Can I be sued for something I had no control over?

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Can I be sued for something I had no control over?

HI. I am a carpet cleaner. The other day, I cleaned some carpets for someone.
There was one area near a door that had high traffic stains. I went over it a
couple of times and it got dirtier instead of cleaner. Come to find out the rug
had not been vacuumed for some time and so much dirt had collected under
the carpet. My professional carpet cleaner with its powerful suction, was
picking up dirt from under the carpet pad and it was making mud because of
the pre spray and water i was using to clean it with. The customer was very
upset and said there must be something wrong with my machine. There was
nothing else I could do. I felt bad and offered to take 25.00 off an already
low price. When I got home I talked to another carpet cleaning professional
and he said he has seen that before and that it wasn’t my fault. There was
nothing I could have done. I offered to come back over after the carpets were
dry, vacuum them again and then clean it again. She didn’t want me to so
there was nothing more I can do. Now she wants to sue me. Do you think she
has a case?

Asked on November 1, 2016 under Business Law, New Hampshire

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

She might have a case to show that you are liable: it depends on whether she could convince a judge (since she'll presumably sue, if she does sue, in small claims court, where there is no jury, only a judge) that it was negligent, or unreasonably careless, of you to not notice sooner that "cleaning" the carpet was making it dirtier. You write that you went over the area several times and got dirtier as you went along. Presumably, if you had not gone over it so many times, it would not have gotten as dirty, so if you had noticed or realized what was happening earlier, the situation would not have gotten so bad. This is not to say that she *will* win, just that a plausible argument can be made for you were at fault, which means she *could* win.
But win what? There is only compensation for the damage you do or the costs to correct the situation. If all that happened was extra dirt or mud, then presumably, it could eventually be cleaned--that implies that all she could recover from you would be the cost of additional cleanings. 
If the carpet were ruined, then she could potentially get, if she won, the cost to recarpet that room.


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