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Law Girl
Law Girl, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 4606
Experience:  I am familiar with this area of law.
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I have a question about my legal obligation to give a ...

Customer Question

I have a question about my legal obligation to give a client a refund in full.
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  Law Girl replied 9 years ago.

If you could give us a little more information regarding the transaction and the occurrence that has led to the need for a potential refund, that would be helpful.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to Law Girl's Post: I own a fireplace biz in California. I sold two units to a customer. One was a gas insert and the other a wood insert. The gas unit she was very pleased with. The wood burner she had complaints. She felt it was emiting too much smoke when the door was open and the fire was burning. I called my rep from manufacturer and he came out to meet with client.   Rep and I dertermined that the unit operated correctly with the door closed but in the start up and during refueling if the door was open then at times smoke would emit into the room. Her and her friend/advisor requested if i could get her the swap out the wood burner for a gas burner like the one she liked as a preference. Client also told me that her oncologist did not apporve of her choice of a wood burner and told her not to expose her self to smoke. She said she would never use the wood burner at this point....what she wanted was me to swap out the wood unit for the same other gas burner that she loved. At the time I did not know how I could accomodate this request. Reselling the wood burner as new was not a option now that it was sooted and slightly used. I went back to my manufacturer and asked for advice. They set up a deal so that they would give us a gasburner at cost so that I could sell her used unit overtime to reimburse myself for the cost. It was the Win, win, win she proposed as an answer...We want our perfect 100% customer satisfied reputation to carry on...the manufacturer was onboard too. Well I called her and told her I could make it happen. Suprizingly, she called me back and said that she needed to go over it all with me again and that she really wanted to know if she could a refund in total for the unit. At the time she mentioned needing a computer and other things that she thinks would be a better choice for her money. i was so confused and frustrated.... I told her I could not refund her the amount in total for that unit. She said she would get back to me. Well about 30 days later her advisor/friend drops off a report at my place saying that they hired a independent inspector and the report shows some information that she feels now warranrts a refund on not only her wood burner but on the gas unit that she said she loved. The report said that on the wood burner the venting pipe was "smashed" during install and showed pictures of a diminished area that could only be seen by an special camera they used. At that point I responded with a certified letter stating that I was confused by these developments and I still felt our agreement was to replace the unit but that with this new information I would be willing to have the wood burning venting replaced for her since the pictures showed this diminshed area in the venting pipe. I also told her that there could be other forces at play too...negative pressure...but if she now wanted to have a woodburner...contradicting her previous statement that the Oncologist told her to not expose herself to smoke...I would make the repairs as well but would not be responcible if at that point smoke still emitted at times into the space. I kept calling her with out a return call over the next 30 days, now I see that she is trying to attacach a Bond from my business. I called her to request arbitration, or other options but am not getting any responce. I feel that she has reversed engineered an answer that meets her and her advisors need. Specifically, I do acknowledge that the report she purchased has information that, even if interpreted conservatively, should not result in a determination of removal of the firebox and venting but to replace the "smashed" area of venting of the wood burner. She was able to obtain in addition to this that that there is a improper non- UL Listed part used on the gas burner venting too. So, now she says i need to reimburse her for both units! I feel that I owe her good service as orignally promised. Does her report now become something that is of such great weight that she can back out of the agreement to swap out the unit as she origianly requested. I anticipate she has joined with AARP group as she threatened to try and take action against me. I need to know what my options are and what I should do in preparation of a heading into this mess. So, far good intentions have not served me well.
Expert:  Law Girl replied 9 years ago.


Thank you for your question.

The first question is whether the wood insert was supposed to emit smoke when the door was open. Additionally, is the allegations that the venting pipe was "smashed" during installation warranted? Was an improper non- UL used on the gas burner venting?

I do not know anything about fireplaces; however, if the above allegations are true, you may be found to have negligently installed the fireplaces. In which case, you may be held responsible for your customer's damages if you were to be sued. However, if the units were properly installed and you customer is blowing smoke because she has buyer's remorse, then you would not owe her anything. In that she can prove that work was done negligently, it may behoove you to bypass any sort of litigation and just refund her money and take back the fireplaces. However, if did not perform negligent work, and you desire to preserve your company name, you may with to defend any potential lawsuit against this customer by showing the court that you were not negligent and that the customer is just trying to get out of her purchase.

Please let me know if you have any other questions, or require clarification of this matter. Otherwise please hit "ACCEPT", so I may receive credit for my response. Tips and feedback are also appreciated.

Good Luck!