Surveying ceiling damage for court case

Well I have an interesting situation:
15 months ago, we installed a CCTV system for someone we now know to be a senior figure in the Gypsy community. When he didn't pay his bill, I allowed all sorts of free mods etc to try to make him satisfied. Nothing made any difference of course, so I issued a County Court summons. On receipt of this, he suddenly noticed cracks in his ceiling and decided that my engineers had caused it during the installation.
Now in my opinion, ceiling damage will appear shortly after it was done, not over a year later, but I have to prove it to the satisfaction of the court. The counterclaim is for £5000 and is obviously vastly inflated.
I spent many hours on the phone to builders and surveyors, but because of his reputation, no-one will go out there to provide a report for me.
Does anyone have any suggestion as to how the facts can be proved otherwise? I have a couple of photocopied photographs of the damage but that's all.
Is there a builder here that will look at the photos perhaps and give a witness statement?
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On Wed, 2 Jun 2004 11:41:45 +0100, "Andy Luckman (AJL Electronics)"

OK, so given that situation, as I understand it, the onus is on him to prove that your engineers either caused the damage or that it was reasonably possible that they might. Given where your engineers worked and what they installed, is that possible? If the ceiling was already in a possibly poor state because of its age, then it would not be reasonable to load all of the costs of repair in your direction anyway. One thing you could do quite easily is to find out the age of the property. If it's of some age and the ceiling is lath and plaster, then it is possible that cracks could have occurred at any time anyway.
The fact tht the guy didn't report the alleged damage at the time makes it questionnable. Do you have anything in your terms and conditions of business that limits time period for claims? (Maybe that is not possible, for statutory reason - IANAL so I'm not certain on that point).
Do you have an idea of the genuine cost of fixing the ceiling? You could work that out approximately on the basis of ripping the whole lot down, plasterboarding and redecorating. I'm sure it doesn't come to £5k as you say.
What is the value of the claim in his direction - i.e. for the CCTV work? For example, if it were £3k and the reality of the cost of the ceiling were £1k, would it make sense to settle on £2k from him and chalk this up to experience, morally wrong though it may be. You said that you already spent a lot of time on the phone to builders etc. That isn't free.
Do you have a form of liability insurance that would cover the alleged damage? If so, could you not simply involve the insurance company and let them battle the cost of fixing the ceiling. They have loss adjusters who are generally quite good at spotting phonies and reducing loss.

Does this mean that if people get involved with him in a way that he doesn't like that unfortunate things happen to them?
If so, I think it may be time for some professional advice from a solicitor. If you feel that the claim is worth pursuing and is of an amount to justify a court action, then this may be prudent.
The counter claim amount is significant. £5000 is the limit for a small claims action. He must have found that out or someone has put him up to it, so he's no fool.

Given the comment that the guy appears to be somewhat unsavoury, that may not be easy
Sorry I can't help on the survey aspect, but hopefully there's some ideas to consider and perhaps you don't need to prove that your guys didn't do it anyway.

.andy
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The engineers installed cabling into the loft and as per normal practice, used walking boards across the joists. Even without boards, I can't see that the damage would be as alleged.
If the ceiling was

I would guess it is less than 40 years old and it has plasterboard ceilings. The finish is a paint effect which is intented to simulate marble. This is the excuse for the inflated estimate.

He had only just noticed it, 15 months after the alleged incident!

No, in 16 years plus there has only been one other claim and I settled that quickly as it was genuine and straightforward. > Do you have an idea of the genuine cost of fixing the ceiling? You

This is where I need a surveyor.

About £1500.

Yes, we carry full liability insurance. The excess is £500 which I would lose on a successful claim. I asked the insurance company about the claim and they weren't interested. Their only comment was that they would pay out if the case went against me in court. Thanks a bunch guys, no wonder the premium is so high. :-(

It has been known and certainly threatened, although nothing in my direction as yet. I won't be intimidated though, but it seems so many others are just wussies, which is why these people get away with it.

It is already due to be heard on 29th June.

You sussed that bit then? :-)
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On Wed, 2 Jun 2004 13:24:51 +0100, "Andy Luckman (AJL Electronics)"

I'd agree. With a plasterboard ceiling that's dubious.

... of exactly £500 Yeah, right.

Are you hoping to recover the cost of that as well?

You mentioned in another reply that if you lost the damage claim, you would also lose the invoice value as well.
I don't see why. Aren't they separate issues?
Wouldn't the worst case loss be the £500 excess?

I completely agree and I'd pursue it as well - this is not acceptable behaviour.
From a purely financial point of view, isn't the trade off of the £500 excess on the insurance vs. your additional costs of professional advice?
You should win the invoice claim automatically anyway, so you would still have the satisfaction of the bastard having to pay.
The insurance company would then look carefully at the claim, I think.

So is this two cases or one? Surely even if the court decided that you were totally to blame for the ceiling, you still did the CCTV work and should be paid for that, or have I missed something?

.andy
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The difficulty is in proving that to the judge. That's why I need a report to show the court, from someone in the business.

Costs are not reclaimable in County Court.

Sorry, brain fade. You are quite correct that they are seperate issues.

If I win on the invoice claim you are correct.

Certainly, but I don't see why he should keep getting away with it.

Or at least of a judgement. Payment is a different matter of course. The bailiffs from the County Court don't work in quite the same way as private bailiffs seen on the television. :-(

Maybe, but atm, they aren't interested.

It is a claim I issued and he counterclaimed on the same action.
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He seems rather experienced at this sort of thing. Might be worth checking up if he's done it before...
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@argonet.co.uk London SW 12
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Well known for being dodgy and I have had verbal evidence from 2 other companies. However, they will not allow it to be used in court for fear of reprisals.
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I was thinking more of hard evidence, like county court or small claims for or against him. I dunno how you find out these things, but it can be done.
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@argonet.co.uk London SW 12
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Dave Plowman wrote:

IANAL, but I guess previous misdeeds / convictions won't count as evidence for this case.
Even if it is allowed, it's straying towards using character asassination; a bit dodgy in my view.
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jc

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Agreed, but I was thinking more about a claim for the same ceiling. ;-)
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@argonet.co.uk London SW 12
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I don't think it is admissable. Hopefully though the judge will be aware of him from previous sessions!

I think it would be frowned upon.
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On Wed, 02 Jun 2004 14:08:01 +0100, Dave Plowman

Possibly worth checking the local newspaper archives?
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"Andy Luckman (AJL Electronics)" wrote | Dave Plowman wrote: | > > Does anyone have any suggestion as to how the facts can be | > > proved otherwise? I have a couple of photocopied photographs | > > of the damage but that's all.
His claim will be seriously weakened if he has not given you an opportuntity to inspect and remedy the alleged damage before going to court.
| > He seems rather experienced at this sort of thing. Might be worth | > checking up if he's done it before... | Well known for being dodgy and I have had verbal evidence from 2 other | companies. However, they will not allow it to be used in court for | fear of reprisals.
The court records themselves should be public record, may be worth searching to see if he or his family has been a persuer or defender in any other actions.
Owain
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I am fairly sure that no entry will be allowed, but I will write to his solicitor to ask. If he agrees, then I will worry about who to send then!
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Andy Luckman (AJL Electronics) wrote:
[snip]

I'll pass on my experience, it might reassure you a bit.
We're software developers, and we've recently setted (in our favour) a court case involving an unpaid invoice from Jan 2003.
It did our opponents NO favours at all to try to introduce extra arguments and complications at a late stage (March this year). Any issues with work done should be pointed out almost straight away, and if your customer did not pay his bill for the reason of ceiling cracks, he should have said so at the time.
The fact that you revisited the work and the problem wasn't there, and the "crack" issue only materialised when you started proceedings is a big red flag.
IANAL, of course.
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jc

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Quite, however, I need to cover my back with as much evidence as possible. The judge will work on the balance of probability I assume, but if I lose, it will cost me the excess plus the loss of the original invoice.
I have just had a telphone chat with another customer of mine from the Gypsy community, but this one is from one of the nicest families you could ever wish to meet; He again tells me that it is well known behaviour from this individual, but couldn't advise in any other way.
I'm not going to "roll over and play dead" so I have to have the strongest case possible.
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On Wed, 2 Jun 2004 13:54:07 +0100, "Andy Luckman (AJL Electronics)"

First thought:
Phone the guy up and *say* that you wish to come round with an "independent expert" to survey the damage and when would be convenient?..see what the reaction is. If he refuses access to inspect the damage then that should count in your favour.
Second thought:
Won't your liability insurace pay for any genuine damage to a customers property? If so won't they send their own inspector round to assess the damage? Maybe worth calling your insurance company and explaining the situation.
sPoNiX
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sPoNiX wrote:

Write to the guy... paper trail and all that.
Sounds like this case is yours for the winning, just need to make sure the formalities have been taken care of, particularly in respect of the opportunities each have provided the other to settle things before court action. Magistrates don't like frivolous knee-jerk counter claims so you are already 1-0 up before it's even kicked off.
The previous court records are open to your inspection, it's just a bind tracking them down, as the action may have taken place all over the country with this guy. The court clerk should be able to advise.
uk.legal.moderated are much more helpful than the old unmoderated group and it's well worth posting there.
Good luck with it, although not sure how you actually get the money out of him when you win.
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That's what I'm hoping, but I have had a couple of lost cases in the past, thrown out for daft reasons. One was where we had a written contract with the customer's signature. The smallest print on the document was 12 point. The price was immediately before his signature and was in 20 point bold.
Defendant said "I didn't know what I was signing". Judge threw it out.
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That's on the plan for next week.

Insurance company will pay up if I lose, but they aren't interested in defending it. Possibly because they aren't able to claim for legal costs.
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