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Posted: 2/24/2006 12:54:58 PM EDT
Ok, we do snow removal for a block of condos and we had plowed the drives after it snowed. After a day or two one of the owners called and said we hit her garage door. So I went and looked at it and there was a small 6in dent in one of the panels. I asked the two guys that plowed that night if they recalled hitting the door with there plow, and neither one said they hit it. I know what employee is going to admit to it right, well one of them is my partner and the other is long time friend and our supervisor, so I don’t think they would be lying about it. We have never fired anyone for an accident.
Anyway, lady got estimates and they want $425 to replace the panel and $135 to paint it. I told her that we don’t think we caused the damage and we don’t just hand over money to someone that says they are sure we did it.
We had a guy one time that wanted his car painted because we threw stones all over it with a mower. Ended up we did not even cut that area that day.
So this lady is saying she will see me in court. Does see have anything on me? Will the court side with her because she is the plaintiff? I saying no I don’t think we did it stand up in court?


Thanks for any help on this
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 12:56:21 PM EDT
Sounds like assumption to me. No witnesses on her part, she is screwed.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:00:19 PM EDT
You are a 99.9% winner in small claims court since she has no one who witnessed your employees doing the damage.

Apologize politely to her to keep the peace and express to her you are not responsible for whatever damage she claims you caused.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:01:50 PM EDT
depends on the judge. who knows.

I remember when I was delivering appliances. We would have to snake refrigerators and stoves, etc down long hallways and stairwells - through small openings, and generally having to dissassemble doorways and parts of the appliances in order to fit it through.

Well, I learned real early on to do a walkthrough and point out to the customer before hand what damage and dings already existed, because sure as hell, if you didn't you would get blamed for it - even if you didn't do it.

So yeah, in the service business you always need to CYA. In this case I am not sure it could have been avoided, but if you did hit it I am sure you would have felt it, and know it. So if one of the two people are lying or not, or if it was not your fault might soon be in the hands of a judge.

One thing is for certain, you will most likely lose the job of plowing those condos because of this. Very unfortunate.

But likely she is just bluffing - because it will cost her almost as much to take you to court as to fix what she claims you did.

good luck.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:05:16 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:12:03 PM EDT
I'm guessing a plow blade would pierce a garage door, not simply dent it.

Was the dent at bumper height (as if SHE did the damage), or plow height?

Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:14:03 PM EDT
You do have insurance don't you?

Just notify them and let them handle it.

Chances are they will write a letter to her and that will be the end of it.

This is why you have insurance.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:16:00 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/24/2006 1:47:51 PM EDT by legalese77]
Sounds like it may boil down to a matter of proof...might be more hassle for you than it's worth, however....you may be required to hire a lawyer if you're a corporate entity or at least appear yourself if a d/b/a or partnership (thus taking time out of your schedule) to fight in court. Frequently you will not be able to recover your atty fees for defending.

Sometimes it's better to cut your losses and preserve the relationship and the business reputation than fight on principle and have your name dragged through the mud and posted on the local court docket. Not to mention, you have to consider whether this could result in losing a good client.

Any chance she'll settle for half? Perhaps write a letter explaining that you or your guys did not do it but to avoid the hassle, you'll meet her halfway? I know that may feel like an admission of guilt or compromising your principles but court is the last place anybody wants to be. It's likely worth it to avoid the hassle.

Or...maybe call her bluff and wait for the lawsuit....generally, however, if they are bent on litigating, resolving the problem prior to filing is preferable.

If you are sued, make an appointment immediately with a competent atty rated by martindale.com who handles civil cases. Collections attorneys tend to be particularly familiar with small claims court.


Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:16:31 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Aimless:
No one saw your guys whack it? Sounds like a tough one for her. Any paint on your plowblades to match hte door? Might be worth having a digital picture of that.



No one seen this happen and i checked the door there is no paint on it or the plows.

I hope she is just bluffing. She did tell me she has taken a guy to court over $200 before.
She is one of those old ladys that has nothing better to do.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:24:28 PM EDT

Originally Posted By legalese77:
Any chance she'll settle for half? Perhaps write a letter explaining that you or your guys did not do it but to avoid the hassle, you'll meet her halfway? I know that may feel like an admission of guilt or compromising your principles but court is the last place anybody wants to be. It's likely worth it to avoid the hassle.




Yes I did offer her to pay half just to put this thing to rest. Her response was, so your willing to pay half for something you did not do?
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:26:10 PM EDT

Originally Posted By rebel_rifle:
You do have insurance don't you?

Just notify them and let them handle it.

Chances are they will write a letter to her and that will be the end of it.

This is why you have insurance.



I'm thinking +1 on this. They also have lawyers and fraud investigators. Not sure how it will affect your rates though.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:27:52 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/24/2006 1:41:08 PM EDT by legalese77]

Originally Posted By TrickyRicky72:

I hope she is just bluffing. She did tell me she has taken a guy to court over $200 before.
She is one of those old ladys that has nothing better to do.



I know a lady that was sued by a tow operator for defamation (libel and slander distinction eradicated in IL) b/c she complained to the BBB that he was rude, unreasonable and because of his exuberant [sic] pricing. He asked for 5K in damages even though the lady's complaint was almost incomprehensible because of spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors.

The judge even said to the guy: (paraphrase) hey, do you really want to risk your company's reputation over this? After all, the guy got paid. He probably spent several thousand on atty fees after he decided to follow the judge's sage advice to get a lawyer and still ultimately lost. The judge probably figured no atty would touch it but he apparently had a longstanding relationship with his lawyer and insisted (and probably paid handsomely) and the lawyer felt obligated even though the case was an unpolished turd.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:37:45 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/24/2006 1:52:25 PM EDT by legalese77]

Originally Posted By TrickyRicky72:
Yes I did offer her to pay half just to put this thing to rest. Her response was, so your willing to pay half for something you did not do?



At a certain point, it is no longer cheaper to settle. Heck, it might even be worth it to pay the whole amount in this case b/c atty fees with almost certainly exceed the amount in contest if the case goes all the way to trial but half is a good starting point. Not to mention that your guys may have to get pulled off a job to come testify. You might explain that it's not worth your trouble for half but if she insists on all of it maybe it's worth it to you as a matter of principle.

Make it clear that you aren't offering a settlement because you admit liability but rather because it's less trouble. In fact, if she is that much of a crank, you might insist on her signing a comprehensive release, too especially if she has not already had the work done....estimates have a way of getting bigger and that means she will be back for more.

Lastly, insist on documented proof of the cost of repair before paying a penny. I prefer to see paid bills. Estimates can be drawn up anywhere and be bogus and legit. If she received a bill and PIF, that strongly suggests that the cost of repair requested is legitimate. After all, she paid the bill despite the risk that she may not recover. Most folks will not pay an overinflated bill but will gladly shop for the highest estimate, demand payment at that amount and then hire the lowest bidder and pocket the difference.

edit:



is your company a corporation? if so, you may need to hire a lawyer to represent you.... check the rules for small claims court, often times the corp must be represented by an attorney and the individual cannot have an attorney



I alluded to this above. That is the law in IL but when the corp is essentially one guy (paper only) I have seen judges ignore this requirement in small claims. I mean, heck, what are you going to do? Appeal? Not realistically.



No one seen this happen and i checked the door there is no paint on it or the plows.



Did someone hear it? Does the damage look like it could have been caused by the plows? If it does and if she says it wasn't there right before you plowed and was there immediately after, the judge could easily conclude that your guys are responsible if he finds her to be credible. Again, if the judge makes a bad call, appeal is not a practical option here.

Link Posted: 2/24/2006 1:41:27 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/24/2006 1:41:38 PM EDT by mikejohnson]
is your company a corporation? if so, you may need to hire a lawyer to represent you.... check the rules for small claims court, often times the corp must be represented by an attorney and the individual cannot have an attorney
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