SELLER BEWARE: Man Sells Printer on Craigslist for $40 then Spends Six Years and $12,000 Defending Himself in Court

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A Massachusetts man sold a printer on Craigslist for $40. What started simple ended terribly. How bad? The $40 sale took six years and cost the man more than $12,000 in legal fees to resolve.

Craigslist can be a great place to find a bargain. But buyers beware–some deals aren’t what they seem. Doug Costello, 66, of Ashland, Massachusetts knows this all too well. He’s the one who sold the printer back in 2009.

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The buyer, Gersh Zavodnik, 54, of Indianapolis, Indiana, wasn’t pleased with the purchase.

Costello, who was happy enough to be rid of his old HP, shipped the printer to Zavodnik. All told, the transaction totaled about $75. But that was just the start.

Zavodnik (below) accused Costello of false advertising. He claimed the printer was missing parts. He filed a small claims lawsuit and asked for the maximum damages: $6,000.

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Fortunately for Costello, Zavodnik was unable to prove his claims, and the case was dismissed after the judge found that Zavodnik had thrown the printer away.

“I figured that’s it,” Costello said. “But no, no, no. Now I’m in another twilight zone.”

Zavodnik, unhappy with the results of his first suit, sued Costello for breach of contract, fraud, conversion, deceptive advertising, and emotional distress. This time he was asking for $30,000.

Again, the suit was thrown out. This must have been a disappointment for Zavodnik, but one he may have expected–this was one of 27 suits he’d filed that year that were dismissed.

Yet the relief Costello felt was short lived, as an appeals court agreed to hear the lawsuit in 2012. Zavodnik, empowered by the decision, sent Costello two more claims. He asked Costello to admit liability to the tune of $300,000 and one for $600,000.

All for a supposedly damaged printer.

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In our legal system, you have to answer these claims. If you don’t, by default, you admit liability. There claims weren’t answered. Costello argues he never saw the requests for admissions.

Facing a $600,000 liability, all for a printer, was finally too much. Costello hired an attorney and went to court. This usually simple step was made much more difficult because all of the judges knew Zavodnik. One by one they recused themselves, delaying the process.

“I can assure you each and every judge here in Marion County knows who Gersh Zavodnik is,” attorney Chad D. Wuertz told the Detroit Free Press in 2013. “And at the very moment one of his cases lands on their docket, they are considering how to deal with him.”

Yet there was one who was willing to hear the case. Special Judge J. Jeffrey Edens ruled against Costello. He awarded Zavodnik a $30,044.07 for breach of contract.

The judge knew the amount was excessive, but cited a Supreme Court ruling on litigants who don’t respond to admissions filings.

“What kind of reality am I in now?” Said despondently. “I don’t know what’s going on. Why don’t I know what’s going on?”

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Luckily, the story doesn’t end there. Another judge, Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik, overturned the ruling.  She ruled in Costello’s favor.

“I’ve had this huge weight, this financial and emotional weight for six and a half years,’ Costello said.

But is it over? For now, yes. Yet nothing relating to the courts is ever truly over–so Costello remains guarded.