What happens if a customer does not sign our contract for kitchen countertops and now doesn’t want to pay after the product is finished?

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What happens if a customer does not sign our contract for kitchen countertops and now doesn’t want to pay after the product is finished?

We installed a granite countertop in a home where the customer did not sign our contract agreement. We worked with half of the payment down and basically a handshake. Customer told us to go ahead and cut and finish the stone after they approved the price, came to our facility, picked the stone and layed their kitchen out exactly how they wanted. Once the counters were in, they did not like it and wanted their money back, plus a new stone. I obviously do not want to eat the cost of that stone. Who wins and loses this one in court if it ever makes it that far?

Asked on February 6, 2012 under Business Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A contract does not need to be in writing to be enforceable--an oral (often called verbal) contract is enforceable, too. You would just need to be able to prove the terms and existence of the contract, such as by testimony and by showing other evidence (e.g. purchase orders for materials; the fact that you were allowed in his home to do the work; etc.).

In addition, the law prohibits what's known as unjust enrichment, or getting something for nothing (unless, of course, someone actually made a gift to you): in this case, the customer would be unjustly enriched if you had to put in a kitchen counter and he got his money back, too. He can't make you give him a counter while keeping his money; he has to at least pay the fair value for the counter.

Therefore, there are two different legal grounds you could sue when suing him for the money.


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