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Man sells $40 printer on Craigslist, ends up being sued for $30,000

Selling things on Craigslist comes with some risk. You could end up being scammed, or possibly even robbed if you end up meeting a shady criminal type. Add to the list of potential concerns getting sued for $30,000. That’s what happened to a Massachusetts man named Doug Costello. Costello sold an old black and white printer to someone in Indiana for $40, leading to a $30,000 lawsuit that took more than six years to deal with.

Costello’s mistake, apparently, was selling that printer to one Gersh Zavodnik in Indianapolis. This (presumably unpleasant) person makes it his business to buy things online in the hope they won’t live up to his expectations in some material way. In this case, Zavodnik claims the printer was not functional when it arrived. Therefore, he filed a lawsuit against Costello in small claims court for $6,000.

It’s important to note that Zavodnik is what’s known as a pro se litigant, someone who represents himself in court cases. He knows enough about the legal system to swamp a normal person in confusing paperwork and filings to often get his way. Zavodnik didn’t let the dismissal of his small claims case be the end of it. Instead, he filed a case in Marion Superior Court alleging breach of contract, fraud, conversion, deceptive advertising, and emotional distress… for a printer.

Zavodnik sent several documents to Costello over the years, asking him to admit liability for as much as $600,000. Costello ignored them, but it turns out under Indiana law that means you have admitted liability. In March of last year, a trial judge looked at this case and decided Zavodnik was entitled to more than $30,000 because of that broken printer. Are you appropriately terrified of selling used electronics on Craigslist now? Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending.

Costello appealed the case, and the appeals court recently issued pointed verdict in Costello’s favor. The opinion says the $30,000 ruling “had no basis in reality.” Costello did have to spend $12,000 on legal fees to get this far, but he does still have the $40 from the original printer sale. So, he’s only out $11,960.

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