Why E.T. can’t go home | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (August 25, 2023, 2:34 PM EDT) --
Marcel Strigberger
Marcel Strigberger
What is chutzpah? Chutzpah is a Yiddish word meaning audacity? Cheek? Gall? The classic example is the guy who kills his parents and then asks the court for mercy as he is an orphan. Now here’s a case of chutzpah. 

An Atlanta man, one Everett Tripodis, who lost his house after the City tore it down by mistake, is now facing a lawsuit to have the entire property foreclosed unless he pays the City’s $68,000 demolition costs. I would say this is not chutzpah; it’s mega-chutzpah.

Now get this. The City actually tried to send E.T. a letter warning of the intended demolition. But they sent it to the wrong address. And it was returned by the post office to “sender.”

Everett and his mom were in the process of remodelling the house, in historic Atlanta. Now where the house stood there is nothing but earth.

Everett filed a claim for damages against Atlanta. But the City came up with a brilliant defence  saying, “The city cannot accept responsibility for his matter and therefore cannot pay this claim.” It then doubled down and filed a lawsuit against him, threatening to foreclose on his property unless he pays the demolition costs. The demolition cost was actually less than $68K as this sum includes interest.

Unfortunately E.T.’s claim is stuck in the area’s courts where it may take ages to get tried.

However, the City’s foreclosure claim has a much tighter schedule as the plaintiff only has a couple of weeks to respond failing which the land gets sold at a public auction.

I don’t know whether this case can get before a jury. And I am trying to imagine what City’s lawyers can come up with for an argument.

Several pleas come to mind:

1. The owner should have expected a warning letter. He was the author of his own misfortune by not checking with the post office daily to inquire whether or not there was a letter sent by the City of Atlanta threatening to demolish his house.

2. If Everett Tripodis did not want City warnings by post, he should have so advised the City.

3. It’s really all the post office’s fault. Any idiot of a postal worker should have realized the letter should have gone to Everett Tripodis’s house. Don’t these guys know everybody’s zip code by heart?

4. Hey, the City of Atlanta is a government municipality. Incompetence is an absolute defence in law.

5. Members of the jury, we’re transparent about how your tax dollars are spent.

6. We did the owners a favour. We decluttered their house. Where is the gratitude?

7. Everett Tripodis is actually a Yankee. Y’all remember how in the Civil War General Sherman torched our fine city.

8. To sum up we should not have to pay the owners a penny. It’s only just and fair to make them pay those demolition costs, including interest and legal costs. We rely on the fundamental principle of chutzpah.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available on Amazon, (e-book) and paper version. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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