An Update!!! A Lesson from the Courthouse..... – North American Pressure Wash Outlet

An Update!!! A Lesson from the Courthouse.....

An Update!!! A Lesson from the Courthouse.....

 Update at the bottom of the blog. Feel free to skip ahead!

On a recent Tuesday in February, Tracy was subpoenaed to testify as an expert witness in a case involving a pressure washing contractor and an unhappy customer. 

The customer has a painted home. The home was built 10 years ago and has not been re-painted in that time. The current owner has been in the home 4 years and stated that she had not had the home cleaned since she owned the home. If it had been cleaned prior to her occupancy, that information wasn't known or disclosed.

The contractor was hired to clean the siding and surface clean the concrete driveway. This work was completed. And now the battle begins.....a quick synopsis....

The customer isn't happy.

The customer hires a home inspector and an attorney.

The home inspector has a strong background in construction but no experience in the pressure wash industry.

The home inspector blames bleach use and poor technique and is demanding new paint for the entire exterior of the home.

Customer is now demanding a new paint job for the entire home and new shutters because she feels as though they can't be repainted.

The contractor is a long-time customer. He contacted our office and asked for our assistance. Tracy was required to visit the home, take pictures, make a report and then testify to the facts as he saw them based on 2 decades of experience. This home was oxidized on the 2 sides of the home that are sun-facing. The surface was cleaned and now looks blotchy. This doesn't mean that the contractor did anything wrong. It means that the paint is oxidizing and beginning to fail. The contractor CLEANED the surface. That was the job. Now, is it the contractor's responsibility to re-paint a home that he didn't damage? If you don't have an expert witness in your corner, the Judge may see it that way.

The opening statements referenced quality, procedures, chemicals, website verbiage, insurance and employees. The testimony and cross-examination explored EACH of those areas to attempt to discredit the contractor thereby discrediting the quality of the work completed. It was brutal.

The Homeowner's Attorney focused on website verbiage. The Contractor's website stated he was insured but the truth was the insurance lapsed.

The Homeowner's Attorney focused on employees and their work history. This guy was even attempting to bring in salacious personal details about a previous employee, who had NOTHING to do with this job, in an attempt to link that to the Contractor. It didn't seem to impress the Judge but the fact stands that the opposing counsel's job is to discredit you, your business and your work. 

The Homeowner's Attorney focused on chemicals, product liability and technique. Fortunately the Contractor uses industry-standard chemicals, equipment and procedures. THIS is what saved him. Are you using Dawn, Gain or something that doesn't have product liabilities? Be prepared.

A majority of the testimony related to oxidation. The average person on the street probably has no idea that their vinyl siding degrades over time or that their paint will degrade over time. As a witness for the Defendant, it was extremely important that this process be explained well and defended during cross-examination by the Plaintiff.

We've watched the process and the effects it has had on our customer. And while some in the industry may use too much bleach or have poor technique, this contractor is top-notch with outstanding customer service. It's wasted time, money and put an enormous amount of stress on his business. But in this case, he made some errors. Not in the work process but in covering his assets.

The most important piece of advice that we can provide is to be the professional in every way. And by being the professional, it means that you and your customer have clear expectations regarding results. If oxidation is present, it is YOUR responsibility to educate your customer. YOU are the professional.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE....take pictures and cover YOUR business and reputation. Take BEFORE and AFTER photos of ALL of your work because the one time you are tired at the end of the job AND DON'T take the pictures, is the one that will bite you. You know it's true!

In this case, the contractor did not have Before and After photos. This was hindering him from having a strong argument against the customer's claims. During Tracy's site visit, he was able to document the home's location to the sun. The only 2 sides of the home with the blotchy results are the sun-facing sides of the home. On those same sides, the original paint color was still intact under the gutter line as it had been protected from the sun. The report was much more detailed as there were other claims by the home owner that had to be refuted and they were, but this would have been easier if the contractor had Before and After photos. Tracy's testimony as an Expert Witness was truly invaluable.

What's interesting, is that literally as I am typing this, another phone call from another contractor who is having an issue with a customer over oxidation and blotchy results after the wash. Protect yourself out there. EDUCATE your customers BEFORE you wash.

And keep our number to pass along to your insurance carriers when they need Expert testimony. Available for hire. I think it's going to be a busy season. 


Don't forget to read More Lessons from the Courthouse here....




We have an update on the case as it is now settled!!!

There are several key takeaways from this case. This case was primarily about oxidation although there were a few areas of "drip marks" that were also a concern.

The Ruling:

The Plaintiff (Homeowner) was required to pay her attorney's fees, portion of the Defendant's attorney's fees and court costs.

The Defendant (Contractor) was required to paint (or pay for) one side of the home containing the drip marks and the remainder of his attorney's fees.

The Lessons Learned:

Right or wrong, several things hurt the Contractor in this case. 

#1 - The Defendant did not take before and after pictures. The Defendant could not defend the condition of the siding prior to the house wash. Strike 1

#2 - The Defendant's website was scrutinized for EVERYTHING. And during that process, it was determined that the Defendant stated he was "insured". Unfortunately that insurance had lapsed. Strike 2

#3 - It's possible and likely that the Defendant (staff/employees) did not pre-wet on surface on a hot day - Memorial Day in the South - and chemically "burned" in the drip marks. The oxidation issues were overcome with education and evidence but the drip-marks were a reflection on process and/or technique. Strike 3

Overall, the Contractor was pleased with the ruling as it truly could have been much worse. Between the insurance lapse, the lack of before and after pictures and the drip marks, the Contractor had a few things that were not working in his favor. The opposing Counsel used these lapses as a means to destroy the Contractor's credibility, It seems as though the Judge was able to wade through a lot of that and get to a fair ruling. Not having a dog in the race, it was fair. 

Please use this as a life lesson and a business lesson. We live in a litigious society and unfortunately everything can be used against you. As we interact on the web with our customers, we continually advocate to protect your business. If you have a picture on your website and you are standing on the roof without proper safety gear in a situation where you should have it....TAKE IT DOWN!.  That is exactly the type of picture that would then be used in Court to undermine your credibility. Doesn't matter if everything you did on the job was correct, your technique and safety standards will now be examined. Your insurance company may not like the pictures either especially if you aren't insured for roof work. While it might seem like a "cool shot for the "gram", it may literally be the picture that sinks your business in a Court case. NOW, please don't think we want you to be in Court; quite the opposite. It isn't fun. And it's expensive and stressful. Our goal is only to share the experience. 





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  • Kimberlee Handl
Comments 3
  • Roy Carter
    Roy Carter

    That was very unfortunate for the contractor and could have turned out a lot worse than it did. I started my business in March 2016 and so far I’ve been very fortunate and have had no complaints or dissatisfied customers. However I’ve always taken before & after pictures, walked the job site with the customer to point out and explain potential problem areas and why, and had a signed contract with some type of disclaimer of the areas that could be problematic. If you don’t know or are not sure of the correct procedure, chemicals to use, be honest with your customer about it do the research and get back with them. They will respect you more as a contractor and individual and potentially be a long term customer and great referral.

  • Kelvin

    Thanks for share this value information, especially that I starting a legit small business In pressure washing. In the short time that I have been service, always you will find customers to take advantage of you but the good ones makes me continue working hard and provide excellent service.

  • Tyler Nash
    Tyler Nash

    Great read! Oxidation is certainly something we have to explain to our customers. We’ve all dealt with customers like this at some point or another. Like you said, it’s our job to educate them on expectations. Thx for sharing!

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