Q: Should I respond to an old client who had not paid invoices and just resurfaced offering to pay? Or best via a lawyer?
This was a startup company. The president was a very difficult scheming person to deal with. He paid the majority of my invoices to him early but later on in the relationship did not, and when I ceased work irately criticized me. He claimed he did not have the money to pay me but paid patent lawyers and patented work excellent work I did. We had a contract assigning rights to the company in exchange for the compensation (which was actually too little). Over the next years he has done more patents and actually patented my work he did not pay for. Since then I have improved business practices to avoid such situations when possible. Also I have some hardware that I was using for the project that mostly I had to purchase and held onto when he breached our terms. He just sent me an email offering to pay me (no interest or consideration of lateness) for the unpaid amounts (5 years later). I'm assuming he wants something. Is it best to not respond, or use a lawyer? I do not trust this person.
A: You say it's 5 years later. in California, you have 4 years to enforce (i.e. sue on) a breach of written contract. Since you did not sue him within the statute of limitations, you have no legal way to collect. So if he's offering to pay you, take the money and run. You can spend money on a lawyer to draft letters and try to collect for you but not sure why you would do that since there is no legal grounds for a lawsuit.
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