Can I be taken to court for non-payment for a service that hasn’t been fully rendered?

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Can I be taken to court for non-payment for a service that hasn’t been fully rendered?

I started attending a bartending school. I paid a down payment of $100 leaving a total of $295 to be paid at a later date. I was promised a payment plan could be made but instead they demanded payment at the end of the week or else I wouldn’t be able to complete the class. I scrambled to find the money and paid them with a credit card. About 2 weeks later they call saying the payment never went through and that they were going to take me to court even though I haven’t even completed the course yet. So can they take me to court for non-payment for a service that technically hasn’t been fully rendered?

Asked on July 2, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, South Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There is no general answer, since this is a "contract" question--that is, the answer depends on the specific language of the contract and the specific facts. First, if the contract itself says that payment had to be made by the end of the first week, it must be made by the end of the first week. If you did not make payment when the contract you signed--and by contract, I mean whatever agreement, etc. you signed in signging up for the class--you breached the contract. Once you breach the contract, the other party may be able to sue you for the money you owe them; they may also be exempted from having to fulfill their obligations because of your breach. So you need to refernce the contract, service agreement, tuition agreement (whatever it is)--it may allow them to sue you for the money even though the class has not be completed.

Note that if they knowingly lied to you to get you to sign up--for example, they represented to you that you could work out a payment plan--that *may* give you grounds to void the contract (get your money back, but not get the diploma or certification and not complete the course) on the grounds of fraud. But if whatever agreement you signed clearly says something to the contrary, you probably would not succeed on this argument, since you would be presumed to have read the contract before signing it, and hence you had--and did exercise--an opportunity to challenge or negotiate payment terms.


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