Who is liable?

Hello,
If you look back over the last week or 2 you'll see I had posts regarding problems with my new A/C and furnace that were installed a few months before I bought a 40 year old house.
It turns out that all the problems I had with the A/C and furnace were all a result of the HVAC guys not knowing what they were doing. I have now confirmed it rather than it being a hunch.
Besides the fact that the HVAC guys didn't test the A/C when they installed it (I don't care if it was Fall/Winter, you still test), they hooked up the condensate line for the A/C (from the furnace) into the *output* line of my sump pump. I have 2 lines, both are output, from my sump pump which are used for varying water depths. They hooked up the condensate line to the output line that is used as the backup to the primary one. So when the water got too high for the primary pump to handle it the secondary pump kicked in and pumped the water out.
Unfortunately water was then pumped into the condensate line thus blocking it and possibly forcing water into the furnace. Condensation would back up inside the furnace when I would run the A/C. This happened twice and I called the HVAC guy twice to try to figure out what was going on (2nd time caused the circuit board to be fried). He blamed it on the sump pump not working at all. After the 3rd time of having water drip from places it shouldn't drip from and forming a large puddle, I called the people who installed the pump. Upon seeing how the pipes were running they immediately knew the problem and proceeded to re-route the condensate line directly into the sump well rather than into an output line. Luckily they didn't charge me.
Now my A/C works w/o making water go everywhere after some time running. However since it took a while to diagnose the problem I've had water in the finished area of my basement at least twice. I have minor discoloration in the paint on the opposite side of the wall that is about 6 inches from the one side of the furnace. The discoloration goes up about 2 feet from the baseboard. On that same wall, there has been mold growing on the baseboard as well as the wall itself. On the side of that wall that faces the utility room you can see mold on the 2x4 that runs along the floor that all the wall studs connect into. I've been treating the finished side of the wall with bleach/water to get rid of the mold on the baseboard and painted wall but it is not gone yet. THe carpet was also wet. Luckily the carpet seems to be doing okay. I have yet to get the mold to stop coming back but I'm working on it. In the meantime, the water/bleach combo has removed some paint from my baseboards on two walls so they will need repainted and possibly treated to ensure the mold doesn't come back.
After that long winded explanation, the question I have is whether anyone is liable for the water and mold problems? Is the HVAC company liable or the home inspector or no one?
The home inspector is someone I had inspect a home I almost purchased last year but after his report I passed on it. The sellers of my house used the same inspector and he inspected this house when they bought it and offered to come back for me at no charge. I agreed but he only did spot-checks when he was here for me because the sellers had installed all new equipment and addressed the major issues with the house. However, he missed the A/C problem and also the incorrect connection of the furnace condensate line to the sump pump. Had I remembered the A/C wasn't here when he inspected it the first time I would have made sure he inspected it.
I have yet to call the HVAC company to let them know that it was their fault for all my problems. It was only Friday that the sump pump guys were here to fix everything. I'm dying to tell the HVAC company though that it was their fault the entire time. I'm not going to call them though until I determine whether they could be held liable for my mold/water problems because I'd bring that up in the same conversation.
What do you guys think? Sorry for any extraneous information.
thanks Brandon
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Brandon McCombs wrote:

Have you consulted an attorney? That should be one of the first things you do now.
TDD
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hmmmm, yeah, shit happens.
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I'd suggest the lowest level intensity first. Call the AC company, and tell them what happened. Be prepared, in case they ask "what would you like us to do". Your prepared answer may include mold damage, paint, etc.
Save the attorney for if they try stall and delay tactics. If you go from zero to attorney, they may be resistant to feeling forced or pressured.
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Christopher A. Young
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*Move on and get over it. Home inspectors are not qualified to check every aspect of a home's construction. Some are not qualified period. You would have been better off calling in the different trades to have a look.
If you owe the HVAC company let them fight for their money. If not then call it an educational expense. You will never use them again, you will bad mouth them at every opportunity, and they will never get a recommendation from you. If it will make you feel better write them a letter telling them so. Include the bill from the sump pump guy and ask for reimbursement. Say you want them to pay for mold remediation.
Yes you can find an attorney who will take your money upfront and drag it out for months or years and in the end you still won't have satisfaction.
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John Grabowski wrote:

I was using the guy who had installed the unit and he wasn't charging me for anything at all yet, especially since the first visit he knew was due to his guys not properly finishing the job.

The sump pump guy didn't charge me anything either. So far the only thing I'll be out will be the money it takes to repaint some baseboards and the wall. It could get as ugly as removing drywall and studs though and replacing them before I paint. That's assuming I can fix the mold issue on my own.

I don't think the job warrants paying for an attorney. I guess I'll call the HVAC company and let them know what the problem was and base the rest of my conversation on what they say. I'm expecting to have to chalk it up to the woes of home ownership. The people who have been involved were not of my choosing so it wasn't like I made bad choices. They were all hired by the sellers of the house to do the work.
As far as the last person's statements regarding testing in the winter, maybe there are limitations to when you can test an AC unit. Either way though the guys didn't finish the job (testing the AC would have only proven that to them) and I wasn't told they would have to come back. I could have been out much more if the circuit board fried from the incorrect routing of the condensate line hadn't been covered under warranty.
thanks for all the input.
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Do you test a new AC in winter? Im no AC pro but I have heard running the outside compressor below a certain temp can damage it, and it may be as high as 60f. If it was installled in winter maybe they meant to come back but forgot, was this mentioned to you? The sump was careless, but what are you out in damage. Not much. Im my town and I bet yours a permit is suposed to be pulled for work like this, which im sure was not. The reality of the benefit of getting permits is not well understood by most. Getting a permit gets you a free inspection of your work by a pro to hopefully catch screw ups like these before you make the final payment. Sure the guy was a hack, but look at it another way, not getting a permit screwed you. Next job, pull a permit yourself and get the job inspected. Put in the contract, "final payment due after it passes inspection." Im just a HO , but most any job I hire out I can find a fault with. Id say its a learning experiance for you.
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I find it amazing the number of people who purchase/own a house and don't know a thing about how it is built nor how it operates and have to hire out every little thing, and then get stung because the contractor screws up and the home owner has no clue that he did screw up.
It has been said that one should take a course before marriage and before having a child, but it appears that many people should take a course before they own a house. Either that or they should stay renting where they can call the super or whatever, everytime something needs to get fixed or worked on.

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EXT wrote:

Interesting concept, we have drivers ed, why not homeowners ed?
TDD
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blah blah blah
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wrote:

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You need Judge Judy. What is the monetary damages? An attorney can get this fixed, but the cure may cost more than the damages. Small claims court is an option.
I don't trust home inspectors. That said, I don't think many would have caught this. They would look at the drain line and say "yep, condensate drain is hooked up, OK" and move on. I'm not sure the HVAC guys actually understood the sump setup with two pumps, but perhaps they should have asked.
I'd put together a list of cost, outline the problem, take a few photos, and them present it to the HVAC guys. They may pay, offer a portion, or tell you where to go. Then you can decide the next step to take. They may have liability coverage to handle it all. Don't approach this as a raving lunatic consumer, but rather as a business person with a problem. Present the problem, show the solution, request damages.
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On Mon, 08 Jun 2009 18:36:16 -0400, against all advice, something

I Am Not A Lawyer. But, you bought a building, and if it's anything like buying a used car, you bought it As Is.
Unless you were denied opportunity to inspect the property before purchase, and were given Promises & Warrantees, the problems are yours.
--

Don\'t worry about people stealing an idea. If it\'s original, you will
have to ram it down their throats.
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Steve Daniels wrote:

I thought about that too Steve but I think that would only be the logic to use if I were trying to determine whether the sellers are liable or not. I don't consider them to be liable even though they are the people who hired these other people. These other people should have known what they were doing, IMO.
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The good news is that you are not out much in directly measurable $$ $. Assuming you can fix the small mold area and water damage yourself, the only direct costs you have would be the materials involved. On the other hand, if you need to get a contractor in to take care of the mold, fix the drywall, paint, etc, then that would be a more substantial amount of money you would actually be out. I know you are out a lot in time and aggravation, but courts don't award money for that in these cases.
If you want to recover that money, I'd document everything, including taking pictures and getting a written report from the guy who identified and fixed the incorrect sump pump connection. Send copies of all the bills to the HVAC company and tell them you expect them to pay for it. Being a modest sum, it's very possible they will just pay it. If not, then you have the option of suing in small claims court, which is perfectly suited to this kind of case. I'd sue all 3 parties: the HVAC company, the sellers, and the home inspector. As someone else pointed out, it's not clear that you have standing to sue the HVAC company, but clearly the seller, who had a contract with them does. Let the judge figure it out. Fixing the guys wagon could cost you some time and a small filing fee, but it might be worth it in satisfaction, especially if they tell you to piss off when you send them a bill for $150.
Also, the home inspector was negligent. They usually have all kinds of fine print that lets them off the hook. But clearly to me, if this guy did what you say he did, which is skip essential parts of the inspection, ie HVAC, simply because they are new, then he bears responsibility as well. Just because something is new, doesn't mean it wasn't installed incorrectly or already has a problem.
It's amazing that an HVAC contractor could be so stupid as to connect a condensate drain to the sump pump discharge line. Especially since there isn't a need to do so. They could have just let it discharge into the sump pit. That's what I recently did with one of mine. It was previously connected to a condensate pump which failed. I looked around and it was easier and more energy efficient to just route it into the sump pit. The sump rarely comes on, so the water just dissipates into the ground.
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The time-honored American tradition is to sue them all. Talk to your lawyer.
--
There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat,
plausible, and wrong." (H L Mencken)
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Well, it would take a judge to determine liability. Take plenty of pictures and get rid of the mold ASAP. No moisture, no mold.
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Talk to your local lawyer. The HVAC guys had a contract with your seller, not with you. In some states they owe nothing to a stranger like you.

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