Want to Sue Someone on a Court Reality Show? Ask Me How
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because there is clearly more than one way to skin a cat.
By Damien Noorbakhsh
Back in 2001, when I was 21, I got a job working at San Francisco’s Fairtex Combat Sports Camp. As someone who has been into martial arts since I was a kid and who is obsessed with kickboxing and mixed martial arts (MMA), this was a dream job.
Shortly after my boss was murdered, the gym closed. But I still had the bug, so several months later I decided to start a company that would provide the emerging sport of MMA with training gear and apparel. I called it Konjo Fight Gear.
After much rip-off misery thanks to offshore manufacturers, I made a connection with a surfwear manufacturer in Baja, California. I started selling merchandise with the Konjo logo on them, as well as making custom stuff for gyms, schools and other gear companies. My client list expanded to include Javier Mendez’s AKA, the U.S. Army and the famed Cesar Gracie Academy.
Judge Glass asked me to explain what the products were. One was a steel groin cup. I put it over my nose [and] told her it was face protection.
Doing business only with people I had a mutual connection with, such as through the gym world, martial arts or socially, cut down on possible criminality. But in early 2005, Spike TV, in conjunction with the UFC, launched an MMA-based reality show, The Ultimate Fighter.
The show was a huge hit, and next thing you know, the UFC was everywhere. In 2010, Konjo was doing a lot more business. And a lot more business meant a lot of new people, Johnny-come-latelies who wanted on the MMA bandwagon to make a quick buck.
Case in point, a guy I’ll call Hedi.
Hedi lived in Southern California, wanted to be my sales rep and dropped a few names I knew. I confirmed and we were in business.
He said there was a high level of interest at the schools he was in contact with. I told him to start putting orders together and that I’d send the products directly, then give him his commission after I received payment.
He said it would be a little difficult to do bulk orders right off the bat. He suggested that I send him merchandise, then he could travel to these schools, sell the products there and send me the money less his commission. I understood that my brand wasn’t that big in Southern California and it wouldn’t be easy to get big orders going right away, so I agreed. He swore he’d have everything sold within a couple of weeks.
But then the stories started.
His car broke down on the 405. He got some kind of crazy flu. His wife was leaving him. His sister in Florida had just died (that was a lie).
However, he did have a big private labeling order in: 850 pairs of boxing gloves for a large fight organization.
One bad check later, Hedi asked for his commission for a deal that clearly was just smoke. Plus he was sitting on my products for more than two months and had no idea what he had sold. I finally just sent him an invoice.
Which he refused to pay.
So, off to San Francisco Superior Court I went. I filed a suit against him along with four other claims I had against others, all of which were related to Konjo. To many, or most, this would be misery. But I’m a fighter and, frankly, no one ever lost teeth chasing bad debt. Or at least not too many teeth.
A few weeks after I filed the claim, I got a call from a Los Angeles area code. The guy on the other end? A producer for the Judge Joe Brown show. He wanted to see if I’d like to be on the program.
I hung up.
He called right back, and he convinced me he was indeed a producer for the show. I apologized. He told me that was actually one of the more pleasant phone calls that he had had that week.
Apparently when you file a claim it becomes public information, and that’s how these court shows work.
“So, which case are you interested in?”
Confused, he asked how many cases I had. I told him. But I had a question: Who pays if the other party loses?
Apparently the show did. I didn’t like the idea that Hedi would be getting away with this without paying, but in the end, I really just wanted my money. I also knew that Hedi was broke and lived in LA, where the show was filmed. So the chances of him saying yes to going on the program were probably high.
I gave the producer his information. And sure enough, Hedi agreed. Even though the venue was switched from Judge Joe Brown to a new show: Swift Justice with Jackie Glass. Glass had been the presiding judge over the O.J. Simpson robbery case in Las Vegas, so the show had some juice.
At least enough to fly me down to LA, put me up at the downtown Marriott and the next day limo me to Burbank.
I still didn’t know what direction the case would go when filming started, but within a minute, it was obvious: Hedi was on for comic relief. And I was there to plug Konjo after the producer told me to bring some Konjo gear as props.
Judge Glass asked me to explain what the products were. One was a steel groin cup. I put it over my nose. When I told her it was face protection, the court erupted in laughter.
Hedi said he had a witness, his roommate, whom he wanted to call to the stand. The judge allowed this and asked what their relationship was, and if they were romantically involved. Both, in unison, enthusiastically denied this.
The roommate explained that she had been present one day I called Hedi at his apartment, and though she couldn’t hear what I was saying, she told the judge that I seemed “really mean and aggressive.”
“Wouldn’t you be mean and aggressive if someone was trying to steal from
you?” Judge Glass asked.
Judge Glass then told her to have a seat and gave Hedi a tongue lashing for being a deadbeat, low-level crook and awarded me the judgment.
The only thing lame about this whole event was that they never sent me a copy and after all these years, I still haven’t seen the show. Random people still stop me in the street to ask, “Hey, weren’t you on that court TV show?”
To which my response is always, “What are you doing watching daytime TV?”
- Damien Noorbakhsh, OZY Author Contact Damien Noorbakhsh