Sresla (sresla) wrote in artists_beware,

Advice: If Paypal and your Bank can't help, are there really any viable alternatives?

I feel as though I've done all the pertinent research on this, but I wanted to ask the community at large and see if they had any additional advice.

Scenario: Artist was paid by Client A for an art commission. The artist now has a list of 50+ commissioners, all of them like Client A, and has racked up easily $5000+ in owed artwork, with no communication for many commissioners going on 6+ months or more. I personally am going on nine months without a single reply to emails, notes, shouts, etc.


1. Paypal is contacted. Due to the length of time which has passed, they are unable to refund Client A's money.
2. Bank is contacted. Due to the length of time which has passed, they are unable to perform a chargeback to get Client A their money.

Because I am angry about getting nothing for my money, I investigate option 3 which is:

3. Small claims court.

Except I discover I am hampered by the fact that the artist a) doesn't live in my state so I'd have to go to their hometown/county to file the lawsuit, b) I'm not 100% sure of the artist's real name, not to mention their home address or phone number, c) the court cannot actually enforce their judgement. If I win, I can get a writ of garnishment (another court hearing, one that usually requires an attorney) or execution (not what it sounds like, the approval to have the sheriff or someone sell off the artist's property to settle a debt). Flying to the state, round trip, would likely be at least equal to what I paid for the commission. I'd have to do it more than once. I don't know that I could sue for travel expenses (I think just filing fees plus the judgement).

So that leads to option 4 where I ponder:

4. Class action lawsuit.

Except to file a class action - if I understand everything correctly - the debt owed needs to total, at a minimum, $75,000. I couldn't find anything disputing this at the state level. I do not believe that the artist owes anywhere near that much, although it may be $10,000 to $15,000. The majority of the commissioners would need to agree to get on board. Even then, even if it were possible to file such a thing, we're still looking at getting blood from a stone. It's possible the artist could/would file bankruptcy and we'd get nothing anyway. I know some would be afraid to join because they still want their artwork. And, in the end, in the ideal situation where we could get all 50 people to go along with filing, and the judgment was for $10,000 and it was divided evenly, there would be some people who received less than their commission was worth, although at this point, something may be better than nothing.

Am I overlooking anything? I think small claims would be a viable option if I lived near (very near) the artist, but other than that, I think we, the commissioners, are basically out of luck. We have to hope the artist makes good, which, given their track record, is not only looking unlikely but getting a commission from them may just be classified like winning the lottery. You've got a 1 in 10,000,000 chance.

Mods: I don't know how to tag things. I apologize. I guess discussion and advice for commissioners applies. Help?

Tags: advice for commissioners, discussion
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