Ocean City, MD asked in Civil Litigation and Small Claims for Maryland

Q: My work place threw away my $800 bike without proper notice how do I get what it's worth if they're resisting?

All of the bikes on the rack in our parking garage were thrown away, multiple other employees (including supervisors and some dept managers) were not aware. We found out after the fact that only the condo owners were sent an email to get their bikes if they don't want them thrown out. The bike racks were left, just the bikes were disposed of. I was not aware until a condo owner came down trying to find her bike. They are now claiming that all they can give me is $200 for a bike from Walmart because there were multiple meetings beforehand, when my supervisor cut in saying that she was not made aware and there was no meeting they change to "well everyone knew but there was no meeting per say". Not only does it have sentimental value but it's value was $800 before the upgrades my mother and I put into. They are trying to make me feel like I did something wrong and I don't have the right to ask for the same model because it's too expensive. How do I get what it's worth?

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

A: Claims not exceeding $5,000 in value may be filed in District Court as a Small Claims matter. The District Court complaint form is available as a fillable PDF document on the court's website, or a paper version can be obtained from the clerk's office. The rules of evidence do not apply in Small Claims court, and there is no "discovery" (e.g., interrogatories, requests for production of documents) allowed, and the proceeding is heard before a judge, rather like a trial before Judge Judy (although perhaps not so colorful as her TV persona). You would sue for "conversion" (the taking of property that belongs to you and the dollar value of the loss due to its taking and disposal), as well as for general negligence on their part. You will need to prove the value of your claim, and should not simply rely on your verbal say-so. Have receipts, proof of what you actually paid, current prices for the exact same bike if bought new, cost of your upgrades, etc. You are not entitled to damages for sentimental value.

You will need to identify the correct legal name of the defendant you are suing. Generally, a lawyer would sue the owner of the property, the management company who managed the property and directed the disposal of the bikes, and/or any condo association if that is the entity that took the action. To determine the correct legal name of any such entity, you can run their name in the business entity search online search engine for the Maryland SDAT. All business entities that are organized and registered as an LLC, corporation or other entity are on file with SDAT, and when you look them up, you will see the correct legal name you use to sue them under, and they will have (required by law) their "registered agent" name and address on file, which is who your serve the summons and complaint upon after you file the complaint and the clerk returns the summons to you. Before doing all of this, I would write a letter outlining your claim, detailing and attaching your proof supporting the dollar amounts you are requesting, and demanding payment. You will attach this rejected demand to your complaint as an exhibit. If this sounds like a lot of time, effort and trouble for $800, it is. It is definitely not worth the time or expense of a lawyer for this dollar amount.

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