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Tina
Tina, Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 33167
Experience:  17 years legal experience including consumer protection law.
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A landscaper in NJ has filed a lawsuit against me in July 2013

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A landscaper in NJ has filed a lawsuit against me in July 2013 for what he claims are invoices for landscaping work that was performed in 2008 and largely billed in 2010. He claims to be owed $150,000, in our opinion the work not paid yet amounts to $50,000. The truth is his administration and billing is a complete mess, with lots of duplication, errors (like prices different from estimates) etc.etc....we offered to pay the $50,000, he refused and is suing for $150k. We sold the house in 2012. There is NO contract whatsoever, everything was done in good faith on both sides. There are just invoices for worked performed 5 yhhears ago that he claims have not been paid yet. What is my exposure here?

Hello and welcome.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX my goal is to provide you with excellent service today. I am sorry to hear of your difficult situation. Before I can give you an accurate answer to your question, please provide the following additional information:

Do you know whether there are e-mails, designs, photographs, receipts, or other evidence the contractor might have to prove how much is owed?

I look forward to assisting you as soon as I have received this information. Thank you.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

He does not have that...all he has are estimates that were sent to us and that we have used as the basis for what we believe we owe...he has added LOTS of extras based on what he claims were verbal discussions to change the scope of work, but there are no written records of that.

I see. Thank you for providing this additional information, Paul.

First, the statute of limitations for a breach of contract claim under NJ law is typically 6 years, so that does not appear to be a valid defense for you since he has filed the suit within that period of time since he alleges you breached the contract.

Oral agreements are normally enforceable, but the issue typically involves being able to prove the terms of such agreements, including the value of the work performed and materials supplied.

If the contractor cannot prove the extent of the work he performed or materials supplied and cannot prove what you agreed to, then he would likely have a very weak case.

Since you have arrived at a figure of $50,000 based on the writings that are available, that would typically be a reasonable figure for a court to use as well unless the contractor is able to submit other proof.

Assuming there is no other proof as you have indicated, I would not anticipate a judgment for the amount the contractor is seeking, but closer to the offer you have made.

Legal expenses could mount though, so I would try to press for mediation if at all possible.

I hope this helps clarify the situation for you. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need so I will be compensated for my time from the deposit you posted with this website. If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Thank you!

Tina

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Tina. I made him an offer to pay the $50k which he rejected, and I put an ultimatum on it of Dec 15 last year since if payment went past 2012 I would no longer be able to deduct the landscaping-related capital improvements from the gain we recorded on the sale of the house in 2012. Can I take the position that I owe him less than the $50,000 since this is now no longer a tax-deductible expense?

You are very welcome, Paul.

Sure, you are not locked into the offer you previously made, especially since he did not accept your offer. Settlement negotiations are also not admissible in court normally, so the contractor could not use your offer against you in an attempt to prove you owe him.

I hope you are able to resolve this soon, but it sounds as though the contractor is being unreasonable at the moment.

I hope this helps clarify the situation for you. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need so I will be compensated for my time from the deposit you posted with this website. If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Thank you!

Tina

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Tina, you'll definitely have my positive review...in your opinion, do I need a lawyer if this goes to court, or could I represent myself since his case is so weak.

Hello again, Paul.

I would retain an attorney even though his case appears weak since you are more likely to prevail quickly that way, especially if the contractor is not represented and makes mistakes in pleadings. It's what I would recommend.

Thank you in advance for the positive rating. It is greatly appreciated! Good luck to you.
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