Question / Problem 9:
I am a Contractor specializing in Interior Works (ID Works). Mid last year, I was introduced by a friend to do work for a private house owner. I gave him the quotation but he refused to endorse on it, however, he had been persistent in assuring me that he would pay me a final figure of $150,000.00 for all the work-done as instructed, there was no written contract concluded even till this date. I collected some deposit from him before I started work. Now all the instructed works had been completed and he refused to pay me the full amount as agreed verbally by him earlier, giving all sorts of excuses etc… I am distressed financially and mentally, I intend to institute legal proceedings but I am not sure of winning the case.
The Answer from us:
1. Although your case appears to be quite complicated but we would like to assure you that the Law protects you who have done the work as instructed, even there is no written contract concluded. However, we need to remind you that this is definitely not a straight forward case, as the amount that you would be able to claim back in Law, would base on how you are going to put forward your case and argue them in your claim document against the Owner, whether you want to institute legal proceedings eventually.
2. In Trentham v Luxfer (1993), which remains good law, it was held that that the fact that there was no written, formal contract was irrelevant, a contract could be concluded by conduct. Plainly the parties intended to enter into a contract, the exchanges between them and the carrying out of instructions in those exchanges, all supported the Claimant’s argument that there was a course of dealing between the parties which amounted to a valid, working contract.
3. The aforesaid Case Law quoted is just to illustrate and explain to you what we have stated in the 1st Paragraph about how the Law would protect you. However, you need to know that in order to establish your claim effectively to claim back the full amount, is definitely not straight forward, it would be advisable for you to engage an experienced Claims Consultant who has sound knowledge in ID Works / Construction and in Law to help you work out in detail the claim amount, you need to substantiate your facts with sound legal arguments to win this case... How much you would be able to claim back would depend on how well you use the different tactics to argue out your case not only base on facts but also substantiate with sound legal arguments. Thus, this is definitely not a layman’s work.
4. Don’t you agree that if you are intending to institute any legal proceedings, you would need to have a good chance of winning the case? We would never advise any client to institute any proceeding if he does not stand any good chance of winning, it is just a waste of your financial resources and in addition it would cause you mental distress and possible other damage. Thus, we always advise the client that you need to establish your case first: both technically/ factually and legally, you should only institute legal proceedings only you have failed in your possible “heated” negotiations with the owner, after you submit your final claims document worked out by your Claims Consultant and you are quite sure that there is no other means to redeem your case except in legal proceedings.
5. You asked, “Is it economical for me to forward my case to the Construction Lawyer to work out the claim?”
Well, don’t you agree that you should select the right person for the job in order the help you more effectively? No doubt, a lawyer with proper legal training would know how to help you to argue in law, but he /she may not have the experience to read your construction drawings / technical specifications and highlight to you the important issues that you need to put forward in your Claims Document. You may want to work with an effective Claims Consultant that has sound technical knowledge and with proper standing in the Construction Industry, who has good legal training / background to work on your Claims Documents, to help you in the negotiation process and to make the other parties agree on most of your completed work items first, before your any attempt to initiate any legal proceeding. Obviously, what we have mentioned above are sound cost savings tactics, as we as responsible Claims Consultants would never make our clients spend more than they should.
6. We have done many similar cases in the past (including Civil & Structural, Architectural, Mechanical & Electrical Works) and have helped our clients to claim back their monies without going through any legal proceeding. However, there were few cases that the owners refused to make just payments for work-done, even with proper claims documents submitted; as such, we then worked with the Client’s lawyers to ensure that they win in their legal cases to obtain just payments, as we have always helped our clients to draft Affidavits in the aforesaid legal proceedings. We have been doing such works at an economical cost; you could contact us when you have such needs.
7. Finally, we wish you all the best for your endeavours.
Er. Goh Cheow Leng Maria
First drafted on 10 September 2008.