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gettin sued

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by lawnboy82, Mar 24, 2001.

  1. lawnboy82

    lawnboy82 Banned
    Messages: 51

    if you guys remember that nice storm we got right b4 new years eve? well i had to clean off a roof after that storm. i had gone to this guy to look at his building to rent. we are walkin out the door on the other side of the building and there is a large leak in his roof. the water was destroying the roof. and there was a large puddle on the floor. i asked him if he would like the snow cleaned off the roof. the roof is maybe 75' X 40? big flat roof. some of it is in the sun but most is in dense shade all day long. the roof is channeled out. there are long canals with sides and there is only one place for the water to drain out of each piece, which is always blocked up. there was about a foot or two of snow on the roof and a couple inches of ice. enough where if i stood on it it wouldnt break or anything. so i sent my guys there to clean the snow, they did it in a 7 hr day. brought the guy the bill and he said that the roof was leaking slightly. so i agreed to take a cut in my pay if he would take care of the roof. he agreed and paid me a reduced amount and that he would take care of the roofer. so i left and went back one day. he was not happy with me. he told me that the roof was leaking and that the roofer had to go look and there was snow up there again. so i went up and looked (cleaned more snow) and there was all ice there... thick ice too... now the roof is flat like i had said, and there are supposed to be places for it to drain, but the water just sits there on the roof, i have seen it.. cause there are like sub channels that run perpendicular to the way the water should go. so the guy called me up yesterday telling me that his roof was in real bad shape, and that our deal wasnt gonna cut it. he wanted my insurance guy's name and everything which i gave him. but he says he wants a whole new roof. because it is being ruined. and that there were lots of little holes in it. there was a lot of ice up there that my guys had to remove. i have whitnesses to how it looked, so that isnt a problem. but what do you guys think? i mean i think that he doesnt have a case. what about you guys? any help would be greatly appreciated...
  2. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,011

    Maybe Im a little slow, but please explain where the connection comes between you shoveling the roof and you hiring a roofer to fix the leaks???
  3. mdb landscaping

    mdb landscaping Senior Member
    Messages: 823

    all you did was shovel the roof off. it obviously is still going to leak due to the ice build up. if i understand the story right, this guy cant touch you. by shoveling, you took less weight off the roof so some ice could melt. if the snow was still up there it would probably collapse.
  4. theleven

    theleven Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    I'd tell him to take a hike
  5. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    Where is your copy of the written agreement between you and the owner, that states "We are not responsible for any damage that occurs to the roofing surface or membrane as a result of our efforts to remove the snow and or ice."
    ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have a written agreement for any work that you do, whether you are getting paid or not. We do volunteer work at a food festival, and yes we have a written agreement with the festival coordinators. Everything in writing always.
    that was your first mistake.
    Second was agreeing to a lower price after the work was complete. By doing such, you in effect admitted to damaging the roof. You also probably dont have a change order relasing you from further harm.
    Third I assume you dont have any papers or pictures to back you up.
    Forth I also assume that roofing and roof clearing are not what you do very often, that lends more weight to his case, by basically staing that you had no experience, and that led to the damage. And since you dont have this desription in your business liability policy, you may not be covered.
    I hate to say this, but you have been played, and it may be time for an attorney.
    Call your Ins agent asap, let him know everything, and good luck. The best argument you will have is to prove that the roof leaked before you did the snow removal.
    This is just another example to make sure that you dont do work outside the scope of your abilities, and company profile. And that you always document everything.

    [Edited by plowking35 on 03-24-2001 at 05:54 PM]
  6. lawnboy82

    lawnboy82 Banned
    Messages: 51

    2 things- i have witnesses who can say that the roof was leaking and in bad shape before we got there.
    and also if i have to i can go see the old man that i work for and he will help me.
    3rd. where is this food festival? i love to eat :)
  7. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    Mystic Ct
    The taste of Connecticut
    2cd weekend in Sept every year
  8. plowjockey

    plowjockey PlowSite.com Sponsor
    Messages: 622


    You bring up soime very good points that sometimes we may overlook in the course of the all out push (pun intended) to do our winter business. Like you said never never take your eye off the ball or let your, legal in this case, guard down.

  9. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    Only once, have I had to clear ice off a flat roof. The ice was 2" thick. This was when I worked at the high school. The reason we went to clear it, was because the ice was stopping the water from flowing off the roof, since the drains were iced around. Some water was flowing into them, but the accumulation of water was deep enough, to leak in areas that leaks wouldn't be a problem normally. Now, since chopping ice on a roof isn't the greatest idea, instead I suggested we dig trenches to channel off water to the drains. We did that, and believe me, it was hard not to gouge the roof getting up the ice, even in one shovel width "stripes". We did as little possible, to limit the amount of leaks we'd cause. I myself was careful, and gouged the roof at least 5 times, doing maybe 80 linear feet of trenches. Add in the other 3 guys that did the same, and we most likely caused more leaks. IMO based on that, I'd guess that shoveling off a whole roof, in bad shape, would likely cause more leaks. So in all likelyhood, you did make it leak worse by doing the job. Which leads to all that Dino said. Cover yourself before you do the job.

  10. lawnboy82

    lawnboy82 Banned
    Messages: 51

    yes, but as i had said earlier, we had agreed that he would take care of the roofer. and i took a cut in my pay for the job. so how can he sue me? if we agreed that he would take care of the roof. and the leak was already there. and right now it has only spread. it isnt as though we made new leaks. it is just that the one area that was leaking earlier is leaking worse now. however before i did anything the water had made a huge brown stain in the tile inside. the new area effected is right next to that. so i didnt go and make new holes, i mean i know i put some holes in there. but none of them leak. and the guy agreed that he would pay for the roof. so how can he sue me? i have witnesses to the work we did, the condition of the roof, and also to me and him making that agreement. i mean in the state that that roof was in when i started working at that property, well before this happened we could tell that water would just sit there and do nothing. even if we had made channels it would not have worked. the only way to do that job was to remove all the snow and ice. and there was a lot of ice. there are walls all over that roof, on the sides and partitioning out the roof top. it cant drain because the channels created by these walls have concave channels in them which collect the water. the 1 drain that goes to either channel is always clogged. so water will always sit there. leaves constantly accumulate there. it is a mess. he needed a new roof before i even met them.
  11. steveair

    steveair Senior Member
    Messages: 176


    I think the only solution to this problem is to contact an attorney and let them deal with it.

    To begin with, you have nothing in writing, and in all likey hood, a case involving your word vs. his is going to lead to his word winning.

    As for flat roofs, I am not sure what kind of roof it is, but we are constantly doing work on our flat roofs. In our case, there are stickers all over the place from the roof manufactures that basically say if you walk on the roof it will void the warranty on all/part of the roof. They have 'set areas' where rubber mats were set up so you can have access to AC, electrical, etc. If you walk off of those, then technically you are voiding your roof warranty. I work for a LARGE company, so we really don't mind them, but I would say you may have already made a major mistake by even going up on that roof.

    Also, not sure of your insurance, but I know mine would not cover it. I am set up for landscape construction, and the policy is very explicit on what work I am and am not covered for. I know I would not be covered for this. I would imagine that you are most likely not either.

    I would definitly contact an attorney at this point and get some sound legal advice. Just remember, we live in a world where people can sue because 'there coffee burned there mouth' and win a million dollars. The liability of this one sounds to be in the clients favor by leaps and bounds, so I would get help immediately before you are buying this guy a new roof.

  12. Deere John

    Deere John Senior Member
    Messages: 410

    I can offer insight here as my wife owns a business that exclusively provides discovery and transcript services to lawyers.

    Insurance companies retain or have on-staff lawyers to defend against claims as a matter of routine. Talk to your agent ASAFP, and make him aware of the issues. One of two things will happen. He will tell you that you have coverage for said business endeavor or he will deny that coverage exists under your policy. You have to interpret your policy, and in the case of a denial of coverage, figure out if you want to sue your own insurance company for coverage in the event you get sued by the building owner.

    Make notes at this point in as much detail as you can. Nothing fancy - handwriting is best. Note everything you can remember, because it may be some time before you actually get to the discovery stage and must recount your story. Notes on your discussions with the owner are important to note. Look in the general area for similar buildings that may have similar ice situations - seek comparable situations/solutions to show that you were not up there just a-winggin' it.

    Make a list of potential witnesses to your benefit. Encourage them to make similar notes of the details and conditions that existed both before and after you did the work. Particularly people who saw the leaks prior to the job commencing.

    If you do talk to the owner again, be very direct in telling him that you have very good counsel who is directing your interest - "If you feel you must pursue this matter, be aware I have very competent and prepared representation". Don't say more than you have to - your case is weak as it is.

    One positive aspect - you may have made the roof worse, but the building owner is not entitled to "betterment". If it leaked before you arrived, you would only be required to bring it back to its pre-existing leaky condition.

    How old was the roof to begin with? - earlier leaks may have wet the insulation and encouraged ice buildup too. There are lots of angles to look into.

    Good Luck
  13. dmk395

    dmk395 Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    I hate people like that guy!
  14. Deere John

    Deere John Senior Member
    Messages: 410

    Hate him yes, but get it in your mind that you are right, and that someone is trying to cheat you. Then deal with it front on and as business-like as possible. You may eventually have to impress a judge to that effect, so start now.
  15. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    First off dont let him bully you.The cost of a new roof for that building is less than 20k, and I doubt he will spend the money on attorney's for a break even proposition.
    Dont get us wrong from what you have told us we agree with you, however you asked our opinion, and we gave honest answers to some points you brought up.
    It is obvious that this gentleman(I use the term loosely)
    that he premeditated or at least jumped at the oppourtunity to get a free roof.
    Document everything, put the witness statements in writing, in case someone moves or gets amnesia.
    And call your ins. agent first thing in the am.
  16. lawnboy82

    lawnboy82 Banned
    Messages: 51

    i was just up on the roof a couple of hours ago. i saw the damage. the roof is a torch down roof. it is old. i looked and it is heaving in places and coming off the building. the damage done to the roof was only in a small 15 x 15 foot area. i looked and felt around.. the bulk of the damage is in areas that do not have water damage. the area where there is not much damage is where he is complaining about. i talked to one guy today and he told me that i can get some roof patch and fix it with that. all it is is some gashes in the rubber. they arent that bad and can be fixed without much effort. the area where the leak is you can tell. everthing in that area is really soft. and that is where the leak is. i know this because i saw the leak from the inside. so the worst i should have to do is go and put down some tar. i will go and see him this week i think.. i have a good lawyer if i need one. a very good lawyer. :) to fix what i did he shouldnt be able to sue me. i think we would be even. or whatever. his roof is already bad. if you look at the whole thing you can see heaving all over the place. the building is old and torch down roofs only last 10 years tops i hear. so he really has no case...
  17. plowjockey

    plowjockey PlowSite.com Sponsor
    Messages: 622

    I'm sure that you want to do what's right but IMO you should at least consult with your lawyer first and then if he advises you to go ahead and negotiate a fix with this man I would most certainly have something in writing and witnessed before doing any work.

    Just my two cents

  18. torque20

    torque20 Junior Member
    Messages: 18


    Howd you get your plow and truck on the roof?
  19. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    Which is it? Rubber or torch down? They are two very different roofing systems. Both can be repaired very easily, and tar isnt the way to do it. I would be very leery of doing any more work for this man.
    Plus not to be mean, but you alread got into trouble by doing work outside the scope of your business, do you really want to go down that road again. Get a pro.
  20. Alan

    Alan PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,393

    I'm not familiar with the term "torch down" roof,, just what is it? And like Dino says, you're just looking for more problems if you decide to play roofer.