Craftsmens Guild Sues Again
July 2015 - February 2016

"Again," you say? Yes, our contractor sued us twice.

We thought that final payment freed us. We made our final payment in 2010 in spite of a list of outstanding unfinished items. We thought we'd never have to see any of the Amini brothers: Matt Amini, the project manager; nor Mike Amini, who we thought was an architect until the Internet revealed he was unlicensed; nor Moe Amini.

We were wrong. In 2011 Matt Amini filed a claim with the American Arbitration Association for $70,000 for "Baseless defamation damaging our business and false accusation plus." No supporting documentation was filed; just that intimidating nine word claim. But in emails Mike did explain that "stating or implying" that Craftsmen's Guild caused a "lead hazard" would open us "to legal liability". I was pregnant and in no shape to fight a lawsuit. We settled and forewent $10,631.10 for lead assessment and clean-up that Craftsmen's Guild's bond agency agreed should be reimbursed to us. We thought we'd bought peace.

Again, we were wrong. We received a nastygram dated July 9, 2015 with unpleasant allegations from a lawyer threatening to sue us. A few weeks later we received a summons, which is legalese for we'd been sued again.

California and many other states have anti-SLAPP laws on the books. SLAPP stands for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation", meaning a lawsuit aimed at getting someone to shut up as opposed to a lawsuit addressing a true harm or infringement of the law. The law promises reimbursement of legal fees, the intent being to allow people to defend themselves against wealthier entities trying to suppress inconvenient freedom of speech. So, my lawyer filed an anti-SLAPP motion.

The law moves slowly, sometimes excruciatingly. The most exciting part of the process was the hearing after a tentative ruling against us. The two attorneys debated prior case law in the courtroom. While the anti-SLAPP law passed by the legislature is relatively straightforward, the case law built up in the court system since then is a complex. The debate hinged on whether demanding monetary restitution was substantially different than simply asking for clarification of a dispute. Overturning tentative rulings is uncommon, but wisely and consistently with prior case law the judge overturned his tentative ruling.

On October 29, 2015 Judge William Elfving ruled in our favor on all counts. His very readable ruling ended in one smidge of hard-core legalese: "Defendants' request for attorney's fees and costs is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE subject to a noticed motion and attorney declaration supporting such an award." Impenetrable? Translation: "Please list your fees so I can decide how much you get back."

On February 4, 2016 Judge William Elfving ruled to grant us $35,000. That's a far better outcome than when they sued us in 2011, so here's one "yay!" for the court system over arbitration.

Are we one $35,000 check away from never seeing Craftsmen's Guild and the Amini brothers again?

Last updated 8 February 2016

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