Suing a builder

klanel

Well-known member
Jul 11, 2021
132
Athens, GA
I see all these posts here like the most recent, pool shot crooked, among many others and wonder if anyone here has actually brought a lawsuit against a builder?

I've had my own issues with the most pressing being that our pool which was supposed to take 12 weeks at the end of this month will be 7 months. My particular contract in hindsight offers me almost no protection. No time line for completion, no release from liens by subs, no specific model numbers on equipment, etc.

At this point I am not expecting for things to get to a legal issue but with that possibility in mind, I spoke to my brother in law who is a retired prosecutor about it and he offered me some input from a legal and practical perspective. When he was younger, he actually worked for a large pool contractor in Atlanta and he says it is a frequent practice of pool builders to write the draws in such a way that they are always way ahead and make it difficult (or expensive) for their clients to remove them from the project.

His suggestion is to document everything with lots of photos, time frames, emails, phone calls and text. Here in Georgia he says that I can also record our conversations without his knowledge. In my case, I did record the builder during our initial consultations but it was done with his knowledge and so I didn't have to repeat a question to him later. So, I do have him on a recording saying the 12 week time frame, dependent on the weather.

He also thought polite but weekly emails, frequent text and phone calls may entice the builder to work toward completion so he doesn't have to deal with all the annoying communication. Plus, in the event that it did end up in court, I would have a lot of material to provide to a potential jury.

All I really want is to get through it and never have to deal with the builder again. I have lost trust and confidence in anything he says. Last thing that happened is that he said the concrete man was coming to look over what will need to be done in the way of retaining walls, pool house poured foundation, decking and coping. As has been multiple times since June 18, the concrete man still hasn't come.

So has anyone sued a builder? Or fired their builder? Or had their builder walk away? What was the outcome, with the construction, financially, etc?
 

ajw22

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Jul 21, 2013
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@Dirk posted about where he won...


I just let an architect who did way more then I agreed to and billed me for it, take me to Small Claims Court where I showed the court the emails of what was agreed to. The court award was for what I originally offered him.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
27,652
Plus, in the event that it did end up in court, I would have a lot of material to provide to a potential jury.
I can pretty much guarantee that something like this would never get in front of a jury.

No one is going to assemble a jury for a simple contract dispute.

Maybe check into some sort of alternative dispute resolution like a mediator.
 
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AQUA~HOLICS

In The Industry
Jul 19, 2021
94
Southern California
Many builders won’t come in after a previous builder has started a job to finish it out because of warranty liability. I do have experience coming in at that point, it’s more expensive to redo bad work than to pay a trade to stop working.
 

klanel

Well-known member
Jul 11, 2021
132
Athens, GA
I can pretty much guarantee that something like this would never get in front of a jury.

No one is going to assemble a jury for a simple contract dispute.

Maybe check into some sort of alternative dispute resolution like a mediator.
You may be right but I remember being jury summoned for a divorce proceeding.
 

klanel

Well-known member
Jul 11, 2021
132
Athens, GA
Did it actually go to trial?
They were interviewing jurors for the trial and completed their selection before I was interviewed. So yes, it was going to trial. I'm just saying that both a divorce or a lawsuit for failure to perform on a contract are both personal issues so I don't know why one would be able to have a trial and not the other. But either way, I am still not planning on it ending that way. Just thinking ahead in case things turn to worse.

In my case, I can have retaining walls and basement walls done by a regular concrete contractor. The electrical I can do myself. The pool specific things I'd have to hire out are the plaster, putting ends on all the pvc, Installing the equipment and connecting to the plumbing. But in the meantime, I'm going to keep pressing the builder until he gets so sick of it, he gets it finished so as not to hear from me anymore.
 

setsailsoon

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K,

I know at least a few here have been successful in court and I think it was mostly in small claims court. But I think this is very rare because the contract is in the builder's favor plus the owner has very poor documentation. If you have good documentation and a real contract obligation the builder failed to deliver then it may be worth the effort. But also remember at the end of this process you only have a judgement. He can appeal or just go belly up and then you are into diminishing returns for your effort.

IMHO a lot of disputes arise from not paying attention to the contract at least as closely as the aesthetics such as color of the tile. So the owner ends up with a beautiful pool design and a contract that is pretty worthless for him. K, I am so sorry you are having to deal with this problem and I hope you won't mind if I use this to remind all people that haven't signed the contract for their new pool to please, please read it to be sure it is fair to both parties. It takes a little effort for almost all builders since they are usually written for the builder by his lawyer and if you had a lawyer of your own they'd tell you to get it changed or don't sign it.

K, again so sorry you had to go through this experience.

Chris
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
27,652
So yes, it was going to trial.
But, did it actually go to trial?

Did a jury actually hear the case and decide the case?

Probably not.

Trials with a jury only happen in probably less than 10 per 1,000 cases.

How much is an attorney going to charge to take a case to trial with a jury?

Probably at least $25,000.00 for a simple case and a lot more for a complicated case.

Everyone involved will do their best to avoid a jury trial.

Unless the amount in question is over $250,000.00, it is unlikely that you would ever see a jury.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
27,652
So yes, it was going to trial. I'm just saying that both a divorce or a lawsuit for failure to perform on a contract are both personal issues so I don't know why one would be able to have a trial and not the other.
It can go to trial, but the trial would probably be decided by a judge with no jury.

Watch a few episodes of Judge Judy to see how a typical trial is decided by a judge.
 

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JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
27,652
A civil trial typically starts with a plaintiff filing a case.

Then, the defendant has to answer the complaint.

They have to address the allegations made in the complaint.

They can ask for a “Bill of Particulars” before they answer, which means that they want you to provide a detailed explanation of your entire claim.

The defendant can admit or deny the allegations, assert defenses, file a motion to dismiss or even file a counterclaim against you alleging that you are at fault and you owe them money.

If the defendant files a counterclaim, you become a plaintiff and a defendant and you have to answer the counterclaim.

If the defendant has insurance that might be liable for the damages, the insurance company might get involved and try to settle the matter out of court.

If the case is not resolvable at this point, you might begin Discovery, which is a process of gathering evidence


In some cases, you would need a professional to say in writing for the record that the defendant/company is at fault based on industry standards if the problems are not obvious and they are disputed by the defendant.

Usually, at some point, the parties will agree to settle rather than continue to waste time with the long expensive process.

At some point, the court might suggest mediation.

If the case can’t be resolved before a trial, the case will usually be heard by a judge and decided in a single session.

There are tons of ways that you can put pressure on a company to perform if they are not performing to a reasonable degree.

There are probably 20 different organizations that you can complain to to put pressure on them to perform.

Of course, at that point, you probably will have such a bad relationship that you will have to fire the company and get a different company to finish the job.
 

dschlic1

Silver Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Oct 5, 2007
712
Valrico, FL
I had a problem with my pool builder in that he wouldn't finish. Finally he put in everything but the solar heater. At that point, what I owed him was more than what the solar heater cost. He tried to get me to pay the installer directly, but I told him that the contract was with him, not the solar people.

In between I made complaints to the Florida board of licensing and also to a local TV station. Both are effective means of getting action.
 

KCNM

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May 20, 2021
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Your *right* to a trial by jury is limited to criminal matters. It's possible to have a jury for a civil case, but bench trials are more typical. And for civil cases, it's usually limited to determining whether the plaintiff was injured by the defendant. This is in line with the jury's responsibility as finders of fact.
 

Bill1974

Well-known member
Jun 18, 2014
72
Hauppauge, NY
The reality is do the math of what a lawyer costs by the hour and what the cost of going to court are going to be. If you are okay with the monetary limit of small claims court and have good documentation it's a good option. Both sides know the cost of lawyers, figure any day in court is going to cost 4 to 8 hours of the lawyers time and maybe their commuting time too! If you have strong evidence and you live in an area that allows you to recoup your legal costs it's a viable path. If you can't recoup legal costs, you have some hard thinking to do. If a lawyer is needed, meet with multiple and discuss the situation (most will give you an hour or so to discuss your option at little to no cost). Shop around for one that is respected in the court and is knowledgeable in business disputes. Judges and lawyers usually all know each other, so having a lawyer that gets along with the judges when things the other party tries to drag it's feet or isn't meeting it's obligations.
 
Oct 8, 2021
7
Marvin, NC
Sorry Klanel,
My PB stopped showing up but when he did reply he would say hes coming but never showed.
As it turned out he lied about having a GC license . He actually used his buddy's license. This is how I won!
In Nc, if a job is over 30k, the builder must have a GC license. According to NC, He had no right taking any money from me.
I offered him a settlement and if I didn't get most of my money back I would be calling the contractors both and reporting both of them.
They draged there feet a bit so I had the sheriff call the to shake their tree, that worked for me. Just remember this.... not too many builder will want to work on top of some other builders work. So If you do get them to settle make sure there is a notarized guarantee holding them responsible for their work and that you have the option of using a builder of your choice.
just sharing if this helps
 

wreckem

Well-known member
Mar 3, 2021
189
Texas
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Your *right* to a trial by jury is limited to criminal matters. It's possible to have a jury for a civil case, but bench trials are more typical. And for civil cases, it's usually limited to determining whether the plaintiff was injured by the defendant. This is in line with the jury's responsibility as finders of fact.
Most states allow either party to demand a jury trial in a civil case.