If acontractor’s final total was significantly higher than the agreed upon amount, could they win a small claims court lawsuit?

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If acontractor’s final total was significantly higher than the agreed upon amount, could they win a small claims court lawsuit?

I recently hired a contractor to install a tile backsplash in my kitchen. He gave me his original estimate in writing. I did not like the tile he selected, so I picked another and he called me on the phone with a new total. Since he was a local contractor and referred by a friend, I didn’t ask for the new quote to be in writing. His policy (which I do have in writing) is to pay half up front so I wrote him a check. After installing my backsplash, he sent me an invoice for 40% higher than his verbal updated estimate. If he files a suit in small claims, will I lose?

Asked on August 15, 2011 Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You may lose. If there was an updated written estimate, you could very likely rely on that. However, in the circumstances you describe, he could claim that you gave him an oral or verbal "ok" to go ahead with the work regardless of the price (and that any "estimate" he'd given you was a very "soft" one, nonbinding). Essentially, it will come down to your respective creditbilities, and under the circumstances, that you have an oral approval to proceed with the work is very plausible.

Given that there is a reasonable chance you'd lose, and also that even defending yourself costs something--time at a minimum; money, if you retain an attorney--you may wish to consider seeing if you can settle for something in the middle, especially if you are fundamentally or basically pleased with the work.


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