Well I guess , all’s well that ends well. I spent quite a bit of time with my client, coaching him on his upcoming Small Claims Court lawsuit. He has spent a fair bit of his time this summer gathering estimates from other companies and making a video of the bumpy floor using a spirit level to demonstrate just how bad this job was. I reviewed the video the night before the Pre Trial and I could clearly see the problem. It was indeed evident , along the quarter round molding at the edge of the floor, that the thin molding couldn’t follow the severe undulations on the prefinished wood and had gaps under it as much as 1/2″. The audio portion easily allowed you to hear the squeaking of the floors as they were walked on.
We also went over the two contracts that the firm had given him. They were all unsigned (by either party) and even though they decribed the same job there were two different prices. One a had a hastily penned addition to bring the total to what was actually charged. There was also a poorly worded amendment in the contract that stated that the flooring company could charge extra if they found unseen repairs to be done on the subfloor. That was to prove their undoing in the Pre-Trial hearing.
I made sure that he was ready and able to quickly and easily present all this physical evidence. We went over and over all the important points. Joe ( I’ll call him by a fictitious name to protect his innocence) wrote everthing down that he needed to present the next day and kept file folder with all the contracts, quotes and court documents. We set things in the folder so that they would be easily reached to show the judge. One of these documents was a specious counter suit that the errant company my had filed. They had claimed that their reputation was being besmirched by Joe’s lawsuit and asked for $3,000 in compensation. Even though there was no basis to this claim (no published documents naming this company) Joe had to take this seriously and even prepared a defense for this counter suit.
The next day I met Joe at the court house to join him at the pre trial hearing. This is essentially an informal hearing in front of a judge in a small room between the parties only and not open to the public, so I had to stay out. The judge is there to determine if the case on either side has enough merit to go to trial. There is a discussion about the evidence. Unfortunatly Joe had not mentioned his video tape before and dicovered that it couldn’t be shown in this venue. Scince this meeting was not open to the public I can only dicuss the generalities of what happened there. Both sides were fairly heard, and then the judge suggested a possible settlement. In just a few minutes of kibitzing he had them batting offers back and forth until, voila’ ! A settlement !
Because I respect the closed nature of this settlement I cannot expose the amount, but Joe figures he has barely paid the wholesale price for the wood floor itself, and didn’t have to contribute one cent to the installation debacle. The company on the other hand wasn’t too severely punished for it’s mistakes and avoided a public trial, that if lost, would have given me the right to publish their name on the internet. So they really avoided a fate that would have affected their future bottom line. They will, I’m sure, tighten up the wording of their contracts, and strongly suggest, maybe even insist on a sub floor evaluation before they begin their work. All in all a very cheap lesson for everyone installing their own or about to hire an installer of pre-finished hardwood floor.