Why You Need a Lawyer: Case Study #1: Mitch Digs a Deep Hole
Mitch Digs a Deep Hole
We have a client we’ll call “Mitch”. Mitch lives in Pennsylvania but owns property in Palm Beach County. Mitch had some work done to his Florida condo. Did Mitch hire a lawyer to look at his contract before he signed it? No.
As with lots of improvement projects, this one did not go quite as Mitch had planned. Did Mitch hire a lawyer to find out how to properly put the contractor on notice of the problems? No.
The contractor finished the job but Mitch felt the job had mistakes. Mitch didn’t pay the contractor the last $8,000 under his contract. Did Mitch hire a lawyer to see if he had the right to withhold this payment? No.
The contractor stopped communicating with Mitch, filed a lien and sued Mitch to foreclose on the lien. Did Mitch hire a lawyer to represent him in this lawsuit? No.
Mitch then negotiated a settlement with his contractor’s attorney where Mitch was now going to pay $13,000 (because now he was also paying for the contractor’s attorneys’ fees) and he still was not getting the work fixed. Then Mitch signed a settlement agreement that did not include enough detail about the documents Mitch should have received in exchange for this payment. Did Mitch hire a lawyer to negotiate this settlement or to make sure that it was written so that he received the proper documentation he would otherwise have been entitled to? No.
Mitch then withheld payment of the agreed-upon $13,000 because he later realized he was not getting the right documents (even though Mitch didn’t properly negotiate for the right documents). Did Mitch consult with a lawyer before he withheld this payment? No.
Mitch was then in default of his settlement agreement and that entitled the contractor to obtain a final judgment against him and for the contractor’s attorney to claim more attorneys’ fees. The lawyer filed a motion for final judgment and now wanted a judgment for $15,000 and a final judgment of lien foreclosure. Mitch was going to lose his condo. Did Mitch call a lawyer when he now realized he was digging himself a deeper and deeper hole?
You are damn right he did. He called me.
Because Mitch had reached a written settlement agreement with the lawyer, we were unable to go back and undo it. By signing a written settlement agreement, Mitch obligated himself to pay more money than was necessary and lost his right to challenge the quality of the contractor’s work. However, I was able to get the lawyer to accept only an additional $400 instead of an additional $2,000 in fees for Mitch’s breach of the Settlement Agreement. We also got Mitch the documents he was entitled to.
There were at least 6 opportunities for Mitch to have hired a lawyer that would have saved him money. Had Mitch hired a lawyer at the first (or even second) opportunity, his condo would not still need more work.
Teaming up with a knowledgeable lawyer BEFORE problems arise saves money and relieves stress. If you are considering a home improvement project, call us at (561) 361-8700 so one of our construction attorneys can properly protect you.