There’s no question that writing a scathing letter to a contractor who walked off the job can be a satisfying experience. It may even be cathartic to pour out your frustrations in an objective fashion, especially after dealing with a company for which you had no real affinity. But in the immortal words of Monty Wooley, “Some people say that writing a letter of grievance is good for your health, but I couldn’t agree more.” Let’s face it, the process can be frustrating, and it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
Why Should You Consult A Contract Attorney First?
When you’re in the middle of a project and things aren’t going according to plan, it’s easy to be distracted by the day-to-day tasks at hand. But it’s essential that you don’t get bogged down by minutiae, especially when there’s a larger legal principle at stake. Just because the contractor walked doesn’t mean that you’re liable for any of their actions. It’s imperative that you get all the facts and have an understanding of the law prior to taking any legal action.
It would be a shame if you hired a contractor who lacked the essential legal knowledge or training to perform the work, only to find yourself on the receiving end of a costly lawsuit. Far from being a deterrent, legal action in the form of a lawsuit simply adds to the stress and complexity of already-overloaded schedules. In the end, it becomes almost impossible to keep track of what transpired during the course of a project, and this forms a critical component in establishing liability.
As a general principle, contractors are generally considered to be independent contractors, rather than employees, regardless of whether they’re formally contracted or paid on a per-project basis. This means that they’re responsible for their own actions and the actions of their employees, and you’re not liable for anything they do. This is known as “non-delegable duties.”
When a contractor walks off the job without completing it, this can often be construed as a breach of contract. In some circumstances, it may also be considered to be a tort, where the contractor has allegedly acted willfully or maliciously. In these cases, you may be able to seek recompense for the damages suffered.
It would be in your best interest to preserve any evidence that you have, such as emails or text messages from the rogue contractor. These can certainly be used as proof in court, should you decide to take legal action against them. Be sure to retain these documents for the foreseeable future. It’s also a good idea to make copies of these documents, in case the original is lost or destroyed.
Assuming that you did everything properly and the contractor performed according to the terms of the contract, you’re still not automatically liable for any damage they might cause. Liability is ultimately determined by the terms of the contract, and the law doesn’t provide for “blank slate” agreements or waiver of liability for unforeseen circumstances. These are usually issues that are left up to the contract’s specific terms. In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, you’re generally considered to be held to the standard terms of the contract, and any modifications to the contract will be considered to have been superseded by subsequent agreements.
In most cases, a contractor who walks off the job will be regarded as having completed the project, and you’ll be expected to pay for the cost of finishing. In cases where the contractor was deemed incompetent or unreliable, this might result in a complete reversion of the project to you, with no payment at all. In either case, you might be left with a bad taste in your mouth, but that’s better than the alternative.
In the end, the moral of the story is pretty simple. When hiring contractors, make sure that you are completely confident in their capacity to perform the job, and that you’re aware of all the risks involved. If you follow these tips, you will be able to avoid the many headaches that come with hiring unprofessional contractors. And most importantly, make sure to hire a reputable firm with years of experience, who can be easily contacted if there’s ever an issue with the contract.