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From a legal standpoint, with contract law in mind...

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From a legal standpoint, with contract law in mind, could you please tell me what you can surmise from reading about the highlights of the situation below:


Day 1: 


1.  A homeowner and her daughter contacted a plumbing company for the first time to address a second sewage backup in the basement. 


2.  Plumbing company employee claimed to the homeowner and her daughter that the problem couldn't be solved with current drain cleaning equipment.  Plumbing company employee offered to the homeowner and her daughter to have his buddy come inspect the sewer line the following day as a courtesy, telling the homeowner and her daughter that he would deny it if they told anyone.  *purchased a customer protection plan with "preferred pricing." worried about sewer line.*


Day 2:  


Wouldn't the daughter be party to at least this contract?  She was acting as a representative of her mother at her Mother's request.  She signed her Mother's name and paid with credit cards that she is an authorized user on.  She doesn't even understand the process as well as the daughter does as the daughter has been explaining contractor speak since October 2010 shortly after her father died.  Daughter was babysitting them almost the entire time.


1.  Plumbing company employee called the homeowner to tell her what time they would arrive.


2.   Homeowner's daughter met them at the house because the homeowner could not physically be there.


3.  Plumbing company employee from previous evening arrived with buddy who, coincidentally, worked at the same plumbing company.


4.  Plumbing company employees set the camera up and the homeowner's daughter left them to inspect the sewer line, which was only inspected.


5.  It didn't take long after they set up the camera for the plumbing employees to inspect the sewer line and report to the homeowner's daughter that the only way to stop sewage from backing up was to replace the sewer line to the tune of $10,000.


6.  Homeowner's daughter requested to see what the problem was in the sewer line, with the plumbing company employee pointing to the tiny screen and telling her that was a clogged artery (considering that all the line had in it was solidified grease it makes sense now, but it didn't then).


7.  Since it looked bad to the homeowner's daughter and the plumbing company employees were supposed to be professionals that would know how to prevent the sewer from continuing to backup, she believed what they told her at that time and conveyed what the plumbing company employees told her to the homeowner which was that they needed to replace their entire sewer line.  The information the homeowner used to giver he consent was based on the information provided to the homeowner's daughter by the plumbing company employees.  At no time, when the homeowner's daughter was on the phone with the homeowner, did the plumbing company employees inform the homeowner that her daughter would have to sign emergency forms that would forfeit the homeowner's rights under the FTC nor was the homeowner told specifically that only a small part of her sewer line was being replaced for $10,000.


8.  After the homeowner's daughter hung up with the homeowner, the paperwork for the sewer line replacement began.  


9.  While filling out all of the paperwork, the daughter kept directing questions to the plumbing company employees about having to give up rights.  The plumbing company employees kept telling her that if those forms weren't signed, then they wouldn't do the work; thus, she felt she had no choice and proceeded.  Also, while the plumbing company employee who was filling out the form, the daughter kept asking him if he was writing everything they talked about down.


10.  After the paperwork was all filled out, what the plumbing employees verbally told the daughter and the Mother were different on the contract.  Instead of the entire sewer line being replaced, only a portion of it was.  After discovering that in the paperwork, the daughter asked the employee what that meant and to show her where that was.  


11.  Since everything was signed and it was being reviewed, the daughter and the plumbing company employees went to the backyard where they proceeded to dig a "relief hole" with shovels, which wasn't necessary because it sewage was no longer in the basement due to not using it and it was blocked between the floor drain and the housetop, and reran the video inspection again…This time, recording their name and address.  (Isn't that odd?)


12.  Before the employees left, they called into the company to schedule the crew.


13.  The homeowner's daughter got a weird vibe and researched the new home's township's website to find out what the procedure was.  What do you know, the homeowner was supposed to call the township first!  


*The invoice was NEVER itemized.  It looks like the price of $10,000 was just extracted from their anus.*


Day 3.


1.  Homeowner and her daughter inform the plumbing company employee, who showed up before the crew, that they were supposed to call the township first (aka sewage authority); yet, the plumbing company employee told the homeowner and her daughter that they were wrong and that we were supposed to call them first.  So, the plumbing company employee presented himself in a position of authority over the local government.  The plumbing company employee also told the homeowner and her daughter that the contract was signed and they had their money so they might as well have the work done because they can't get out of the contract.


2.  Work commenced.  


3.  During the day, the homeowner and her daughter figured that it couldn't cost much more to throw a toilet in the basement since they had it ripped apart and were putting in new drain lines anyway in that section.  Another plumbing company employee directed the homeowner and her daughter to contact the employee that did the camera inspection to inquire about that.


Day 4.  


1.  First day a hydrojetting truck showed up.


2.  Camera inspection employee from day 2 eventually showed up.  There were more claimed problems as he claimed he couldn't get past another point further down the yard (AKA grease clogs).  He tried to convince the homeowner and her daughter that more of the sewer line needed replaced.  More informed about sewer lines, the homeowner's daughter said no, what are some other options because the sewer line looked like it was in a lot better condition that the previous video she had seen.  After hearing the options, a pipeburst procedure was chosen, even though that was not the procedure that was written down.  


3.  Since the daughter had never seen the price book, she asked the employee to go get it (rather than sneak out to his van to write it up) because she wanted to be sure that her Mother was getting the membership pricing she paid for.  


4.  The employee offered to put the toilet in at no charge and even wrote it on the contract; however, when the daughter asked why the membership price wasn't written on the invoice, he told her that he couldn't give the membership pricing, which was a $400 difference, because he was offering to install a toilet at no charge.  


5.  This contract was to end 2' shy of the main sewer line, but it ends well before that.


Let me just summarize it from here.   After the work was completed, even through all the fraud and breech of contract that should be evident in the above content, the sewer continued to back up from 12-30-2011 through 1-23-2012.  From 12-30-2011 through 1-6-2012, the plumbing company came out twice with their hydrojetting truck and failed to clear the line, with the second hydrojetting truck employee asking the sewage authority that was called if they could replace the tap (that is where they were supposed to come to, but didn't) and they told the employee no.  Concluded the plumbing company was incompetent and called on the township sewage authority.  They came one or two more times and scheduled a time to come back and clean the line with the camera.  A letter was sent to the plumbing company telling them of the situation and hours before the sewage authority was scheduled to arrive, camera guy showed up to, get this, tell us the only way to prevent sewage from backing up into the basement…A backflow preventer!  My Mother (and I) were furious because they never solved the issue that they took tens of thousands of dollars for!  She told him, what for another $10,000?!?!? …To which he replied, "No.  $5,000."  My Mother told him to get off of her property and I went to be sure he touched nothing and left.  He was walking around talking on the cell phone for like 5 minutes or so before he left.  Hours later, the sewage authority came, did their thing, and not a problem since then after removing grease from our lateral line.  


 


Based on the above situation, the Plaintiffs claim that I was not party to the contract.  Not the first invoice and not the third invoice, but the second invoice that was created during that time period….I signed it and was responsible for providing information to homeowner, so how could they continue to state I wasn't a party?  


Seriously, I would rather go to jail for forgery and take two employees with me for being a witness to the process - allowing me to sign my mother's name and then promptly accepting payment.  To top it off, those employees have criminal dockets on file as well.  


 


Thoughts from a legal standpoint?  :-)  


 


Thank you very much.  

Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
I have to ask if your mother gave later approval to your having signed the one you signed when she was not present?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Actually, she gave me verbal approval on Day 2 #8. So, I did have permission; however, she and I were told something different verbally by the employee and after she gave permission for the work that was verbally told to her, it was written and executed differently. At that point, she was no longer on the line and I did not call her to report the change before signing which I should have. It is MY fault she got into the situation in the first place and with the floor ripped open didn't feel we could get out.

Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
If you had permission, my opinion is that you are not a party to the contract but acted as an amanuensis for her, see
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/amanuensis

I have not found a Pennsylvania case or statute that discusses this, but it is a common law idea and need not be codified. I did find a California case that states at page 675:
"Subsequent cases have clarified, however, that application of the amanuensis rule is not confined to the situation in which an agent signs a contract in the principal's immediate presence. It may also apply when an agent, acting with merely mechanical and no discretionary authority, signs the principal's name outside the principal's presence."

My opinion is that you are not a party to the contract, and that the company committed fraud by telling you the pipe had to be replaced without even trying to snake it first, along with the other misrepresentations you mentioned.

You and/or your mother can get a free consultation from some of the consumer protection attorneys listed by location at
http://lawyers.findlaw.com/lawyer/practicestate/Consumer-Protection/Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania does not appear to require plumbers to be licensed contractors, but excavation contractors do need appear to need a license. Also, some localities have licensing requirements beyond the State laws, see
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/uniform_construction_code/10524/contractor_licensing/553817
which notes that most home improvement contractors have to be registered and bonded.

Also, there should normally have been a building permit issued prior to the excavation.

I do not have all the facts, but the contract may be void for fraud and possibly other reasons. Please follow up on this with a local attorney.

I hope this information is helpful.
N Cal Attorney, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 8091
Experience: since 1983
N Cal Attorney and 5 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I appreciate your insight into this matter. Thank you very much.

Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for the Excellent rating!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

So, I was not party to the contract, but I was an amanuensis for my Mother which means that my role was to act with merely mechanical and no discretionary authority - a discretionary authority that I chose to execute after hanging up the phone with my Mother. A course of action that was not intervened by the business' employees.


 


So, since there is no document granting me legal authority to initiate discretionary authority, then when I noticed that the oral information given to me and relayed to my Mother over the phone had changed, it was not legal for me to continue to sign the documents with the knowledge that my Mother was unaware of the difference between the content of the oral and written contracts.


 


The business committed fraud by telling me and my Mother that the sewer needed replaced without first trying to execute a reasonable effort to remove the obstructions of grease in the sewer line by first using an appropriate drain cleaning method. For example, the business took about 3 minutes or less using a drain snake on the sewer line. The employee that preformed the 3 minute or less drain snaking process expressed to my Mother and myself that he couldn't get past the first blockage in addition to informing us that he intended to lie if we told anyone that he asked his buddy to come the next day with the (it was unknown at the time that the buddy was also an employee with the same company) business' camera inspection equipment to inspect the line to find out what was causing the blockage. The business advertises the hydroscrub/hydrojetting process to be able to do the following:


 


" <the business'> hydro-jet service is the most effective method known to completely clear drain lines to a like-new condition. A line choked with years of accumulation of grease, soap, sludge or roots will be back in working condition with the skill of your Mr. Rooter technician and the power of the super hydro-jet performance.


Hydro-jet service is used in residential, commercial or agricultural settings.


The Hydro-Jetting Process Removes:
Grease | Fibrous Material | Sludge
Foreign Objects | Mud | Root Mat | Silt
Farm Animal Waste"


 


So, instead of recommending a sewer line replacement, the business should have recommended that a more powerful drain cleaning option be considered, the hydrojetting procedure, due to the claimed effect the more powerful drain cleaning process would have had on the sewer line. This is also the same process that was allegedly performed twice by the business after employees claimed the work was completed.


 


 


The business' response to the complaints in January of 2012 were to send an employee to sell another product/service that wasn't needed (This conclusion is supported since no problems have occurred since the township municipal authority's intervention which included a camera assisted hydrojetting process). The business did not fulfilling the advertised promise of "fixing the problem right the first time" when, in fact, they did not fix it three contracts and two hydrojetting truck appointments later. After the second hydrojetting truck couldn't even keep the water within the confines of the sewer drain, my Mother and I had deemed them incompetent and sought further assistance from the township municipal authority.


 


The business and its employees do have a financial incentive to engage in intentional and negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract.


Attachment: 2013-03-16_212538_mr._rooter_document_1n_.pdf


 


 


Attachment: 2013-03-16_212724_mr._rooter_document_3n.pdf


 



Attachment: 2013-03-16_212859_mr._rooter_document_5n.pdf


Attachment: 2013-03-16_212933_mr._rooter_document_6n.pdf


Attachment: 2013-03-16_212954_mr._rooter_document_7n.pdf


Attachment: 2013-03-16_213017_mr._rooter_document_8n.pdf


Attachment: 2013-03-16_213043_mr._rooter_document_9n.pdf


Attachment: 2013-03-16_213106_mr._rooter_document_10n.pdf

Attachment: 2013-03-16_213123_mr._rooter_document_11n.pdf


Attachment: 2013-03-16_213144_mr._rooter_document_12n.pdf


Attachment: 2013-03-16_213217_mr_rooter_finish_work_concrete_slab_1.pdf


 


 


 


On the third contract, never provided the toilet for no charge as promised in both oral and written form.


 


On the second contract, "camera outside sewer" implied that the rest of the sewer would be inspected, but it was not.


 


On the third contract, the work was supposed to come "within 2' shy of the main sewer" and does not.


 


The photo is how the concrete they replaced looks now and looked about 2 months after they had threw it back in there.


 


The concrete shower base, even though I told them don't worry about, should've never been destroyed in the first place because there is no solid evidence that the evasive process of a complete sewer line replacement even needed done.


 


Also, on the third contract, we were told that the process being performed would be a pipebursting procedure, describing the procedure as putting a smaller diameter pipe within the current terra cotta pipes. The process that was performed was a sliplinging process, not a pipebursting process as the pipebursting process pulls a pipe of the same size or larger diameter through the existing hole breaking up the old pipe on its way through and that never occurred.


 


I know more about drain lines than I want to, but with more information....What do you think on review of this information?


 


 

Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
I still think they committed fraud.

May I ask if your mother is over 65? See
http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/seniors.aspx?id=296
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Unfortunately, she was 59 1/2 at the time the contract was entered into. Also, even looking at law....She would've had to been at least 60 years old minimally. PA is sort of weird....Depending on the agency, SOME senior citizens could be considered just that from 55 and older.

Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
I asked because I was wondering it they may have committed financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult, but even if she was under 60 and fully competent, they still acted in a manner that constitutes fraud, in my opinion, by selling her a very expensive service that she very probably did not need.

I still urge you to contact a local attorney who can go over all the facts and documents with you in confidence and advise you on how to proceed.
N Cal Attorney, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 8091
Experience: since 1983
N Cal Attorney and 5 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for the Excellent rating!

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