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Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 3917
Experience:  Experienced in both state and federal court.
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My 88 year old mother signed a contract on Wednesday for work

Resolved Question:

My 88 year old mother signed a contract on Wednesday for work on her home (telemarketer came to her house.) they performed the work the next day (before I found out about it). She paid $1500 up front and is to pay $3500 more. Contract was not itemized at why the price was so high! We believe she was targeted due to her age. Do we have any options not to pay the exorbitant bill?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Chris T., JD replied 1 year ago.

Chris T., JD :

Good evening. I'd be glad to assist you with your question.

Chris T., JD :

Depending on the contract, the nature of the nature of the work and your mother, there may be a few defenses available.

Chris T., JD :

First, there is the issue of her capacity to enter into a contract. I know many people in their late 80s are losing mental acuity. The possibility exists that she is mentally incapable of entering into a contract. To make that case, she would need to prove that due to a lack of mental faculties, she did not understand and appreciate what she was signing.

Chris T., JD :

Second, a contract can be struck down because it is "unconscionable."

Chris T., JD :

Unconscionability is a doctrine in contract law that describes terms that are so extremely unjust, or overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of the party who has the superior bargaining power, that they are contrary to good conscience.

Customer:

I don't think the first issue would apply. While her age does make her more "vulnerable, " think --she is very active, teaches yoga three times a week, etc. It would be very difficult to "prove" she didn't know what she was doing -- she was just "talked into a bad deal."

Chris T., JD :

OK. I hope that didn't offend you, but it is a consideration with elderly people sometimes.

Customer:

No offense taken -- I have really questioned her ability to make decisions, but I think she was persuaded that this was a good deal (when it clearly isn't) $5000 for some caulXXXXX, XXXXXching a roof and the kicker -- installing radiant barrier insulation in the roof. Ughh...

Customer:

The second sounds more plausible -- she was hurried into making a decision. They did NOT wait the three days (for her to cancel prior to work beginning). (And she didn't call me to discuss it -- which we usually do with things like this).

Chris T., JD :

Well, then your best defense would be to argue that the contract was unconscionable, as I described above. Keep in mind, a contact won't be unconscionable just because it is a bad deal. It has to be extremely unjust. So, the question here would be just how out of whack this contract is from what those things should cost.

Customer:

How long can we get by with withholding the money (while consulting a local attorney) before they can "come after" her? (With a lien, etc.) She has a reverse mortgage, so I don't know how much they can truly hurt her anyway...

Customer:

Ok, that makes sense. It would be a matter of finding out how much those things should cost from a more reputable contractor, correct?

Chris T., JD :

One thing to keep in mind here is that contracts will be presumed to be valid. In other words, you have to overcome the presumption and prove that it was unconscionable.

Chris T., JD :

Yes.

Chris T., JD :

It really depends on the contractor. Most will wait at least 90 days, as they would rather collect through normal means, since litigation costs them money.

Chris T., JD :

One thing you could consider is offering to pay them a fair price. Either they take it, or they have to sue, which is an expense for them.

Customer:

Ok, I just worry about them harrassing her -- I don't want anybody banging on her door in the evenings (or any other time, of course). We may have to "eat this one," but some negotiation would be in order first. And I'd like to have some legal support, so I think you've sent me in the right direction.

Customer:

thanks so much for your time!

Chris T., JD :

Glad I could help!

Chris T., JD :

Is there anything else I can do for you?

Customer:

Have a great night! (Now, if I can just get her to stop answering the phone -- lol!)

Chris T., JD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 3917
Experience: Experienced in both state and federal court.
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Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD
Lawyer
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Experienced in both state and federal court.