Got a call recently from a contractor with a wee bit of a legal problem. It seems he got involved with a homeowner that kept adding stuff to a job, then when they got a bill for the extras, the homeowner decided the price was too high and they weren’t going to pay it.

So the contractor took it to an attorney, who got the court to set up an arbitration and now he has real problems.

Problem number one – the attorney did not insist on a non-attorney arbitrator, but settled for another attorney with no construction law experience at all. That means two attorneys collecting a paycheck, and no one with knowledge or experience settling the case.

Problem number two – the attorney keeps having “one more thing to do”, and guess who’s paying the bill?

Problem number three – the other side made an offer to settle and guess what…it is the same amount that our contractor friend had been billed by his attorney! Isn’t that great!

Problem number four – the contractor requested several items of discovery that for some strange reason the attorney keeps failing to provide to the contractor, although it had been given to the attorney several months ago.

Problem number five – the contractor learned the other day that the arbitration has been moved out eight weeks, although the attorney has known about the new date for three weeks now.

Problem number six – the attorney agreed to the new arbitration date even though the contractor told him four months ago, in writing, that he would not be in town during those hearing dates.

Gang, this is gross incompetence on the part of the attorney. If you run into this or anything like it, fire them, the sooner the better. I would even tell him/her I want my money back and if they refused, I would file a complaint with the State Bar.

The only thing worse than being cheated by a homeowner is finding an incompetent attorney when you try to recover.

(By the way, if your client keeps adding stuff to a job, make sure you get signed change orders, with the price spelled out, BEFORE you make the change!)

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