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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 89292
Experience:  All corporate law, including non-profits and charitable fraternal organizations.
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Hi. I was recently served a summons for an unpaid bill to

Customer Question

Hi. I was recently served a summons for an unpaid bill to a professional whom I hired. I am in the process of preparing an answer. I previously paid all of the other bills - approximately 85k. I did not pay the final bill - approximately 15k.

I was never provided with an accurate accounting of what this professional was doing. When I was billed, I never received a breakdown of what he was doing. All I received was x amount of hours of day y, and then a charge. I have no idea what was done on what day and why, nor have I received any results for the money I paid.

What is an example of an affirmative defense or affirmative defenses can I use?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Your affirmative defenses on this would be:

1) Accord and satisfaction, claiming that you paid him everything he provided proper invoices and accounting for.

2) Breach of contract, in that he failed to provide a proper accounting and itemized invoice proving you owed him any money other than what you had already paid him.

3) Failure to prove debt, which is where you again repeat, he provided no itemized accounting of what services were provided for the alleged bill he is submitting.


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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I do not want to take too much of your time with this, but I do have a follow-up (or two).


 


Do I need to be detailed with my Affirmative Defenses? For instance, in your 2nd one, "Breach of contract, in that he failed to provide a proper accounting and itemized invoice proving you owed him any money other than what you had already paid him." Of course some words would have to be changed around, but would this suffice? Or do I need to go into total detail?


 


I guess my only conundrum here is that I paid all of the other bills and all of them we written the same way - I gave a large retainer, and they just deducted the amount of the bills from the retainer. So, I am not sure if I have a leg to stand on, considering this bill was written the same way. I wouldn't want that I paid the other bills to establish precedent.


 


Also, he cites a law where it says that fee arbitration is not applicable because an opportunity for arbitration was provided and I did not timely exercise my right to engage in an alternate dispute resolution medium. No idea if this is even factual.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I replied. Is there an update?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Relist: Other.
Slow reply.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

What is happening? I asked the question again. It is Locked. Now, some Dave Kennett agrees. I asked a followup and it's being ignored.


 

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
I apologize profusely, but as we said in the first response, many times we are off with other customers or we have to step away. It is not that you are being ignored and when a customer clicks on relist it removes the question from our list and locks us out until we can get through other customers who have replied to us. Again, I am sorry for the delay in responding to you.

No, you do not have to be detailed in anything in your answer with the exception of if you are alleging fraud, which you must specifically detail. If you are not claiming fraud, then just generally and briefly explaining your defenses is all that is required. It is just to give notice of the defense and as long as it is clear what you are claiming, it can be brief.

You may not have a leg to stand on if you paid previous bills without question and without asking for an itemized statement, but you should at least raise the defenses and argue over them after.

Regarding arbitration, you have to review your contract to see if there was a time limit to request arbitration. If there was no time limit in the contract, then one of your other defenses is that the Contract Calls for Arbitration, because when there is an arbitration clause, the court will defer to arbitration every time. But without reading your contract I do not know what the terms for that were.

Again, accept my apologies for the delay in response.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

You have my apologies. I did not know how the system works.


 


Last question, and then I will be out of your way. What language should I use for what I affirm and what I deny? I know it's a simple sentence, but which do you suggest?


 


What if something in the paragraph is partially true, but the other stuff is not? How should that sentence of the answer read.

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
It is not your fault, do not worry, most of the customers here do not know how the system works.

All you answer is either simply, "Admit," "deny" or "Insufficient information to form a reasonable belief to the truth of the matter asserted in this paragraph and leave plaintiff to their proof." If only part of a statement is true or you agree with, then you would say, "Admit only to X, but deny Y."

The answer is very brief, no long sentences or responses are required.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. I am so happy for your replies. Last questions.


 


What do I write for paragraphs where he states and realleges things from earlier paragraphs? No I write n/a or something like that?


 


Also, can I raise the affirmative defense of unclean hands?


 


I am being sued by a former attorney. I did not pay the last bill because I did not feel it was just and nothing was itemized. Prior statements were not itemized, but I didn't thoroughly look those over because I gave a large retainer. He would just write 10 HOURS - WORKED ON CASE. Nothing more, nothing less. On this last bill, where the retainer ran out, I am refusing to pay because nothing was ever accomplished and I have no idea what he did.


 


Am I in the right here? Is this unclean hands too?


 


When you wrote ACCORD AND SATISFACTION: I just need a way to write what you wrote, but can't say the last part, because I technically paid when the invoices were not itemized.

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
1) Answer all of the paragraphs, even if you feel you do not have to or that it realleges something previously answered.

2) Sure you can raise unclean hands if indeed you believe that he has done something wrong that has led to this problem.

3) Under the NY Rules of Professional Conduct, where a client asks for an itemized bill, the attorney shall provide it and if he failed to do so he violated the rules of conduct and in addition to raising this in your answer, you can file a complaint with the NY Appellate Court which handles attorney discipline in NY.

Here is the NY State Client's Bill of Rights:

Statement of Client’s Rights (22 NYCRR §1210.1)

  1. You are entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times by your lawyer and the other lawyers and personnel in your lawyer’s office.
  2. You are entitled to an attorney capable of handling your legal matter competently and diligently, in accordance with the highest standards of the profession. If you are not satisfied with how your matter is being handled, you have the right to withdraw from the attorney-client relationship at any time (court approval may be required in some matters and your attorney may have a claim against you for the value of services rendered to you up to the point of discharge).
  3. You are entitled to your lawyer’s independent professional judgment and undivided loyalty uncompromised by conflicts of interest.
  4. You are entitled to be charged a reasonable fee and to have your lawyer explain at the outset how the fee will be computed and the manner and frequency of billing. You are entitled to request and receive a written itemized bill from your attorney at reasonable intervals. You may refuse to enter into any fee arrangement that you find unsatisfactory. In the event of a fee dispute, you may have the right to seek arbitration; your attorney will provide you with the necessary information regarding arbitration in the event of a fee dispute, or upon your request.
  5. You are entitled to have your questions and concerns addressed in a prompt manner and to have your telephone calls returned promptly.
  6. You are entitled to be kept informed as to the status of your matter and to request and receive copies of papers. You are entitled to sufficient information to allow you to participate meaningfully in the development of your matter.
  7. You are entitled to have your legitimate objectives respected by your attorney, including whether or not to settle your matter (court approval of a settlement is required in some matters).
  8. You have the right to privacy in your dealings with your lawyer and to have your secrets and confidences preserved to the extent permitted by law.
  9. You are entitled to have your attorney conduct himself or herself ethically in accordance with the Code of Professional Responsibility.
  10. You may not be refused representation on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin or disability.

Thus, you can use his refusal to provide the itemized bill on request, a violation of the Rules of Conduct as your unclean hands reason.

 

You can write Accord and Satisfaction in that you claim you paid him all he was owed and there is no proof provided you owe him more.

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