Toy Water Gun Fiasco Almost Puts New Yorker Out of Business

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Finally resolving a legal case a year in the making, NYC appellate attorney Stephen Preziosi remarks on the success of one small business pitted against the Department of Consumer Affairs

The case could have been disposed of, but instead, Chen had to go through a legal circus act.

Toy store owner Hui Chen hardly expected a $70,000 fine for selling water guns, but according to court filings, when an inspector from the New York City of Consumer Affairs thought the plastic-wrapped neon colored toys looked too real, Chen had no other options but to appear for a court summons.

According to court documents, the snowball of events started began in 2010, when Chen appeared for his first summons at the Department of Consumer Affairs in Manhattan. Though it is custom for foreign speakers to have an interpreter, none was available to alert Chinese-native Chen of his obligation to return for additional summonses. Because Chen had already paid the first $200 fine, he left the courtroom under the impression that the matter was behind him.

A month later, the court records that the judge slapped on a $70,000 fine for Chen failing to appear at a court date he never knew he had.

“His business [Hui and Zhen] doesn’t even make that much money in two years,” said Stephen Preziosi, Chen’s appellate lawyer. “Seventy thousand dollars is life or death for a little toy store operating in New York City, and he had to start making preparations to close his business.”

Through the interceding of New York appellate lawyer Stephen Preziosi, Chen’s judgment was vacated and he is not required to pay the fines. Chen is able to continue selling the water guns in his toy store.

Preziosi plans to follow up the resolution by physically going to the court to show them the toy guns.

“Had Chen brought in the toy gun to his first summons, it would have been clear from the offset that this is not in any way, shape or form, a replica of a real gun,” said Preziosi. “The case could have been disposed of, but instead, Chen had to go through a legal circus act.”

Preziosi remarks that these misunderstandings are more common than people think.

“As a lawyer who works with appealed cases, I see this sort of situation happen frequently because I clean up the mistakes that are previously made in the trial courts from people who are trying to represent themselves,” said Preziosi. “While this is one of the smaller cases our firm has done, it was still the most important thing in the world for our client. Regardless the monetary amount, when we can do this for a client it’s always a huge win.”

The referenced legal case, titled The Department of Consumer Affairs vs. Hui and Zhen is case number GL005245088, held in the administrative court in the New York City of Consumer Affairs.

About the Law Office of Stephen Preziosi
Mr. Preziosi established the Appellate Law Firm after years of extensive experience working for law firms in New York City and throughout the state of New York. He now heads the Appellate Practice at his own law firm and is the official “go to” lawyer for a dozens of law firms throughout the state of New York whenever there is a trial or appellate issue that needs thoughtful consideration and insightful exposition.

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