Reichenbach Law P.O. Box
              711, Perrysburg, OH 43552. Greg Reichenbach takes consumer
              cases throughout northwest central Ohio.
Attorney Greg Reichenbach protects Ohio consumers
                by enforcing their rights in the legal system.
Call: 419- 529- 8300
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Greg Reichenbach
Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 711
Perrysburg, OH 43552

Ph: 419-529-8300
Fax: 419-529-8310

Office hours Mon - Fri
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Enforcing Your Rights
self-help or professional | using the system | hiring an attorney | the court process

Self-help or professional help?
Sometimes consumers can enforce their rights simply by objecting to an illegal business practice. For example, if you are enticed by a “free” offer, then find out later that there are hidden charges, you may be satisfied by returning the product and getting your money back (even though you may be entitled to three times your damages, or a minimum of $200).
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Using the court system
In many cases, a business that has engaged in unfair or deceptive acts is unwilling to make things right unless they are forced to. You have a right to bring your case in court. Some people represent themselves in court. This may be an option if you are knowledgeable in the law, and comfortable navigating the rules and procedures. Small claims courts are designed to be more accessible to people who want to represent themselves.
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Hiring an attorney
Most people are more comfortable hiring an attorney to represent them in court. Many consumer laws have provisions where the business may be ordered to pay the consumer’s attorney fees in an appropriate case. Some attorneys are willing to represent people without a large fee up front. In those cases, the attorney may be paid by a percentage of the recovery (a “contingent fee”), by court-ordered fees paid by the business, or a combination. Other attorneys charge an hourly rate, or a flat fee in advance. It often depends on the type of case and the likely outcome of the case. When you talk to an attorney, make sure you understand what the fee is, how and when it will be paid, and who is responsible for court fees and other expenses.

There are also some free legal services, available through programs such as Legal Aid, or clinics associated with non-profit organizations or law schools. Free legal services often limit their caseload to areas of the law where there is a strong need, and where there are few private lawyers available. There may be a waiting list. Many private attorneys will occasionally take a case “pro bono,” which means for the public good, without charge.

If you need help finding an attorney, there are resources besides the telephone book. You can call your local bar association. Often, bar associations have a lawyer referral service.
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The court process – what to expect
First, you should know some terminology. The person filing a lawsuit is called the “plaintiff.” The person or business being sued is the “defendant.” In many consumer cases, the consumer is the plaintiff. But sometimes, a business may sue a consumer first, to try to collect an alleged debt.

The wheels of justice turn slowly. First, your lawyer must get enough information from you to understand your legal problem. Once the lawyer has analyzed your case, you will decide, with your lawyer’s advice, what would be an appropriate result. Often this will be a certain amount of money the defendant must pay. But it could be another result, such as canceling a debt or giving you something for free.

Often the first step is for your lawyer to write a “demand letter.” This letter to the defendant describes your problem, and demands that the defendant take a certain action, such as payment of a settlement amount, to avoid a lawsuit. There may be negotiation back and forth. Sometimes, no formal court action is necessary to achieve a satisfactory settlement.

If a lawsuit is necessary, it begins with a Complaint, filed by the plaintiff. Your attorney will decide whether your case is better filed in a state or federal court. The pre-trial phase includes opportunities for the defendant to file an Answer. The parties can engage in “discovery,” which is the process of forcing the other side to give information about the case. The parties may be deposed. A deposition is a formal questioning conducted by attorneys in the case.

Either party can ask the court for “summary judgment.” This is a request to the court that basically says that there is no need for a trial because the opponent doesn’t have enough evidence. An out-of-court settlement is still possible at this stage.

There are two parts to the court: the judge and the jury. The judge makes decisions about what the law is. The facts of the case are often disputed: the plaintiff has one version, and the defendant has another. The judge or a jury can decide the facts. In most Ohio cases, either the plaintiff or the defendant can demand a jury trial.

If the case goes to trial, each side will normally have witnesses come to court to testify about the case. In a consumer case, the plaintiff is usually a very important witness. After you answer questions from your own attorney, your opponent’s attorney will often “cross-examine” you.

After a trial, the jury returns a verdict that contains the jury’s decision on what the facts are. The judge then enters a judgment that states the outcome of the case. If there is a money judgment for the plaintiff, then the plaintiff must somehow collect the money. Sometimes the defendant will simply pay the judgment. Other times, the plaintiff’s attorney must take further court action to enforce the judgment.

An appeal is a possibility when one of the parties decides to challenge the judgment of the trial court. An appeal is made to an “appellate” court – a court that has the power to overrule or otherwise change the judgment of a trial court. In Ohio, there are two levels of appellate courts. The first is a set of 12 appellate courts arranged geographically by district. For example, the 5th District Court of Appeals covers courts in Richland and other counties. The highest level of appellate court is the Supreme Court of Ohio. In some types of cases, like cases that involve the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, another appeal may be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The federal court system is set up in a similar way, with trial courts called “District Courts,” appellate courts called “Circuit Courts.” The highest level of appellate court in the federal system is the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both trials and appeals can take a lot of time and work. Many attorneys agree to represent a client only through trial. If an appeal is necessary, you may make a new agreement with the same attorney, or you may decide to hire a different attorney to handle the appeal. Your attorney can help you decide whether to accept a settlement offer to avoid the delay and bring a resolution to your case.

This information is for general use only. There is much more to the process of a lawsuit. Ask an attorney if you have questions about a particular legal problem.
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The information provided on this web site is provided for general information only. No attorney-client relationship is created with Mr. Reichenbach unless he specifically agrees to represent you. If you have a specific legal problem, contact an attorney.
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