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  • who gets sued?

    Guys I have to ask a question about something that I see posted quite often here. The reference is made quite a bit about making sure you put this or that in writing advising the client that an idea is not such a good thing. Do this or else you might be sued or at least get blamed for the failure.

    Maybe I have just always been lucky, never do anything that expensive, or that fancy or out of the ordinary, to ever have anyone come after me for anything I have done. And I have done some things that I do not really consider the optimal type of things. And some of it has been costly. Things like installing galvinized roofing material for backsplashes, using old doors and windows over or as things like room dividers or wall decorations-lead base paint issues-re using old plumbing fixtures that won't meet code but look cool.

    The recent thread about the oak countertops got me to thinking about this. I mean if they are warned, if you do your best to tell them not a good idea,etc. Does a piece of paper really do all that much for you? And if you just write it up on your home computer, hand them a copy and keep a copy for yourself, have both signed and dated, is that enough? Does it need to be notorized and the document looked over by a lawyer? Just how far do you need to go to make sure this thing is really going to protect you.

    I am asking because I know the store manager at one of the grocery store chains here in town. You see signs all over the parking lots that the store is not responsible for car damage from shopping carts. They supposedly have had these signs for years, have had cases in court he says, yet each year they pay out money to folks who come after them, often just to get them to shut up. So my thinking is if a big outfit with laywers on the business expense all the time, cases and precedents set, cannot avoid it, will a little nobody like me be able to get any protection from my 8 line document saying " I told you so"

  • #2
    Re: who gets sued?

    The quick answer Mark is: with enough time and money, no legal document is unbreakable. Your jointly signed document / contract keeps the honest people honest. And sometimes makes a person who is on the fence think twice about coming after you. Cheap insurance is how I view it.
    Chuck Kiser
    Knollwood Construction Company
    Palos Park, IL 60464

    Knollwood Construction
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    • #3
      Re: who gets sued?

      Anyone can sue you at any time. Whether they will win or not is another matter. Putting things in writing and having them sign is a great way to help ensure that the likely outcome of a lawsuit is clear before they bother initiating one.

      Another nice thing to have in your contract is that the prevailing party in a lawsuit is entitled to recover attorneys fees and court costs. I'm not a lawyer, but I believe without that clause, even if you win, you don't get paid for moneys expended to defend yourself.

      Hopefully, you have liability insurance.
      "If you only have a hammer, all problems look like nails"

      Vintage wood window repair and restoration in Chicago
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      • #4
        Re: who gets sued?

        I second Chuck's comment.
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        • #5
          Re: who gets sued?

          Word of advice; Have an arbitration clause in all your contracts.
          It is a simple matter of being patient. I do patience very well, except for the waiting part. That's the one aspect of patience that still bites me.

          I'm not saying I'm Superman. What I'm saying is no one has ever seen me and Superman in the same room together.

          ParkWest Homes LLC
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          • #6
            Re: who gets sued?

            I have done a lot of follow-up work with people over the years, and have come to realize that 'selective amnesia' is part of being human.
            During a project people will decide one option is the way to go, despite your advice.
            Later when it fails, they may not remember the exact way it went down.
            I agree with everyone that whatever you put in writing may not protect you from a suit, or even from losing a suit (though I also believe they are very few and far between).
            But, putting your opinion in writing that can be retrieved, even just an email, can really help down the road. "I believe this option will not last as long as the other. We will do it because you are going for a certain look, but I want to be 100% clear that my advice is it will cost you money later".
            Store that somewhere you can access it--email is great--and pull it out when they need it fixed later.
            Can't tell you how many times people don't remember telling us to do stupid things, and having some emails (or our written Warranty Exception Form when it's particularly egregious) is super helpful.

            When I talk repairs with people and there are multiple options, I write each one up on the proposal and cross off the expensive one they don't go for...then two years later I have some kind of documentation of what they chose. Had to pull out the signed version of one of those one time. The look on the clients' face was very interesting...as I say, selective amnesia is part of the human condition, we just need to work with that.

            I have heard mixed opinions about arbitration but don't know much about it.
            I do know a contractor who has a clause that the loser pays lawyer fees except the first $10,000. He says he figures that a homeowner who is pissed will call him, rather than a lawyer, if calling the lawyer will cost $10,000. I'm not sure how much of a track record this concept has, but thought I'd throw it out there since I hadn't heard of it until recently!
            Doug

            Favorite tool this week: Leatherman Wave

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            • #7
              Re: who gets sued?

              Originally posted by Mbeezo View Post
              Maybe I have just always been lucky, never do anything that expensive, or that fancy or out of the ordinary, to ever have anyone come after me for anything I have done.
              None of the above. A solo tradesman is not a deep-pockets "attractive target", so you likely don't have much to worry about if you keep your nose reasonably clean.

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              • #8
                Re: who gets sued?

                What about a solo tradesman with a $1m per occurrence / $2m aggregate insurance policy?
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                • #9
                  Re: who gets sued?

                  Yes the insurance company has deep pockets but also deep lawyers well versed in the art. Not so attractive for a plaintiff's lawyer to take it on contingency unless it's a clear case of malfeasance with large damages.

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                  • #10
                    Re: who gets sued?

                    Your best defense against a formal legal issue is not to give them a leg to stand on.

                    In other words, do your job professionally, good communication (clear description of all work to be done and document all changes and communications) , be fair, reasonable and remain a professional throughout the process.

                    Any reasonable person will never have a problem with that, but it's the unreasonable person that is the one to be cautious of, they will "make something up" or twist the facts into something they are not and when an outside party looks at both sides they will clearly see who the unreasonable party is.
                    Gary

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                    • #11
                      Re: who gets sued?

                      Lawyers sue everyone and anybody involved with or even remotely involved with the incident. It's called the 'shotgun approach'. Usually even if you have insurance the lawyers will sue you personally AND your insurance company. Insurance companies look after themselves first and you second so you had better get a lawyer to look after your own personal self.
                      In a former life I was told to, and did, have nothing in my name.

                      roger

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                      • #12
                        Re: who gets sued?

                        Originally posted by LIHR50 View Post
                        Any reasonable person will never have a problem with that, but it's the unreasonable person that is the one to be cautious of, they will "make something up" or twist the facts into something they are not and when an outside party looks at both sides they will clearly see who the unreasonable party is.
                        Kind of sounds like being married.

                        Of course in that situation is more like "who gets screwed" type of thing.
                        "First we finish the game, then we’ll deal with the Armada!"

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                        • #13
                          Re: who gets sued?

                          Originally posted by Ted S. View Post
                          Kind of sounds like being married.

                          Of course in that situation is more like "who gets screwed" type of thing.
                          A divorce is just another lawsuit. Remember in all lawsuits the winners are the lawyers.

                          As a famous lawyer told me once; Do not use our court system and justice in the same sentence.
                          It is a simple matter of being patient. I do patience very well, except for the waiting part. That's the one aspect of patience that still bites me.

                          I'm not saying I'm Superman. What I'm saying is no one has ever seen me and Superman in the same room together.

                          ParkWest Homes LLC
                          Working Man Online Store
                          Living Healthy

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                          • #14
                            Re: who gets sued?

                            Originally posted by dgbldr View Post
                            None of the above. A solo tradesman is not a deep-pockets "attractive target", so you likely don't have much to worry about if you keep your nose reasonably clean.
                            Exactly. You also get more personal with the customer and that helps opposed to the larger outfits where the owner doesn't meet the customer.
                            Louisville Exteriors
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                            • #15
                              Re: who gets sued?

                              Originally posted by J.Buesking View Post
                              Exactly. You also get more personal with the customer and that helps opposed to the larger outfits where the owner doesn't meet the customer.
                              Do you have stats to back your assertion?

                              I had a couple of times where the plaintiff came out during depositions stating they had no idea they were dealing with a big corporation; they admitted that had they known that, they would NOT have filed suit against us.

                              The name of that game is called legal harassment. They had thought it was a small "mom & pop" organization that they could shake down, figuring a small business wouldn't have the time or money to fight them in court and instead be willing to "settle" with them.
                              Last edited by parkwest; 05-06-2012, 07:35 PM.
                              It is a simple matter of being patient. I do patience very well, except for the waiting part. That's the one aspect of patience that still bites me.

                              I'm not saying I'm Superman. What I'm saying is no one has ever seen me and Superman in the same room together.

                              ParkWest Homes LLC
                              Working Man Online Store
                              Living Healthy

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