Austin, TX asked in Civil Litigation and Small Claims for Maryland

Q: My sister refuses to give my cat back. I have microchip, breeder contract when bought . How can I get him back?

She agreed to holding him until I got a job and back on my feet and can pick him up after. But now she has blocked me everywhere and just absolutely will not communicate or return him. He is a $2000 sphynx.

1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: File a District Court complaint for "replevin", a form of action to recover property that belongs to you from a person wrongfully holding it. The complaint forms can be downloaded from the court's website, and are fillable PDF documents; or, you can obtain paper copies from the civil clerk's office. There is a box to check next to the word "replevin" on the form. Describe the arrangement, provide the date you placed the cat into your sister's possession, and the date(s) you demanded its return, and her refusal or response. If you have written evidence to support the terms of your arrangement, your demands for its return, and her response, as well as the proof of your ownership and purchase of the cat, attach those documents as numbered exhibits to your complaint. You will need to have your sister served with a copy of the complaint attached to a summons. The clerk issues the summons. You can pay the Sheriff to do the service, or pay a private process server. Once she is served, and an affidavit of service is filed by the process server, the case will proceed. The court will initially schedule a show cause hearing on your request to return your cat, but the hearing will only go forward if your sister is properly served with the summons and complaint. The purpose of the show cause hearing is to make an initial determination whether the evidence strongly supports that you will likely prevail in a trial and the cat should be immediately returned to you at once without a full merits trial taking place; then if your sister still wishes to contest the case, a trial will be scheduled at a later date. If the judge cannot make make a determination at the show cause hearing that you are likely to prevail, then the case will also be scheduled for a merits trial where you will have the opportunity to put on your full case to prove your right to the cat. Be prepared for your sister to claim you (1) gave her the cat as a gift; or (2) abandoned the cat and gave up ownership; or (3) that you owe her money for the care, feeding and veterinary bills of the cat if you are entitled to it back. If you have any evidence or arguments against these claims, you need to have thought through how you will respond and be ready to provide counter-evidence against these arguments. Witness testimony of those who have personal knowledge of your interactions with your sister on these points would require that they appear and testify in person. Affidavits are insufficient. Written communications from your sister's email account or text messages from her cell phone, that you can identify as hers, are admissible as admissions against interest. The time to prepare your evidence to win your case is before, not after, you appear in court. Try to use the strongest evidence you have, and don't produce hundreds of pages of email chains and text streams. The judge is not going to slog through reading a file dump of paper. Streamline your evidence so your case is succinct and clear and easy to review and comprehend.

Leonard A Englander agrees with this answer

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