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wallstreetfighter
wallstreetfighter, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 15672
Experience:  14 years exp, General counsel for National Corp. firms, Hostos College instructor, Represented employees in discrimination lawsuits
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I am a web developer and a client of mine I was working in

Customer Question

I am a web developer and a client of mine I was working in their project and decided to stop working because he has not paid me for outstanding balances. he started to disable my accesses, with the intent to run away without paying me as a result I stopped the database connection on the site I was working on. He now accuses me of tortious interferance and cyber duress. What are my options?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.

wallstreetfighter :

Hello I am a licensed attorney here to help you with your question, please review my response and do not hesitate to ask for clarification

wallstreetfighter :

This is an unfortunate situation,

wallstreetfighter :

if you had a contract with him, and he has not paid you as per the contract,

wallstreetfighter :

you are not required to continue to work,

Customer:

well this is tricky

Customer:

so we had no actual written contract

Customer:

most things were verbal and by email

Customer:

and implied as I was working on the project

wallstreetfighter :

his allegations are not worrisome, this is a contract issue,

wallstreetfighter :

and if sues you, he would have to show evidence of payment for your services,

wallstreetfighter :

The emails could establish a contract,

Customer:

of course on any project a developer will give an estimate approx of services

wallstreetfighter :

cyber duress is not a common lawsuit cause of action, and is irrelevant,

Customer:

so I gave him an estimated cost for the work

Customer:

it was just a proposal

Customer:

however in the course of working with him

wallstreetfighter :

he would have to sue you for these items and actually prove that he gave you something for your work,

Customer:

I informed him that I will only work hourly

Customer:

so he paid me some of the hours

Customer:

but not all the hours

Customer:

he is claiming that the amount in the proposal

Customer:

that I went way over that amount

Customer:

but he agreed to me being hourly

Customer:

by paying for some of the oustanding hourly invoices

wallstreetfighter :

if he did not make any payment,

Customer:

he made some payment

Customer:

he paid some invoices

Customer:

not all

Customer:

I still have outstanding invoices

wallstreetfighter :

you should send him a letter stating that unless he pays the outstanding notices, you will not activate the database,

wallstreetfighter :

and you can threaten a lawsuit for the amount of balances left over,

Customer:

I did email him with this EXACT statement

wallstreetfighter :

then you are fine,

Customer:

HE actually is the one who has threatened to sue me

Customer:
As stated earlier these charges are beyond usual and customary and I refuse to be held hostage any longer as these reckless actions have been burdened upon me.

she apparently seems to be naive about tortuous interference.

I have already started actions on my side. The site is shut down and is now interfering with contractual obligations with our clients causing real harm and damage on an hourly basis. Her attitude is that she has not damaged the site just "merely" shut it down. Unacceptable.
Customer:

this is what he sent

Customer:

he also said he will call the fbi

Customer:

on me

wallstreetfighter :

This is not a criminal issue, but a contract issue,

Customer:

you have created large amount of harm.


You are in a terrible position and possibly criminal. I have talked to the FBI already once today. I hope you know that the email you sent earlier was very helpful in admitting that YOU took the site down, thanks!

I am calling right now to refute all charges since you have taken control of what was not yours.

You have been paid a large and substantial amount of money and held hostage as your actions have dictated today.




I have emailed your attorney, one of my Attorneys names is RXXXXX XXXXX. I will have him file actions immediately and seek punitive damages of $325 per hour every hour the site is down at a minimum.


Customer:

he continues

wallstreetfighter :

you should not worry, I would keep the emails,

wallstreetfighter :

and consider bringing your own lawsuit for the unpaid balances,

Customer:

yep

Customer:

he also states that I delayed the project

Customer:

by being late

Customer:

and promising it will finish

Customer:

but they kept adding requirements

Customer:

if he was not satisfied with it

Customer:

why did he not leave

wallstreetfighter :

That are issues he has to prove in civil court,

Customer:

he kept on giving me more projects

wallstreetfighter :

he has to justify to the court why you were not paid, and how he can expect you to continue to work,

Customer:

right

Customer:

his justification was

Customer:

I was late and missing deadlines

Customer:

but this project was agile in nature

Customer:

we were working hourly

Customer:

and any additional requirements

Customer:

add time

wallstreetfighter :

that is not enough,

Customer:

my most worry here was to find out

Customer:

if y disconnecting his database

Customer:

for non payment

Customer:

was tortorous interruption

Customer:

and whether i conducted cyber duress by holding his code and not wanting to restore until he pays

Customer:

the outstanding balances

Customer:

he claims he has paid me ENOUGH

Customer:

money

wallstreetfighter :

Tortious interference is encouraging a breach, infringing on another's agreement, innerfering with contract, interfering with contractual commitments, interfering with contractual obligation, interferrng with contractual rights, intermeddling, intermeddling with business activities, obstruction, work against anothers contractual relationship, wrongful interference with busiiess relationships, wrongful interference with contractual relationships

wallstreetfighter :

I do not see this as an issue

wallstreetfighter :

this is a contractual issue,

wallstreetfighter :

and you have a strong argument that he violated the contract by not paying for services,

Customer:

right he says that he paid enough

wallstreetfighter :

As I stated earlier, cyber duress is not valid,

Customer:

what is enough

wallstreetfighter :

the only way this will be solved is a Judge decides,

Customer:

he says that i had proposed an amount in my scope of work

Customer:

but that was a proprosal

Customer:

I had told him in emails

Customer:

that I will work and charge hourly for my work

Customer:

he did not dispute that

Customer:

by continuing to stay in the relationship

wallstreetfighter :

You should sue him first for the unpaid balances,

wallstreetfighter :

or send him a letter stating you will do this,

Customer:

I want him to bring the suit first

Customer:

since he will spend money

wallstreetfighter :

either way, he can only sue you, and a Court will decide what is fair,

wallstreetfighter :

that is fine,

Customer:

at one point he even tried to settle

Customer:

by offering $10,000

Customer:

for invoices that amount to $34000

Customer:

I denied

Customer:

so by offering a settlement he agrees he owes me

Customer:

I counter offered $25,000

Customer:

to bring the app back up and release all his source codes and provide permissions

wallstreetfighter :

you can keep these negotiations if they were done by email as evidence,

Customer:

yes

Customer:

they were by email

wallstreetfighter :

that he accepted your services and tried to settle,

Customer:

YOU HAVE 30 MINUTES TO RESTORE CONNECTIVITY AND ACTIVITY TO THE SITE. IF NOT YOU WILL SUFFER DIRE CONSEQUENCES-------



IN 30 MINUTES FROM RIGHT NOW I WILL CALL MY CARD SERVICES AND PAYPAL AND REFUTE ALL 54K IN CHARGES, SINCE ALL CHARGES WERE PUT ON A CARD TO PROTECT ME FROM FRAUD.


I WILL ALSO FORWAR EMAILS TO ELANCE AND FILE SUCH ACTIVITY WHICH BY YOUR FREELANCE AGREEMENT YOU HAVE VIOLATED


I WILL ALSO FILE SUIT TODAY AND SEEK BOTH PUNITIVE AND COMPENSATORY DAMAGES




I would highly advise you to seek counsel. Any harm you cause will create an immediate cause of action and will create a liability for you. Again, you may want to seek legal advise first.




If you hired an Attorney their name, adddress and phone number asap.



By your statements you, apparently, do not understand the law.



There are contracts between Fast411/Local App and their respective customers. Any interference or hinderance by you would considered tortuous interference with contractual relationships. Since you have been warned you will be also asserted punitive damages if you so conduct such activity.


Also you do not have control of any deployed product. You are not authorized to interfere with any process or program accessibility. Any such activity would be considered cyber duress.





Also, our attorney and I have spoke with my credit card company and Paypal. Since you were paid for work, if you take ANYTHING down my credit card company will consider that a non-performance issue and reverse charges with Paypal.







I have advised Apple, Google Dev Services and Amazon of your emailed threats.


I have asked them if anybody beyond me at my IP address access ANYTHING to notify me, log it and we will get a protective order from there.


If any services are jeopardized or made harm by you or "brought down", the following payments will be disputed by my card company and charged back to Paypal which will then seek remedy from you. We have notified both card ending in 9178 and 2446 (Chase Card Services and Paypal) of the following payments that have been made.


According to your contract on August 15, 2012 you proposed three phases. phase one is complete, cost of $8,840 and paid by Nov 9, 2012 to an extent of a total of $14,160. Phase 2 and Phase 3 are still not complete. You have stated verbally that the approx cost of the App builds would be 5-10k, then you upped it to an additional 3-5k. That cost has been paid as of March 15, 2013 to the tune of $17,030. You have been paid a total of $54,148. This is $21,348 more than you asked. You have been rewarded greatly. You have gone far over deadlines, as I have many many emails from you stating such.


I am tired of your tone and territorial attitude towards me, other employees and this project. You took on at least 4-6 other projects on Elance alone during this process. How would you imagine this makes us feel? You delay us and offer excuses while you work elsewhere and just keep invoicing us for continued hours.


It is obvious this project has came to an end with you.


I will offer an additional 10k to close this relationship get source code and and base code for any and all Apps, API's, Mongo and anything else pertaining to this project. This would mean that you would have been paid $64,148 for a project you originally told me would be around $32,000.


I believe this to be very fair and am amicable end to this debacle.



FYI, what was submitted to Chase and Paypal for payments:



Payments:


Sep 27, 2012

4160

card ending: 9178



Nov 9 2012

10,000

card ending: 9178



Feb 26, 2013

9,022

card ending: 2446


Mar 15, 2013

8,008

card ending: 9178


Apr 2, 2013

8,008

card ending: 2446


Apr 15, 2013

9,100

card ending: 2446


May 6, 2013

5,850

card ending: 9178






Customer:

thats what he sent me

Customer:

big mistake on his part above here

wallstreetfighter :

As I stated earlier, let him try to take you to court,

Customer:

i hope you have read the above

wallstreetfighter :

the court will review and force him either to pay you for your services,

wallstreetfighter :

or settle the matter where you activated the database for some fee,

wallstreetfighter :

his threats do not make sense,

wallstreetfighter :

and are not valid,

Customer:

yep

Customer:

My only fear if the court will hold

Customer:

the fact that he is using a proposal for services I sent him as a contract

Customer:

even after several times after that

Customer:

I told him I will work hourly for my services

Customer:

and had been invoicing him hourly

wallstreetfighter :

You would argue that the terms changed and he accepted an hourly rate,

Customer:

and he paid SOME invoices hourly

wallstreetfighter :

and that he tried to settle with you before,

wallstreetfighter :

and he paid you by the hour,

Customer:

I also send him reports of hourly time spent

Customer:

and he paid some invoices hourly

Customer:

so if he didnt agree he had the right to leave

wallstreetfighter :

yes,

Customer:

this is no issue

Customer:

this will get him no where I just wanted to be sure

Customer:

I did not commit that tortorous act by disconnecting his database

Customer:

one thing he said I manupulated on an already deployed product

wallstreetfighter :

We are going in circles,

Customer:

thats why he says it is tortorous

wallstreetfighter :

at this point, you should advise him in writing he breached the contract by not paying you for your services,

wallstreetfighter :

and if he does not pay the outstanding balance you will not continue working,

wallstreetfighter :

and leave it like that, and see if he tries to sue you

Customer:

i already sent him an email saying that once I am paid for the outstanding balance I would then reinstate the site

Customer:

he says it is on his server

Customer:

and I tampered with it

Customer:

anyway

Customer:

I guess I just feel better knowing that these are frivilous accusations

Customer:

thanks so much

wallstreetfighter :

Good luck,

wallstreetfighter :

and he can threaten what he wants, but if a company does not pay their internet bill every month, the telephone companies are allowed to cut internet service as well,

wallstreetfighter :

This is common,

wallstreetfighter :

If satisfied with our service please provide us with positive feedback so we can receive credit.

Customer:

i am very satisfied thanks

wallstreetfighter :

Thank you

wallstreetfighter :

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask. If satisfied with our service please provide us with positive feedback so we can receive credit.

Customer:

ok

Customer:

I was trying but it did not let me

Customer:

how can I get the history

Customer:

of what we chat about?

wallstreetfighter :

once you provide feedback, the answers are sent to your account and email, so you can print it.

Customer:

oh.

Customer:

cheers

wallstreetfighter, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 15672
Experience: 14 years exp, General counsel for National Corp. firms, Hostos College instructor, Represented employees in discrimination lawsuits
wallstreetfighter and 3 other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

another question. The client is in Alabama. Does that make a difference

Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.
No, he would have to sue you in Maryland as that is where you are, so it would be harder for him to do this.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

He states it is a federal case

Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.
he still has to serve you a federal case is possible, but it would be difficult for him to do, as they are expensive, and you are out of state, it make it harder for him.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

He seems a wealthy client so he may want to take all the expense. will this be a contract or IP issue

Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.
This is a contract issue
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

sorry to be a pest. But can he claim self help. That I used self help, trespassed also because it was on his server? Or Im I in a good place because there was no written verbadum that said who owns the software so literallly I own it since he didnt pay ?

Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.
He can claim what he wants, this is a pure contract issue, he allowed you access, for a fee, and failed to pay you, so he is not entitled to service.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

His claim wallstreet is on the basis of Tortorous interference.


Thus if he prevails I will have to pay him for the time he suffered as a result of lost contracts but per copyright law "I am the owner" since there was no written agreement of who owns what. Although I deployed the work on his server I continually worked on the database since he requested changes/additions.


 


if held for tortorous interference (what are the basis he must prove for this?

Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.
We are going in circles, I gave the law above already, he has no case, this is a contract issue.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I have one more question I was just informed by their attorneys asking if I would consider restoring functionality to the web application for the time being so that they don't suffer more damages.

Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.
You should advise them to pay you for the service by the hour
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

ok thanks

Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.
good luck, you should send them a letter asking for part of your fee to be paid, and see if they will do this, a federal lawsuit, would cost $5000-$15,000 just to start, so they may want to give you money to avoid litigation expenses.

Good luck
Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.
Also read the article below regarding what web developers should do if payment is not given,


http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/04/09/dealing-with-clients-who-refuse-to-pay/

CSS Kill Switch

Another route that some freelance Web developers opt for when they design websites for clients is to install a kind of CSS fail-safe, in order to have leverage if payment disputes come up. CSS Killswitch is a freelance coder’s dream come true. By simply linking to an external CSS style sheet, which can be activated with the simple click of a button, you can black out a website if the client refuses to pay — even if they have changed the password and locked you out of the back end, which is the only circumstance under which this should be done.

PROS
While it should be used only with the strictest caution and as a last resort, the kill switch has two major pros. The first is that it gives the freelancer leverage, putting them in a position that they have not traditionally had access to. This leverage could give the freelancer the upper hand and might get them paid in the end, as the client scrambles to make their website visible again. Another pro is the ease of use and installation of the CSS kill switch, relative to some of the other solutions explored in this article.
CONS
Naturally, if and when you exercise this option, know that it won’t be a popular move with your already difficult and possibly volatile client. Your results may vary, and it could further postpone final payment. Another con is that all of these Web safeguards like the CSS kill switch, while easy to use, are also easy to detect and disable if the client’s staff is knowledgeable enough. And while you are merely taking steps to get paid for the work you have done, initiating a kill switch on a client’s website could make things costly and litigious for you very quickly.
OVERALL
When all is said and done, the CSS kill switch definitely has its upside, even if it does reside in an ethically questionable gray area. It offers the freelancer an effective tool to negotiate with difficult clients on more level ground. But use it at your own risk.
Maintenance Mode
One workaround to temporarily “disabling” the website until payment is made — though not always as effective as the kill switch — is maintenance mode. Switching the website to maintenance mode gives the freelancer a bit of leverage with stubborn clients. While similar to the kill switch, maintenance mode is a milder course of action.

PROS
One pro is that maintenance mode is even simpler to install and activate than a kill switch. You need access to the website itself in order to pull it off; and if you do still have access, you are likely dealing with a client who does not have much background in the Web. And so they may not be aware that you are actually able to pull their website down once it is up. This gentle flexing of muscle may be all the push-back you need to let them know that you are no push-over.
CONS
Once again, this route could incite an already agitated client to take drastic action against you, even though they are the one who violated the terms of the agreement. Also, if the client figures out how to get the website back and changes the password to lock you out, then you have lost your leverage. Unfortunately, this tactic is much easier to fix than a kill switch, so your advantage may not last long.
OVERALL
While this may work with some less experienced or resourceful clients, others will not be put off for long and will get things back on track with a quick Google search.
Withhold Launch
If you pick up on signs early on that your client may be difficult, one surefire way to keep them from withholding payment is to do a little withholding of your own. You always have the power to withhold the launch of the website until final or full payment is made. But you cannot just decide to do this at any point in the project; you would need to establish these terms at the beginning of the working relationship.

Image source
PROS
An obvious pro is that this tactic is more likely than others to preempt a client dispute. If the client knows up front that the product will not be fully delivered until they have made all payments, then they are less likely to attempt avoiding payment. It puts most of the power in your end and allows you to basically steer the project’s outcome.
CONS
Just as a contract can be a deterrent for some clients, stipulating that you will withhold delivery until payment is made can have a similiar effect. Some clients will not be entirely comfortable with the idea of paying for something that is not in their possession, especially if they are already operating outside of their element.
OVERALL
As far as your options go, this is one of the most effective. By simply refusing to deliver the product to the client, you maintain the upper hand.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

The point here they want to claim is tortorous interference. So I just want to know under what basis they can claim this and if they even have a chance if they can show that they suffered actual damages. Is this possible?

Expert:  wallstreetfighter replied 1 year ago.
I do not see a tortious interference claim, unless you had some written contract stating otherwise, or that your services did not include work with the database.

Your argument should be clear, you were hired to do work for him, which included the database, and he did not pay you for the continued use, so you stopped your service.

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