Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by SprinklerGuy, Oct 25, 2001.

  1. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    Well it finally happened, I have been attempting to collect from a Prop. Mgmt Firm for some work we did. Long story even longer, they shorted my invoices for a variety of reasons. One of them they said it shouldn't have taken that long to fix, one they said they only authorized half the labor that I billed for, and the other they said my rate was too high. To keep things short...I am honest. if it took 6 hours, there must have been a reason, all of these things have a reason.....anyway

    My lawyer has been corresponding with them and the usual "he said, she said" stuff goes on but now.....We have a pre-trial conference set up for Dec. 15th.

    Here's the thing, the lawyer is of course into me for 500-750 already to chase approx. 1500 dollars worth of debt. I can't turn back. Now I am starting to second guess myself of course. Is that normal? Do you think they will chicken out or do they expect me to do the same? I can't stand the thought of going to court with these schmucks and sitting around a table with them. Oh well, it's my money dammit and I want it.
  2. LoneStarLawn

    LoneStarLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,415

    I would think that you would be entitled to other costs that occured trying to get your money (i.e. lawyer's fees, court costs). So you should get the $1500 plus the other fees if you win.
  3. parkwest

    parkwest LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 678

    This case would have been better served going to small claims. If you win a judgement against them your lawyer will then have to file to force them to pay. Also if there was no written agreement on collection cost and attorney fees-GOOD LUCK trying to collect.

    Pull out and take it to small claims or better yet binding arbitration.
  4. lawnMaster5000

    lawnMaster5000 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 591

    well it doesnt really matter what court you are in, it is extremely rare that you are able to collect for your lawyer fees. If you are suing for breach of contract it is possible to sue for compensetory damages (in your case you would be awarded $ for such) but also for punitive damamges. Now these punitive damages can be applied to lawyer fees but they will be awarded to you as a punishment to the defendant and not as a means of you to pay for your court fees.

    - if i am incorrect on this will someone please correct me.
  5. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    I guess it depends on who you listen to....

    My lawyer says he will get me my money plus his fees. He seemed to be sure about this. This is the only law he practices, collection law, so he should know. I think all states are different. If they make me an offer prior to court I will probably take it just to save the trouble of going to court around x-mas time.
  6. LoneStarLawn

    LoneStarLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,415

    <i>"In some court cases, a judge may award a partial or full fee to be paid by an opposing party. This is most suitable in collection cases."</i>

    -----Washington State Bar Association
  7. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    If you've got nothing in your contract about getting attorney's fees should things go sour, you'll have a hard time. But if that's in the contract, and you win, that is certainly within your rights to collect. I'm in the middle of a case right now where we're chasing after about $10K, about $2K of which is legal fees.

    Their attorneys know approximately how much you're into your attorney for, too. They're wondering themselves why you haven't dropped this or suggested a settlement of some sort.

    I agree with Park, go for small claims or arbitration if you can, or try really hard in the pre-trial to work out a settlement. If you don't, depending on how things go, you could lose the case and end up paying THEIR attorney's fees.

    I'm surprised your attorney didn't advise you of this up front.

    As for compensatory vs punitive - I'm no expert, but for this dollar amount, I don't think a judge is going to entertain much discussion on the topic. You'd end up spending thousands on depositions, expert witnesses and garbage like that to collect another few hundred dollars, anyway.
  8. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    If AZ has a small claims court I'd learn about it for future reference.

    For now, analyze how this happened and what steps you should take to prevent these disputes in the future.

    Tell us about how this happened so others can learn.
  9. skram423

    skram423 LawnSite Member
    from pa
    Messages: 1

    Buy one of those big signs you can change the letters on and put their name on it and that they dont pay their bills. Leave that up for a few days and see if you get your money!
  10. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    I have done the small claims court in AZ if you win you get a judgement...up to you to collect.....isn't that the thing you want? Also, small claims court, no lawyers, I'd have to do all the legwork. I am running a business here, not practicing law.

    Here's how it happened, you be the judge of whether or not I could have prevented this:

    We started working for this company in July of 1999. We were there at least 2-3 times per month repairing sprinklers. Big property so plenty of work. Each time we submitted an invoice, we were paid, no question. They asked why we were so expensive and we said "cuz we're good" of course that is what we'd say right?

    About 4 months ago we got asked to do a job for them, involved quite a bit of labor, checking drip and repairing as we go, on a LARGE commercial site. I gave them an estimate in writing that said we would spend 2 days there at so much per day and reevaluate after that. Well 2 days into the job I called the manager and told him I needed at least 2 more days.....go for it he said, use the same PO.

    Now they won't pay and the manager has been fired.

    The other invoice was for a leak under a parking lot, we spend 3 hours excavating and a couple more fixing and then a couple of hours cleaning it up to make it look nice. Keep in mind, we never called for approval on anything, they always had trusted us. Never questioned anything.

    The manager, same one that got fired, said he went and dug up the repair site and found the pipe 1 foot below ground, Why did it take 7 hours to repair that???? That pipe was in our way.....on the way down to the 2 1/2" mainline!!!! Said they would only pay for 1/2 that repair.

    My question is this: we have to trust our clients as much or more than they trust us. If we sit around and wait for approval, they will complain when we bill them for it, if we sit around and wait for approval and they turn it down, we have wasted serious time that we will not be compensated for. This is not a situation where the homeowner has already agreed in principle to pay at least the service charge....these commercial property managers get in trouble for that. How do I go about this so that noone gets hurt. The landscaper wants the pipes! This is the first time burned this way in almost 10 years so.......I will take my lumps I suppose and hope it never happens again.

    Maybe a written agreement that I will be paid x amount of dollars to diagnose and wait by phone for approval......That doesn't work if it is a small job, just adds to their bill for no reason. any suggestions?

Share This Page