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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A company settled a suit for $23,500. It tried to pay with loose coins.

By Jonathan Edwards Washington Post

A Colorado welding company agreed in July to pay $23,500 to settle a lawsuit that a subcontractor had filed against it. And JMF Enterprises did pay – just not in the way Fired Up Fabrication thought it would.

Instead of writing a check or wiring the money, JMF delivered a box filled with thousands and thousands of loose pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. It apparently weighed more than 6,500 pounds.

Fired Up refused to accept the payment and took JMF back to court, asking a judge to force the company to pay by check. On Monday, Larimer County District Court Judge Joseph Findley chided JMF, ruling that the company had “acted maliciously and in bad faith,” echoing the argument of Fired Up’s lawyer, Danielle Beem.

“JMF’s manner of payment is also a symbolic ‘middle finger’ to the Plaintiff and its business, Plaintiff’s counsel, and, indeed, to our system of justice,” Beem wrote in her motion.

John Frank, owner of JMF, declined to comment, but in court documents, the company’s attorneys wrote that paying in coins was not an attempt to harass or frustrate Fired Up’s owners but, since they’re both welding companies, “a reference to their shared career field.”

Paying with pennies and other coins has become a passive-aggressive act of protest in recent years. In 2016, a man from Frisco, Texas, paid a $212 speeding ticket with a bucket full of pennies, calling traffic citations “an extortion racket of the worst kind.” In 2018, a woman from Deltona, Florida, paid her $493 water bill in pennies, claiming the water department overcharged her.

And in 2021, the owner of an auto repair shop in Peachtree City, Georgia, paid a former employee’s final paycheck in the form of more than 91,000 oily pennies. The Labor Department sued the owner, Miles Walker, in late 2021, and in June, he was ordered to pay that former employee and eight others a total of nearly $40,000 by check or money order.

In late 2020, JMF subcontracted with Fired Up on a job in Trinidad, Colorado, according to Fired Up’s lawsuit. Between December 2020 and March 2021, Fired Up fabricated metal handrails and stairs and delivered them to JMF, which then installed them for its client, the suit stated. Even though JMF agreed to give Fired Up all the materials necessary to make the handrails and stairs, the company failed to do so in some cases, forcing Fired Up to provide them, the suit alleged.

After the work was done, Fired Up repeatedly asked JMF to pay it the agreed-upon amount, which was not specified in court documents, according to the suit. Although JMF made partial payment through November 2021, the company allegedly ignored invoices that Fired Up sent after that.

In June 2022, Fired Up sued, alleging that JMF had breached their contract. The case worked its way through the justice system for more than a year, and then in late July, the two companies decided to settle. In the agreement, JMF promised to pay $23,500 by Aug. 24.

On Aug. 16, Beem – the lawyer for Fired Up – emailed JMF’s attorney with instructions for payment, including how to deliver a check and whom the company should pay. The company’s lawyer never responded, according to Beem.

On Aug. 28, a delivery driver contacted Beem, telling her that he was trying to deliver the settlement payment – a metal box that weighed more than 6,500 pounds, she wrote in her motion. The driver told Beem that he couldn’t get the container up to her office because it was too heavy for the freight elevator, the motion states.

Beem called JMF’s lawyer, who confirmed that the company planned to pay with loose coins. The lawyer allegedly told Beem that JMF had ordered the coins from a bank and that they had originally been neatly marked and packed in boxes. Someone at JMF then allegedly unpacked the coins and dumped them into a container, along with their wrappings.

Beem’s father and law partner, Clifford Beem, said JMF’s attorneys sent photos of the coins when they were packaged and a video of someone at JMF dumping them and their wrappers into the container.

“I don’t see how there could possibly be any other motivation than to make the process of handling those coins as difficult and as expensive as possible,” Clifford Beem told the Washington Post.

The judge agreed. He ordered JMF to pay the $23,500 within two weeks. He specified that the company must do so by check, cashier’s check or some other way – so long as it’s agreeable to Fired Up.