if they pay the fee, but they would have to produce some evidence to prove their case, and it would appear your erstwhile client doesn't even have any proof of ownership of the items she claim your staff took. She would also have to convince the court that your staff took the items, that no one else could have taken them, she didn't lose or sell them. As the police couldn't find sufficient evidence to make a case, so how could she?
The fact this is civil not criminal law reduces it from 'beyond all reasonable doubt', but even so, I think she would find it difficult to prove her case.
You do not have to attend the court if you choose, but the sensible thing to do would be to do so, in order to state your side of the issue, including the Police findings and their advice to you, and the 'strange things' she said that made you doubt her story.
The Small Claims Court are not all wigs and gowns - they are conducted like a business meeting.

BallsforEarrings Sun 03-May-15 21:11:06

Thank you Faded I would rather go to the court than let her have her say without us having ours, if I know she can lie in a statement she will surely lie in court.

TheCraicDealer Sun 03-May-15 21:26:43

YY to everything Faded said. If she does go down this avenue try and think of it as a good thing. It's the end of the line for her and not likely to meet with success.

BallsforEarrings Sun 03-May-15 21:29:24

Thank you so much Craic I do appreciate these replies, it's such a weird situation to be in.

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sun 03-May-15 21:33:08

She can file a claim online, they will send you a form and you can submit a defence. Did you get a letter from the Police? If so, use this as your defence.

She sounds terrible sad

BallsforEarrings Sun 03-May-15 22:28:00

I didn't receive a letter from the police, just a phone call to inform of the outcome and then I rang them again for advice when the emails came.

I wonder if I could get a letter from them upon request, mind you all this happened just before this bank holiday so a letter could have been sent to me.

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sun 03-May-15 22:34:12

Ask them for a letter to confirm what they have said, they should be happy to provide one. If she is going down the small claims route then you do have time to get things together, and you can also ask for an extension to give you more time, so don't panic. She's been told that she doesn't have a cat in hell's chance so it does read as though she's trying it on. You could always tell her that you intend to counter sue for the time that it's taken for you to deal with her wink

Quitelikely Sun 03-May-15 22:41:47

Call her bluff.

She needs evidence. She needs to prove these items were even real. Can she?

Do not give in. If she takes you to court and loses she may have to pay your costs too.

You seem quite worried though. Are you certain she is lying?

queenofthepirates Sun 03-May-15 23:09:55

I was taken to the small claims court by a lunatic stalker of a man for £10,000 a few years ago. I dug my heels in and defended myself throughout, taking legal advice as needed. The claim was unfounded and the judge dismissed it in its entirety. Keep calm and if it does proceed, take advice and defend yourself. Scary but nutters like this need to be challenged.

BallsforEarrings Sun 03-May-15 23:12:56

Thank you so much both. I am certain she has lied to police as we saw her statements during the investigation, which then led me to believe she is lying about the whole thing otherwise why would she have felt the need to do that?

I believed her at first just because I've never met anyone who would make that up and hurt people for money but now I am pretty sure she did do just that or at very least lost her jewellery (her home is always chaos) and then blamed us for it! She didn't want police involved, more our attention and a payout. I called them.

I am extremely worried for our reputation as a private cleaning company we have some very high end clients and our reputation is something I am extremely proud of, it has taken years of hard work to build with care and I do not want it tainted by a court case because, even if we win, there may always be the rumour of stealing attached to our name. It is extremely worrying for a service which relies upon the trust of wealthy clients to have any tarnish to our name whatsoever.

I am worried indeed, mostly about the reputation issue but also because this lady was already harassing us about the other issue and I was planning to get her off our schedule to stop it all but I hadn't thought of way to word it yet then next thing all this hell broke loose and she got us back to dancing to her tune again. I am worried about her manipulation of us and the potential for harassment seems high. It makes me anxious although when I read your responses it seems so simple on paper, but it feels so complex for these reasons as I have dedicated everything I have to my business.

I'm a very private person and I don't want to be contacted in this manner when I know it's wrong of her to do, it feels such a violation, she has always crossed boundaries, contacting me out of office hours, sometimes at 10 pm at night with small problems always demanding I contact her back asap, I hate it and feel full of dread that she has taken issue against us, I feel 'hunted' for want of a better description.

She has what she wanted she has dragged us through all this and now another case. She got my full attention as she wished to. sad

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sun 03-May-15 23:16:59

May be worth the £150 to send her a very strongly worded solicitors letter, maybe. I think you need to quickly ditch this client, she sounds like more of a problem than anything else. Best thing you can do now is to not engage.

BallsforEarrings Sun 03-May-15 23:27:00

Oh yes we did ditch her right before she accused us of this - actually she ditched us and we gratefully ran like the wind - things had come to a crisis by then over the small component being missing and us not replacing it fast enough (the poor cleaner couldn't find one similar so was struggling to help with it) but the very next thing that happened was that she said all this about the jewellery so i had to jump to again.

I will pay for a solicitors letter if there is one more contact from her i have so had enough of it.

It's funny, we are usually treated so nicely by clients, and we normally have really warm relationships with them, it all makes me think this is just a con, no more no less.

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sun 03-May-15 23:32:57

Bad eggs everywhere, sadly. There's not many of them though, looks like you've just been really unlucky here. Please stop answering the phone to her, don't engage at all unless it's through a solicitor. She'll back off once she knows that you mean business (hopefully).

thanks < for you.

LadySybilLikesSloeGin Sun 03-May-15 23:36:04

Think you need to tell her that you'll expect her to pay for your solicitors costs should she pursue the complaint to the small claims court, and should they find her complaint to be vexatious.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 04-May-15 07:30:51

I am guessing you have some indemnity insurance contact them. I had a case where a client chased me for spurious costs. My indemnity insurance took over and sent a barrister to support me in the small claims court. The judge threw the case out.

BallsforEarrings Mon 04-May-15 09:27:42

Thank you so much for these replies I am so grateful. [flower]

I've been in business for over 17 years and never had an experience like this before, it's really taught me how vulnerable we are when dealing with the public at such a personal level as going into their homes, trust works both ways. Clients can potentially attempt to abuse us if the mood takes them it seems but most would never.

I am working on updating our policy as to what we cannot be held accountable for now and will get those out to all clients.

queenofthepirates I have only just seen your post and am so sorry you went through this too and I feel hopeful that you had a brilliant outcome, I pray we get a similar outcome. Did you have a solicitor?

I am going to take every bit of advice here, your replies have given me so much confidence that right will prevail - it has been a rocky time and I imagine there is a bit more to come but we can do it. smile

BallsforEarrings Mon 04-May-15 09:32:34

So sorry here are your flowers - flowers

Thanks so much!

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