Am I legally responsible for payment?

We decided to renovate our house. We spoke to a couple of designers including the one we had this issue with. We met her once at a restaurant after which she suggested that she would like to do measurements before submitting a proposal or plan. No mention of any fee was mentioned even on out inquiries. She came to the next visit with a contractor that she suggests that we should hire instead of the one we were planning earlier. She presented herself and him as a team, did measurements but did not submit any proposal, plan or drawings or estimates for the project. After wards she requested to come again to do some more measurements but did not submit any proposal. After that we requested to see a sample work of hers and the contractor she brought. She invited us to her house to show as a sample. After looking at the house we decided not to hire her as we did not like what she showed, and we communicated that we are not going forward with her and hired someone else. In this entire process she did not mention any fee if we decided not to hire her. We did not have any verbal or written contract with her. However now she has sent a invoice for $600 as a fee for her time and threatening to sue if we do not pay her. Are we liable legally for a payment in this case?

Asked on September 22, 2016 under Business Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You allowed or, arguably, even encouraged her to do work--the meetings, the measuring, the design, etc.--when you could have told her to not do anything unless and until you selected her for the job. When you have someone do work for you, even if you end up not using the work or hiring someone else to do the full job, then you have to pay them the reasonable value of their time for the work they in fact did with your permission, under the legal theory of "quantum meruit." Since you allowed her to work, you have to pay for the work. If  her rate is unreasonable, you'd only need to pay the reasonable value of her time/work--but it may be more effort than it's worth to try to cut the invoice down by, say $100 or $200. If you don't pay her, she could sue with a reasonable chance of success.

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