I hired a catered for 2 events on the same day but she did not deliver what was promised, how can I fairly settle with her?

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I hired a catered for 2 events on the same day but she did not deliver what was promised, how can I fairly settle with her?

She was 2.5 hours late to the 1st and did not have all the food promised. She arrived at the second event with food trays that were store bought in addition to what she prepared but not what was requested on the menu and did not serve the guest. She was paid with a cashier’s check the day before the event. She said she could not cash it because it was made out to the business and not her. We never discussed when final payment was due. I have cancelled the cashier’s check. How can I fairly settle with her? She feels entitled to the entire balance due although she did not deliver what was promised on her end.

Asked on August 1, 2015 under Business Law, Mississippi

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

There is no rubric or rule for what would be a fair settlement, and no process for getting to one--it's all about negotiation between the parties, to come to an amount or compromise they can both live with. However, when settling, there are two important things to bear in mind:

1) The alternative to a settlement is litigation: in this case, if you don't pay her what she feels she is owed, she could sue you for the money. While the burden of proof would be on her, since she is suing, once she shows the court the contract or agreement, the onus or burden shifts to you to prove to the court that her services violated the contract and/or were unprofessionally negligent (did not rise to a commercially or professionally acceptable level). You can't count on winning--i.e. the court could order you to pay more than think is fair, up to the full amount of the contract price--and will have to spend time and money (if you hire an attorney) defending yourself. It is worthwhile in most cases to offer the other side more than you think is otherwise fair to avoid the time, cost, and uncertainty of trial.

2) If you do settle, put the settlement in writing, signed by both of you: i.e. that the payment of $X constitutes payment in full and settles all claims arising out of the contract or services. That way, she can't later sue you for more.


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