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Can I sue for breach of contract and ask for loss of wages and damages?

UtahLawsuitMechanics LienNotice of Intent to LienRecovery Options

I had an oral contract with a customer who I renovated a kitchen for. I purchased all material. We also had everything in text messages. I finished the job and moved on to building a 30ft gate and installing. Had not received payment yet for either jobs. She explained she was closing some land she sold and we would then receive payment. We then agreed to renovations of an apartment complex. Where she would give half up front and the other half when done. We received 50% down almost 3 weeks had passed and still no payment for first 2 jobs nor reimbursement for material. When we asked for the our money we were told and text messaged to stop working till funds were in her hands. Finally after 4 weeks she closed on selling property never paid because she claims apartments were not completed. I have messaged of her pleading for us to plz be patient she promised to pay and also telling us to stop working till she had our money. It's been 5 weeks and still have yet to receive payment.

1 reply

Jun 6, 2019
I'm really sorry to hear about that. First, I'll address the question above. After that, I'll dive into some options to speed up payment that might be less intensive than filing a lawsuit.

As for the ability to file suit for breach of contract...
It's hard to know what rights may or may not be available without more insight into the situation, but some general thoughts should apply. For one, contracts don't necessarily need to be in writing in order to be enforceable. Plus, in some situations, contracts can be formed through things like emails and text messages anyway. So, potentially, if a contract was formed but one party failed to uphold their end of the bargain, a suit for breach of contract might be appropriate - and damages could certainly be available, if so.

As for recovering payment without filing a lawsuit..
When construction payments are coming too slowly or not at all, one of the most powerful tools for recovery is to threaten a mechanics lien filing. When work is performed but not paid for, generally, the party who performed work will be entitled to mechanics lien rights in the underlying project property. Because a mechanics lien filing threatens the owner's property title, liens can be extremely effective to compel payment. Levelset discusses the power of a lien claim here: How Do Mechanics Liens Work? 17 Ways a Lien Gets You Paid. Of course, there are notice requirements that some parties must in order to preserve the right to lien - so a mechanics lien might not always be an available option. You can learn more about those requirements here: Utah Lien and Notice Overview, FAQs, and Statutes.

Further, even in a situation where a claimant can't or doesn't want to file a lien, the mere threat of a lien claim can compel payment. By sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien, a claimant can potentially recover payment without having to jump through the hoops and deal with the cost and expense of a lien filing. Plus, if a Notice of Intent to Lien isn't effective, a claimant can always pursue some other option - like an actual lien filing or legal action. You can learn more about the Notice of Intent to Lien document here: What Is a Notice of Intent to Lien?.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that the mere threat of a lawsuit can lead to payment, too - and it can help save a lot of legal expense rather than simply jumping straight into a legal action. By threatening to make a claim (such as a breach of contract claim, an unjust enrichment claim, or even a claim under prompt payment laws), a claimant can show their customer that they mean business and that nonpayment won't be tolerated. Payment demands and legal threats sent via an attorney tend to carry a little more "umph".

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