What can I do about someone who refuses to return a cell phone or pay for the charges they incurred while using it?

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What can I do about someone who refuses to return a cell phone or pay for the charges they incurred while using it?

I have a second phone line and in July of last year a co worker started using it because they could not afford one on their own. We agreed that she would pay $30 a month (the difference to my single line bill). Several months she went over and I ended up footing the extra charges ($50-$150 on each occurance). She eventually quit working at the same job, and got a different phone. She said she would return my phone and pay the difference of everything up to February of this year. I have been more than lenient and have listened to excuses until this past month when she stopped answering my calls.

Asked on June 26, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) In regards to her not paying the extra charges, you can sue her, IF there was an agreement that she pay all those charges. (I say "if" because if the agreement was that she'd only pay $30 per month for usage, with no reference to overage or extra charges, that's all she'd have to pay.) If it was an oral or verbal agreement, it may be difficult to prove the existence or terms of the agreement if the other person remembers it differently, but legally, an oral agreement may be enforced and you could sue.

2) You could also sue for the return of the phone or the value of the phone, and any other costs (e.g. cost of changing your  phone number) which you incur.

3) Since keeping someone's property when you are supposed to return it is a crime--it's a form a theft; probably the one called "conversion"--you could also report her to the police.


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