Lawsuits-How many have you won/lost??

Discussion in '<a href= target=_blank ?>Sn' started by CMerLand, Jan 25, 2001.

  1. CMerLand

    CMerLand LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 393

    Been wondering how much litigation has hit the folks that use this forum. How many slip and fall suits has your company been charged with and whats been your won/loss record?? How did you defense work and how did you change your operations after the suit?

    We have only been sued once and we were dismissed from the lawsuit after I filed my deposition. I did learn a tremendous amount of information from going through the experience as to what the lawyers look for and how they try to catch the contractor on the hook.

    The case was about a slip and fall of an employee at a bank location we did not have a contract to plow. We did service two other branches of that bank but were not under contract for the third. Had plowed and salted the other properties 3 or 4 times during the storms and had the plow records to back me up.

    Two days after the storm the facilities manager called and asked if we could plow and salt the driveway and walks at this third property and then maintain it for the remainder of the season. Of course I said yes and went out and did the work. Probably about 9 months later we received service that we were being sued by the person that fell.

    We were dismissed from the lawsuit because the records that we had serviced the other properties serveral times was evidence that we were thorough and completed in our performance that we were not responsible for that property. Good records and past performance came to save the day.

    Whats your experience been????

  2. Mike Nelson

    Mike Nelson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 416

    Ditto on records.

    It is very important to keep tract of everything that you do.To include phone logs and every conversation you might have with the property mgrs.or anybody that counts.
    The more info you have going in to court,the better chances you have of winning.
    When you shop your insurance.ask them what their payouts are?John Allin is the real expert in this area.Good Luck
  3. John Allin

    John Allin LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,488

    Our insurance has paid out only one time in 22 years. They determined that it was cheaper to pay than to defend, and did so without our knowledge and/or permission. And it was done by a carrier that we only had one year. We canned them as being totally non-responsive to our needs after one year.

    I'm on an advisory board to CNA with regards to insurance and snowplowing. This is due to my involvement with ALCA. I know alot of 'ins and outs' of how to deal with insurance carriers. You'd be amazed at how much power you have with regards to this type of thing... IF... IF... you have proper records.

    Record keeping is THE key. Here, we are anal retentive about record keeping (something that Mike Nelson can attest to as he has been to our place and gone through the process we use).

    Insurance companies work for US. Tough to remember at times. But you DO have a say in what happens, especially if your records are such that you can back up what you say and want (which apparently CmerLand did do). So many contractors tell me that they are "too busy" to keep the types of records you need.

    We document every move we make, every call that comes into our office, every ton of salt applied (and where and what time).

    Interestingly enough, I was at a Binding Arbitration hearing yesterday morning. We were defending a slip and fall along with a Hospital we work for. It occurred back in 1997. The other side put on their case, so did we. The arbitors decided RIGHT there, and the case was totally dismissed. My lawyer told me that it was THE first time he has ever had that happen... right there in the room, they looked at each other and voted right there and then.

    "Ridges and Valleys" doctrine. Too long to get into now, but it is what ended the case.

    Most of the time we are let out right away as our contracts with our customers are quite specific about hold harmless stuff.
  4. Gordon

    Gordon LawnSite Member
    Messages: 33

    Very good post Mr. Allen!

    Proper records are the key in anything and as humans we are creatures of habit. So once you get into the habit of keeping a phone log---it becomes second nature. As does anything else along the lines of record keeping. Everytime I talk to a customer and if there are any changes to services that I'm providing, I let that customer know that I'm recording it in the phone log and will document it in his file when I get back to the shop. This does two things for me, it keeps the customer honest and it also shows my degree of professionalism. Every little bit helps.

    Being Anal retentive about record keeping is a MUST in this day and age. Not only for pushing snow but for everything. I would say everyone here has worked hard for what they now have and it would be a shame for some knucklehead looking for a free ride to come along and take it away because of something as simple as keeping proper records.

    The last business I worked for was sued two times, once for a very large amout. Both times it was detailed records that kept the lawsuits from going any farther than they did. So don't even try to say you don't have the time while plowing to keep the proper records--only takes a few minutes. Or would you rather spend a couple of weeks with the lawyers doing depositions.
  5. JCurtis

    JCurtis LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 292

    John Allin,

    Maybe you should give us all lessons on record keeping. Your record sounds pretty good.

    Your record keeping forms and procedures should work for all of us.

    Maybe the Denver Snow and Ice symposium should have one more seminar added!!! Proper record keeping 101

    I am not kidding.
  6. John DiMartino

    John DiMartino LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,555

    No suits in 14 yrs,I hope for none in the future,but you never know.
  7. Guest
    Messages: 0

    We have been in business for 11 years and have had 3 lawsuits and one was paid out and was a pretty large settlement. One thing I can say is make sure that you take on properties that are not going to be large lawsuits waiting to happen. Thats what happened on that one property, there were lots of pedistrian traffic, they didn't want it serviced enough and it got us in trouble. The problem is sometimes with lawsuits is that it takes 3 years to finally get to court and then you can't always recall or find documantation to back yourself up. Learned our lesson and now are more selective in customers and also keep up on our records much better. Just My two cents
  8. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,285

    Haven't been named in any lawsuits yet. One customer saved over $77,000 because of our recors, we didn't even know about the suit.

    We keep very good records but no phone log, how do you manage that with customers calling you on cell phones and you are out plowing?
  9. Majestic

    Majestic LawnSite Member
    Messages: 42

    No law suits yet.In every truck is a folder with schedules.Each driver goes through his schedule and writes in the time and services rendered(salt.plow etc.)after the storm I collect these schedules from the truck and keep them on file in the office for four years.We do this for every day of the year even summer,sundays holidays etc.I keep a message book beside the office phone and record every call.Even the messages from the wife and kids.(got me out of a couple I told you so situations). Our customers are given the office number as first priority.If Im out and no one is in office I tell them to leave a message,If I dont respond in 15 min. page me on my pager this gives me time to pull over before responding to the call.I generally dont give out cell phone number to customers.I also dont give out my home number although mine is listed if they look it up.I learned that three years ago when I was sitting down to Sunday dinner with guests,the phone rings my little one answered here dad its for you.A customer had me on the phone for 25 minutes over something that should have waited until Monday.Supper was cold,wife was mad I was upset,called monday put second phone line in garage and upstairs office.SUNDAYS ARE MINE.(unless its snowing)
  10. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,411

    "They determined that it was cheaper to pay than to defend, and did so without our knowledge and/or permission. And it was done by a carrier that we only had one year. We canned them as being totally non-responsive to our needs after one year."

    This is what insurance is for. You pay them to insulate you from liability. How they accomplish that task is their discretion. Read the policy.

    I had one slip and fall claim, and to this day do not know how it turned out. The insurance co will not tell me, they say that once I hand it to them it is their responsibility. Thats the way I like it.

    Don't let your ego get in the way of good sense.

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