What To Do When Wise Owl Sues You In Small Claims Court

[ This is a contributed article from a reader - Ed ]

What follows is not to be considered legal advice, only a reflection of what I've learned in pursuing my own small claims actions. I strongly urge you to to consult an attorney if you can afford to do so. You won't know if you can afford to until you ask so I recommend you call two or three and ask what their fee would be to

  1. Review your case and suggest a plan of action
  2. Review your case and represent you in court
Before doing so, however, go ahead with the preparation steps below.

On your computer, prepare a narrative of all events and conversations. Record as many details as you can recall. If you had anyone else with you that can verify events, work with them to reconstruct the conversations. Have them review the narrative afterwards and add in any other details they can recall. Include an appendix of receipts and emails (use copies). Keep a log of all communications with Wise Owl going forward. If you have a copy of your pet's medical record, cross-reference any client communications notations into your narrative.

N.B., a detailed receipt is NOT a medical record. A medical record contains the basics of weight and temperature, the doctor's physical exam findings, the problem list, rule-outs for the cause(s) of those problems, the plan of tests to refine the diagnosis, and the results of those tests. The medical record should include the contents of client communications.

Ask your phone provider for a detailed record of calls to your contact number(s) during the period your pet was in their facility. Use this as a memory aid to help fill in the narrative discussed above.

Keep the narrative on point, just facts, no speculations or opinions. Describe your understanding of all explanations and statements made by Wise Owl representatives. It should fit on one page, at the most two.

Every treatment plan in the medical record that exceeds the initial quotation or agreed budget limitation should have an explicit release. This can either be your written signature/initials or be a notation in the medical record that you were contacted and agreed to the charges. In court challenge all treatments beyond what was agreed. If Wise Owl cites the "release stamp" that they have clients initial as a blanket release, argue that it is unconscionable and grossly unfair since they almost always have multiple opportunities to contact you for specific approval of the proposed work.

Be sure to highlight the difference between the initial estimate they quoted you and the final bill. It's one thing to add $50 to a $200 invoice when the owner can't be located and the animal is under anesthesia, quite another to add $1000+ when they had plenty of time and opportunity to get your explicit approval.

If they claim to have contacted you, have them show in the record when they attempted that. Don't be surprised if this doesn't jibe with your memory. Cross-check their notations against the call log and note any discrepancies.

Bring with you anyone who can substantiate your version of events. Bring an extra copy of everything you intend to submit to the court (your narrative and appendices) to give to Wise Owl if required. You'll get a chance to review the Wise Owl exhibits when you get to court. If there's anything in those exhibits that you can contest but not with anything you've brought with you, ask the court for leave to submit rebuttal evidence after the hearing. Ask the court to direct Wise Owl to provide you copies of their submissions as well as your pet's medical record.

If you've paid for work you haven't authorized and/or Wise Owl held onto your pet in lieu of payment for illegitimate charges, I would consider filing a counterclaim requesting disgorgement of all payments in excess to what you authorized.

Whatever you do, DO NOT FAIL to show up to court at the appointed time. Doing so will let Wise Owl obtain a default judgement which will likely be used to garnish your wages.

Once you've prepared all your materials, I strongly recommend providing them to the Guam Board of Allied Health Examiners as part of a complaint. The Board may be able to provide legal assistance or at least advice as to how to best defend yourself. Being willing to testify when/if the Board conducts another investigation can help discourage or prevent from doing this from happening to others.

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