Can a business demand payment for services completed but without a contract or even an an agreed upon fee?

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Can a business demand payment for services completed but without a contract or even an an agreed upon fee?

I met a wedding planner over a year ago. We became friends and had fun talking about weddings. Several months in, I asked him if he wanted to just help with my wedding, and what would he cost. He said he already was, don’t worry about cost. I’d ask him questions, chose all items myself, etc. My mother and I asked him every couple of days how much he charged, he would always say “Don’t worry”. He did most of his work the day of the wedding, coordinating the vendors. He was a friend. He sat at my moms table. No contract. No signed agreement; no verbal agreement. I never even knew how much he charged.

Asked on February 17, 2011 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If there was an agreement, even a verbal or oral one, then it can be enforced. You say there was no agreement; it seems that the wedding planner disagrees. That means that if you and he can't negotiate or settle something mutually agreeable and this goes to court (e.g. he sues for the money), it may come down to your respective recollections, any supporting evidence (e.g. any emails that might suggest what the terms were) and ultimately, who is more persuasive. Given the time and monetary cost of litigation, if you feel you got good services, it might be best if you can settle with him and pay him something. If you pay him less than you would have paid for the similar services from a planner you didn't previously know, it may be that that way, you both can feel like you got something.

In the future, if think there's no fee, make sure to get that in writing; when things are done orally or verbally, misunderstadings are common.


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