I need advice on dealing with an irate customer

2 years ago

I was working on a house as a contractor and priced the work according to spec sheets given to me a year before the work began. We ended up with a dispute on tile and paint. The customer claimed the spec sheet included stone and NOT ceramic tile, and also included using a different brand of paint than what I recommended. I agreed to continue working for the same price because the spec sheets were missing. I later found them and the spec sheets said nothing about stone or special paint. The damages I suffered was in the thousands. I sued and customer paid half and asked me to come back and finish. I wrote a new contract that voided the prior one although the court case remained open for 60 days. He only owed $600 on the final contract and we had about two days left. He decided he didn’t like the shower we built which was still in process and decided to fire us. He fired us and entered a counter claim. We agreed to redo parts of the shower he wanted changed and he said no. It seems to me that he agreed to guilt of my original claim by paying half. We went back to court a second time and he agreed to pay the second half of my claim and I would use that money to pay for redoing parts of his shower and paint touch ups he wanted. That is where we stand. I assume I have no legal liability to finish anything for him since he fired me. I would like the legal terms for that. I have no problem with him using the final money on my claim to pay for work on his house. The court still has another 60 day hold on the case. Customer wonders if insurance can cover the shower. I told him no because no damage was done to any property. Liability covers damage to existing property. In fact, I did not carry insurance for tile work either. I hope that doesn’t become a problem for me. I did carry insurance for painting. I had planned on retiring and in fact I have and let insurance laps. The customer believes the entire shower needs to be rebuilt and I completely disagree. How do I handle this. I just want to make him go away. THANKS!!

Chief Legal Officer Levelset
90 reviews

That sounds like quite the situation, and there’s probably too much in the question to unpack here. This a situation for which it would likely be helpful for you to meet and talk with a local attorney who can gather all the relevant information that is impossible to see here.

From your comment, it appears that: 1) you had a contract for improvement to property, 2) there was a dispute as to the specs of the contract, over which you sued the property owner, 3) the property owner paid 1/2 of the disputed amount and requested you finish the job; 3) you then created a new contract and began work under that contract; 4) you were terminated from the job with approx. $600 remaining due on the second contract; 5) there was a workmanship or some related dispute related to a shower, and he filed a counter-claim against you pursuant to the dispute; 6) you went back to court and there was some agreement that the property owner would pay the remainder due and you would put that payment toward repair of the shower and paint touch-ups.

This is a very complex situation, some of which remains unclear in the above question. Your obligations to continue the work likely depend on the agreement between you (whether the initial contract, the second contract, or whatever agreement you may have reached in court regarding payment of a disused amount for completion of certain work).

To the extent you just want the customer to “go away” so you can retire, there may be an option available where instead of you getting paid the remainder of your claim and continuing the work; you could waive the amount claimed due, and have the property owner get everything fixed by himself. Any attempt to go this route should include a waiver and release of all claims against you arising out of the work. A local lawyer should be able to draft a settlement and release agreement fairly quickly. Absent some sort of agreement between you and the property owner, it is unlikely that this type of dispute would end quickly and cheaply, once you go back to court and bring in disputes about the extent of work needed to repair and all the associated costs, the dispute gets hairy. Good luck.

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