Can a contractor sue for nonpayment of an amount he never disclosed or invoiced?
We are in the business of flipping homes. We recently hired a painter to paint the interior and exterior of one of our properties. We signed a contract at commencement of the project and paid 50 percent upfront, with the balance due at completion. The painter demanded several payments throughout the project--not adhering to the contracted payment schedule.
Needless to say, we made those payments and by completion of the project the painter had already been paid the contracted amount in full, though he never provided receipts. Two days after completion we were served notice that he was suing us for an additional amount.
He filed suit on Nov. 12. Then on Nov. 24, we received an invoice in the mail for charges for what he called extra services. Regardless of the fact that we refute these so-called extra services--as it was our understanding that these services were part of the original scope of work--my question is: Does he have the legal right to sue us on Nov. 12 for what he cited?
Unfortunately, you can't prevent people from suing you, no matter how crazy the claim. What you can do, though, is prevent them from succeeding on their claims. However, there's being right, and there are the practicalities of the situation. If it would cost you more to hire an attorney than to pay the painter for what he says is owed, stop for a minute and think about whether you really want to fight him "on principle."
First step, though, is to at least consult with a litigation attorney to get clear on your defenses to the action (it sounds like you have a few) and to see whether there are any claims you might be able to bring against the painter.
Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. is an award-winning New York City attorney, edutainer and author. Under her Ask The Business Lawyer brand, she reaches thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners with her legal services, professional speaking, information products, and LexAppeal weekly ezine. She also writes the Making It Legal blog.