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I lived in a house that was shared with the landlord and other tenants in common. I have now moved out and have a lawsuit started against the landlord. From "rumors" I heard that a previous tenant who got kicked out did not get his damage deposit or furniture back. (Call him Joe.) I managed to contact Joe and he confirmed this to be true. I too was kicked out and didn't get my damage deposit and have at least one piece of furniture unreturned.

In what way can I use Joe's story? For example could it be considered a testimony or corroboration or some piece of evidence saying that the landlord had done similar things in the past? Can Joe and I form some sort of legal team?

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How can a person with a similar experience with the defendant, help the plaintiff in a lawsuit?

You may bring Joe as witness or present some sworn testimony from him. That could be in the form of affidavit, deposition transcript, or by testifying in court.

In what way can I use Joe's story?

Joe's testimony will be relevant to the extent that it proves the defendant's pattern of conduct or system for doing a thing. Many (if not all) jurisdictions in the U.S. had a provision similar to Michigan Rule of Evidence 404(b)(1):

Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts [...] may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, scheme, plan, or system in doing an act [...] when the same is material, whether [they] are contemporaneous, or prior or subsequent to the conduct at issue in the case.

Thus, Joe's testimony would not prove your entire claim, but it can discredit important aspects of defendant's foreseeable denials in your matter.

In some way the suggestion in the other answer makes sense, but I would discourage you from bringing suit together with Joe. That is because, despite all similarities, your claim are Joe's claim are different instances:

  • Each cause of action stemmed from a separate contract;
  • each contract/cause involves a different plaintiff;
  • the statute of limitations of each wrong started running at different times;
  • and your history with the defendant might differ from Joe's history with him on relevant aspects in a way that could prejudice you.

Furthermore, if the defendant requests that the suits be separated, you and Joe would have no persuasive arguments on why your matters should remain consolidated.

Lastly, the mere fact that a complaint is filed by two or more plaintiffs will not prompt a judge to act with honesty or with competence.

  • Does it make a difference that this is a civil lawsuit rather than a criminal case? In the latter, might there be a problem because prior acts may be too prejudicial? – Barmar Jul 6 at 17:35
  • @Barmar Prior act evidence might be admissible in a criminal case as well. MRE 404(b)(2) provides further directions to that effect. – Iñaki Viggers Jul 6 at 19:08
  • @IñakiViggers I now have at least two people willing to get involved who had similar experiences with the landlord. Should I be careful in what I say to them? I do not want to give the defendant the chance to argue I tainted witnesse's perception of him. – dutyanalysing Jul 6 at 20:41
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    @GeorgeWhite I'm just telling the uncomfortable truth. The OP should be aware that many judges (at least in the U.S.) are corrupt, and that they will not shape up simply because a complaint has multiple plaintiffs. – Iñaki Viggers Jul 6 at 23:24
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    @GeorgeWhite "Your answers would be improved by beating that horse only when answering questions where it was relevant". I made that point apropos of the comment reflecting the misconception that a complaint with multiple plaintiffs could be more persuasive than with one single plaintiff, so it is relevant to the OP's issue. Again, I am letting the OP know that in real life many judges are way far from the myth of judicial "honesty". I don't care how uncomfortable this may sound to some in the legal "profession" because I am not here to cater to lawyers & judges. – Iñaki Viggers Jul 6 at 23:34
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You and Joe could sue the landlord together, each claiming their own.

Or you could call Joe as a witness. The court might be unwilling to admit Joe's testimony as it does not directly relate to your claim, but it's worth trying.

  • How is "suing someone together" different than suing someone alone? Does it somehow make the person easier to sue? – dutyanalysing Jul 6 at 8:40
  • @dutyanalysing Two plaintiffs suing the same defendant for similar/same reason look more convincing to the judge than one plaintiff with indirect witness. Better chances for quick win plus shared bill for court fees etc. – Greendrake Jul 6 at 9:43
  • I agree on the aspect of sharing court fees, but the tactic of consolidating two factually unrelated claims does not seem significantly beneficial or contributory to a quick win. – Iñaki Viggers Jul 6 at 11:31

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