Before I say anything else, I want to make it clear to you that I’m not a lawyer, don’t claim to know much about legal issues, and would just like to tell you about two things that happened to us, and the interesting legal issues involved.

The first one happened a few years before we moved up here to Pine. As I have mentioned before, Lolly and her sister Betty became very close when both their mother and their father passed away while they were very young. So when Betty and her husband Peter emigrated from England to Phoenix, Lolly was thrilled when we were able to buy two pieces of property side by side in Pine so that we could build retirement homes on them “some day.”

Then the ACC, the Arizona Corporation Commission, stopped the private water company up here in Pine from pulling a fast one, namely putting in meters for which they could not supply enough water and then charging everyone exorbitant prices for trucking in water. The ACC ordered the water company to sign up people on a list and to install just one meter per month. Luckily, we heard about it early, so Betty and Peter were fourth on the list, and we were fifth.

I’m a fairly careful guy, so while signing that list I asked the water company manager three times if signing was all we had to do, and whether there wasn’t perhaps something more that we needed to know. Three times, his answer was, “No. Just sign the list.”

A few months later the water company called and told me to hire a private plumber to install a separate box from the one they were going to put our meter in. I did that, they installed their meter, charged me for meter and installation, and from then on I paid a minimum charge of about $20 each month even though I used no water. That charge was a bit sleazy, I guess, but I didn’t complain because we had a meter for when we could build “some day.”

However, the ACC found out that the water company was not doing what the order to them had stated, namely requiring each person who got a meter to begin building within 60 days. Result? Our meter was removed and we lost the $1,700 we had spent so far.

It happened that I had taken a school law course when I earned my master’s degree in Texas, and I had boned up on law when Chapman University asked me to teach that course for them. One thing I learned was that in addition to written law, or “black letter” law, there is a form of law consisting of legal decisions made over many hundreds of years. Many examples of such laws referred to contracts. They said that if two parties make a contract, and one of them has superior knowledge that it failed to state or include in the contract, no contract existed because there had been no “meeting of the minds.”

Armed with that knowledge, and with witnesses who knew I had asked the questions I mentioned earlier, I filed a formal complaint with the ACC, we had a trial, I had the pleasure of questioning the multi-million dollar owner of the water company (a lawyer, would you believe?) about contract law and stonewalling, and the water company had to pay us back every cent we had spent.

Then …

We sold the now useless $18,000 property we had bought, got $37,500 for it, and put that money into the down payment of a great little house in Pine when our retirement days arrived.

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