Battle for Bucks
Help Me Hank: Battle for Bucks
Doug Soule thought he had won his battle for justice. He took the state to court after he said his Division of Wildlife job as a pesticide sprayer had harmed his health and he'd been fired for complaining about it.
"You lost your wages and you lost your job and you wanted the state to pay you back?"
Doug and his lawyer negotiated for months and the state finally offered a settlement -- $140,000 in wages and back pay.
"I was extremely ecstatic."
That was October of 2002.
"Did they pay?"
Since Doug couldn't work, he needed that settlement cash to get by, but no state check arrived and bills, notices and collection letters started piling up.
"I've had to borrow money just to survive over the past few months."
Doug kept waiting in his Swansea home, bills kept accumulating and the power company kept threatening to shut off his lights.
"We're six months down the line and still haven't received a penny."
Doug's lawyer called the state and was baffled by the response.
"Sorry we don't have the money."
That's when Doug called "Help Me Hank".
"What if you owed money and you just said, ĎI can't afford to pay?í"
"I would probably be in jail at this point in time."
But we found thatís not how it works if the state owes you money from a court case, in fact, Doug was on this list of 53 other people, companies and agencies all waiting for such money.
The Massachusetts comptroller told us that the legislature has to appropriate money to pay off certain legal judgements and it still had not approved Doug's money or anyone elseís, leaving a total of $3.1 million all on hold!
"You should have had tens of thousands of dollars?"
"You sit here wondering what is going to happen to you."
Finally, in March 2003, the legislature appropriated the money and even though they took out taxes, Doug's settlement check finally arrived.
"That felt nice not to worry about whether or not Iím going to have money for next weeks grocery bill."
Now Doug is thankful that he gets to keep the lights on, but word to state officials, he says there's got to be a better way.
"I expected a check in a reasonable amount of time."
If you're asking, doesnít the state have insurance for this? The answer is no and since the state is self insured, thatís where payments can get complicated.
If you're fighting a consumer battle, maybe I can help.