You have been in your brand new house for four months. It was kind of scary draining your savings account for the down payment and your new monthly payment is $350 more than the rent you were paying for your apartment. But now that you are in, life is good … or so you thought.
The first thing that you notice is the faint odor you can only smell once and a while. Your spouse thinks that it is just the kids leaving wet clothes on the floor after playing in the creek out back. Then you notice some dark spots on the sheetrock on the dining room walls. You call your contractor and, after four calls and two weeks, he sends out the sheetrock subcontractor. That fellow tells you it is a roofing problem. You call your contractor again, and again, and again and … it’s three months further down the road and five different subs have told you that they didn’t cause the problem. Now, you are really bent out of shape. You did not hire the subs, you hired the contractor. Your house reeks and the new contractor you have hired recommends a mold remediation company.
My contractor won’t fix the problem – will you take my case?
These are some of the factors that a lawyer would look at in determining whether or not to take your case on a contingent basis:
– Does the contractor seem to operate a thriving business? If so, the odds are better that they are insured.
– Is there an arbitration clause in the contract? If there is, that may be (but may not be) a non starter, at least at our firm. Our experience is that arbitration results for consumers range from fair to horribly unfair. Arbitrators are often known to "split the baby" with their awards to insure that they will be hired in future arbitrations.
– What will it cost to fix the problem and what impact will those repairs have on your family? Minor repairs are probably better suited for small claims court. Mold remediation can be a real problem. Your case has a whole lot more value if your family will have to relocate to get the repairs done. Are the problems causing the damage building code violations? If so, they are easier for a jury to understand.
– How have you dealt with the problem? Did you do everything that you could to get the contractor to act responsibly? Did you put off dealing with the issues because you had more important things to do? Did you fail to make some minor repairs that led to greater damage?
– Some of the cases that we have handled over the years involve one major problem in an otherwise well built home, but that is not the norm. It is far more common to see a series of problems – some large and some small. This is a sign of poor supervision by the contractor of his or her subs. This is also the type of case that makes a jury angry.
The factors listed are not an exhaustive list. Hopefully, however, they give you a little more insight in what your prospective lawyer will have to consider.
Cum Laude graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Pet Mackey is a civil trial litigation expert who represents plaintiffs in business and consumer tort, contracts and construction, employment disputes and insurance. He is board certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Certified Alabama Mediator, and an “AV” rated lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell.