What are my rights if I recently had my log truck painted at a local body shop but it cost more than I was told that it would?

UPDATED: Aug 7, 2014

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What are my rights if I recently had my log truck painted at a local body shop but it cost more than I was told that it would?

It was supposed to be done in 2 weeks but took 8. When the truck was done the bill was more than it was supposed to be. I asked if I could pay the difference later since it took longer to paint and the truck lost so much money by sitting longer. However, the guy at the body shop said no. He said he needed the money and the truck wasn’t leaving until the bill was paid in full. Does he have a legal right to do that? We never discussed when the bill was to be paid until it was done. Do I have any legal rights to get the truck so that I can pay him? I’ve already given him a third of the money but he still won’t let it go.

Asked on August 7, 2014 under Business Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If there was a written agreement or estimate, you should be able to enforce it and should only have to pay the amount shown on it--though be aware that if the painter will not voluntarily honor the agreement, you'd have to bring a legal action to get him to do so. (Another alternative is to pay the amount he's seeking now, to get the truck released, then sue him to recover the amount in excess of the written estimate.)

If there was no written estimate, it will be much more difficult for you; if there was just an informal discussion of how much time and money it should take, but then when the time to complete ran past the original 2 weeks, indicating the job may be larger--and thus more expensive--than anticipated, your failure to inquire or object at that point could be considered to have been consent to the job being larger than first discussed. Without a written agreement, it would be very difficult to show that he charged you an inappropriate amount; and in the meantime, he could hold onto the truck.

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