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HELP !!! potentail lawsuit...over pruning issue

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by clyde, May 5, 2004.

  1. clyde

    clyde LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 335

    I pruned some trees today that my clients wife (that relayed the message from her husband to me about how SHE thought HE HAD ASKED HER TO TEL L ME TO trim things). These people have been on my client list (yard ) for going on 4 yrs ( while i ve been in school) now, they asked me to cut back ( a river birch) it was growing into and against the house and roof.

    The guy came home just as i had gotten several of them down that were against the house.

    and flipped because the bark peel about 6 inches down the side of where i cut it off at. I am aware of the standard pruning procedure and had planned on going back and cutting below were the bark peeled. that would have solved any issues that might have occurred with that part becoming diseased.

    Also there was a rose of sharon that was leaning, that they had planned about 3" off the fence.

    I said that instead of Staking it up we should take it back from 10' tall to about 4ft then let it grow and treat it like a shrub. She said that was fine with her she said.

    He saw it after he walked around and then proceeded to tell me that , They were not going to use me anymore.

    I am not offended by it or upset its part of business. I have a well est. client list anyway.

    He said then to go ahead and tell him a price for the work done.
    After i got all the limbs up.

    Then said if the price was not reasonable, that he wasn't going to pay and that i could try to sue him in a court of law.

    First of all i haven't had any trouble out of this guy. I guess he had a bad day . I was completely professional in the situation and asked if there was some thing i could do. He said no. I cont' to finish up


    Here is the problem: If i have to sue him , If he doesn't pay, how do i handle the fact i don't have a license to prune trees in MS.

    Like i said i am just here in this town to go to college ( finishing the end of the summer). See where i am at with this. I told him i would fax an invoice. I am not sure what he calls " a reasonable price" but he might have a problem with it, might not. How can i word the invoice or should i word the invoice to
    get out of saying i actually "PRUNED" a tree for the sake of "Pruning it back". And not be Incompetent in a court of law if it goes there?

    The way I was looking at it if i had to present the case and the invoice in court, then the pruning issue and license might be overlooked ?



  2. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,633

    Well you could invoice him for lawn mantenance labor at x dollars per hour. Or if you think he will sue you chalk it up to experience and eat the job , no invoice means he has no proof , its your call.
    Since you arent licenced to prune and he knows this it could cost you a whole lot more
  3. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,494

    He's just getting ready to "shake you down". The phrase "reasonable cost" says it all, right there. No cost is going to be reasonable to him. Invoice him, and if he doesn't pay, send him to collections, and then sue if you still haven't gotten any satisfaction. This is just one of those things. 10 people will come on and talk about written, detailed contracts, but after 4 years, it's common to do this type of thing without.
  4. Doster's L & L

    Doster's L & L LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 616

    Sounds to me like the owner is pizzed because his trees are gonna die in a few years. Just curious....did you do a simple 1 cut throught the limb or a three cut? It sounds like you did a 1 cut because you said it peeled the bark back below the cut. How far back from the house is the birch? If it's REAL CLOSE, then it/they needed to be removed anyway. Back to the case in hand. KEEP THS OUT OF COURT AT ALL COSTS!!! Charge him your normal rate. If that's not good for him, then give him a lower price. If thats not good then wait a day and shoot another price. I think you'll need to chalk this up as a learning experience.

    There are guys on here that are better on laws than i am, but this is what i'd end up doing most likely.
  5. two_planks

    two_planks LawnSite Member
    Posts: 206

    If you are pealing bark on a Birch that you are pruning in MAY he has a definate case against you and I would chalk it up to experience and move on.

    First of all, you shouldn't be pruning a Birch in May as it is. You need to wait until late summer when the tree is fully leaved out. Birches are very delicate trees and because of the way they bleed can only be pruned at this time when they sap is fully spread through out the entire tree and there fore keeps the bleeding to a minimum while the tree recovers. Depending on the health of the tree pruning now could kill or at least seriously damage the tree in a way that takes it years to recover.

    Second, you can't just cut back the pealed portion of bark. When you are cutting back a tree you need to cut it back to a branch that can take over as the new terminal leader of that stem. This means you need to either take the entire branch out or cut it back to a limb that is at least 1/3 the diameter of the portion you are removing (at the point where you are making the cut). Leaving peeled bark does increase the risk of infection but a much larger concern is that the tree will most likely not be able to heal at this point and die back causing rot, decay, and increasing the risk of infection and disease. Even if you don't peel the bark but you don't cut it to a correct point the stub you leave will do one of two things. Most likely it will die back and cause the problems that go along with this. Or it will sucker causing massive growth that is not properly developed and creates major weak points in the structure of the tree (much like topping).

    Sorry for the long winded reply. Just felt like throwing in my $.02. A really good web site on tree care put together by ISA for the general public is www.treesaregood.com
  6. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,403

    Aren't people these days just wonderfull?

    More and more these days I note that the typical American is miserable in his empty life and can't wait to take it out on you. I think that something is seriously and fundamentally wrong in America. The elephant in the room that nobody is talking about.
  7. Tider6972

    Tider6972 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Alabama
    Posts: 649

    Itemize every step of the job, ending each itemization with "as per instructions of Mrs. 'X' , as she was told by Mr.'X' !" Put the decisions of what, where, and how to cut right in their collective laps !

    If at any point along the way you advised to do the job differently, state so on the invoice !

    And, <I>DON'T BE TIMID</i>, charge them your premium rates. Send the invoice return receipt requested, and state your terms as due on receipt.

    If they sense fear in you, they are going to try to rip you off!

    Give them a second notice to pay in 10 days if you aren't paid by then. If that doesn't get you paid, send them a notice of intent to sue....after 10 days if they don't pay, sue hell out of them !

    "Hit 'em while they're talking !"
  8. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Posts: 1,010

    OK guys,maybe I'm missing something here.I have river birches in my front lawn.
    I cut em back any time of year and have had no problems.Been doing this for years.
    Also,what's with the pruning license?Does MS require this?Only license that Alabama requires is a tree surgery license for someone who is actually grafting,but not for pruning.
  9. lbmd1

    lbmd1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 462

    Take Tider6972's excellent advice. By placing the responsibility right back at his wife's instructions, to me you were just following work orders. Threaten to place a mechanic's lien on his property if he fails to pay. Pruning License?????? Wow!

  10. clyde

    clyde LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 335

    Hey thanks for the reply

    Ya did a one cut, but was going to go back and do a 3 cut on farthur down the limb i was just taking the weight off.

    they are about 15ft from the house.

    He got up on the ladder as i was loading things on the trailor and preceeded to cut some other limbs off with a little saw and i and was like what the heck are u doing.

    what do u think about the Rose of Sharon that was cutt back to look like and be trimmed as a shrub?

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