1st time in 20 years in business been threatened of a lawsuit

erwin

Participating member
Location
st. louis
did a removal for a lady last year, nothing special about the tree, finished grinding the stump, cleaned up and left. There were a few red flags here n there, like asking to do one more thing here n one more thing there, nothing too serious. The next day HO called and complaining about a cut sprinkler wire under the roots and demanding me to come repair it. I explained to her that if it's not marked and I did not know it was there I'm not responsible to it and this is industry standard. Everything seems cool after that. However, over 8 months later, yesterday, she texted me with a 400 repair bill (not too much) and asked me to pay for it. I explained to her that we went through this 8 month ago and it's not my fault. she then threatens to sue me. She has some kind of legal insurance like MetLife (Hyatt). I guess since it doesn't cost her anything to sue someone it makes it easier to do anyway. What do u guys think? I hear a lot here and other places that she doesn't have any legal base, but wondering if there's any real known legal precedence that I can use if we were to actually face each other in court.
 

Reach

Been here a while
Location
Atglen, PA
Call your insurance company, and your lawyer - if you don’t have one, call a local small business lawyer.

Unfortunately though, if your contract does not state that you’re not not responsible for underground damage, you’ll probably be held liable. Likely it will be cheaper to pay her the $400, but confirm that with a lawyer first.
 

evo

Been here a while
Location
My Island, WA
What’s in the contact? Do you have any verbiage that she is suppose to notify you of targets or anything underground?
I hope you do as this should be enough to protect ykuy
 
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ATH

Been here a while
Location
Ohio
Is your company an LLC, CCorp or S-Corp? If so you are likely not allowed to represent yourself (may be different in your state???). That means you have to hire a lawyer. That means if it is in your contract, you are probably good to win the fight...but you probably need to counter-sue to get your lawyer to pay for their services. IMHO, never looks good to an outsider to see a contractor suing clients.

Insurance deductible is probably higher than $400, right?

I'd probably just have fixed it. (Though wouldn't need a permit to do that here, your locale may be different...).

You need to decide: $400 or fight. Maybe offer $200. Perhaps tell her "the contract protects me and I am sure I'll win and you'll pay for my legal counsel, but I'd rather not go down that road...."

If you didn't have a written contract, by all means: hand deliver the check tomorrow morning!!! (Or send certified mail/return receipt) (Check, not cash)
 
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flushcut

Branched out member
Location
Delavan, WI
Some electrical tape, some wire nuts, and extra wire is cheaper than hiring a lawyer. Maybe even fancy schmancy low temp waterproof solder connections. I am sure you have it spelled out in your contract but sometimes bending over and taking one for the team is cheaper. It could have been a twenty minute fix but now seems to be a cluster and many $$$. Just my $.02.
 

Christrees

Participating member
Location
New York
Some electrical tape, some wire nuts, and extra wire is cheaper than hiring a lawyer. Maybe even fancy schmancy low temp waterproof solder connections. I am sure you have it spelled out in your contract but sometimes bending over and taking one for the team is cheaper. It could have been a twenty minute fix but now seems to be a cluster and many $$$. Just my $.02.
Yup I agree... % I don't think it would be worth the Hassel. Especially if it could be an easy fix like flushcuts saying. But it's your decision. Maybe it is worth fighting and winning like others have said. But honestly I think that could cost you more in the long run. Missing countless days of work being in the courtroom.
I would try to reason with her. Fix it. And drop her.
 

Al_trees

New member
Location
Connecticut
Remember to get a copy of the invoice first as stated above. In the future write the disclaimer into your work orders.

The customer has no idea what industry standard is unless you write it in. Unless you wrote a disclaimer ahead of time "industry standard" is that you are responsible for your damage.

Smart to just pay her so you are not responsible for lawyer fees to her insurance company.

(Or deduct the cost of the extras she asked you to throw in for free at the end of the job and send the check minus what is on the new invoice.)
 
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