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Question - Legal Protection

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  • Question - Legal Protection

    A couple quick questions you guys may be able to help me out with. I am doing some research for a project.

    1) Do any of you keep strict records for legal protection? Is it a concern in todays society?

    2) If you do keep records what type of records are they?

    3) Any other input on protecting yourself from litigation in respect to the jobsite?

    Thanks a lot guys,


  • #2
    Re: Question - Legal Protection

    Every week we have a new safety sign up sheet in the shop. 2 or 3 paragraphs on a subject from electrical shock hazards to chemical exposures. Each technician has to sign it saying he read and fully understands it. A duplicate in Spanish is also posted. The plumbing foreman on each construction job is responsible for collecting signatures from workers on his jobsite. You don't want someone to say years later he wasn't warned that the PVC glue might make him impotent.

    With todays litigious society you need excellent umbrella insurance coverage.

    Most customers you can get a feel of what type of person they are. Some you just get a bad feeling from. These are the ones you tread lightly with. You all have worked for them I'm sure. They like to pull out the lawyer card early on. "My brother's a attorney and he's going to sue you for everything you have" I'm so tired of hearing this knee jerk reponse to a little misunderstanding.

    You get a signed Change Order to any modification of contracts. Work would come to a halt if I had to wait for a signatures so alot of things are approved over the phone and officially signed off on days later.
    Last edited by plumberscrack; 11-29-2007, 04:40 PM.


    • #3
      Re: Question - Legal Protection

      We have the preliminary lien notices to be signed by owner on our jobs that have to be signed within I believe 20 days of starting a job.Without this we are unable to lien a property for monies owed.

      So many of us take this for granted and don't prelim' every one of our jobs.This leaves it up to the homeowner if he wants to pay the final balance in full.I have heard many times at the end of a project when the owner intentionaly only pays each sub only a part of what he owes knowing individually we won't go after him for a few thousand.When he has taken tens of thousands from us as a group.With a lien we can leave the lien on his house untill he pays.Out here it's hard on the thief because he can't sell till the lien is satisfied.And Californians like this can't stand to see the Jones' pass them up.

      Don't know if this pertains directly to your question.But we do keep records of this as well.

      P.S. P-Crack out here they can ask you to change something,you can get the change order signed.But unless we have something like the Request For Information(RFI) that DOG brought to my attention.The inspector does not have to approve anything that does not comply to the approved set of plans.And the owner can weasle out of that change order.
      Last edited by drtyhands; 11-29-2007, 05:28 PM.


      • #4
        Re: Question - Legal Protection

        Guys... Just got a call from Adam pointing out that I may want to clarify a bit what I am looking for and make sure you know I am not looking for nitty gritty details. I dont want anyone giving up too much info on how they protect themselves so they could be taken advantage of. Just mostly want to know if you guys do anything to protect yourselves. simple stuff like before and afters or simply signed waivers.

        Please be very general here. Dont want to give up any trade secrets

        PS... thanks for the help guys. I love this forum!


        • #5
          Re: Question - Legal Protection

          Often I come across unsafe conditions especially this time of year when we are doing heat inspections. High levels of carbon monoxide or potential gas leak I will turn the equipment off until repairs can be made and have the customer sign the work order stating this. After I leave most will just turn it back on not fully understanding the danger. I will usually pull a wire loose also without them seeing me if I feel this might happen.

          The first question the fire department battalion commander will ask is "who last worked on this equipment?"

          Without that signature, I'm screwed


          • #6
            Re: Question - Legal Protection

            First and foremost my company is a S-corp.

            Have to do minutes and follow the legalities of a true business.

            Second is liability insurance well beyond state minimums. I asked for specific amounts when dealing with certain areas of exposure to make sure that I'm covered.

            If you work in a million dollar home, you need 2 million dollars worth of coverage. Figuring between contents, posessions, all that stuff and the displacement of a family living in a hotel room while a new home is built (getting paid for it I'm sure) you might as well figure a million by the time it's all said done and over with.

            Third is the sign away clause. If I enter into a oral/written agreement to do work for a customer, they become aware of any code violation I see whether it's affecting the outcome of my work detail or not. That gets put to print on my invoice and signed before I leave making sure that I've covered myself. I'll specifically have it written out, for example high water pressure;

            Customer was advised of high water pressure cause and effect; referred to website-declined protection. Water pressure is extremely high.

            My invoices have a before and after water pressure box showing 3 categories

            Extremely High

            Good is 60 or below
            High is 70 to 80
            80 and above is extremely high

            It's CYA on all counts and I believe that if I install a toilet supply line on a toilet in a home that ruptures by means of them having high water pressure, I feel that my invoice is testament to the situation that I educated the customer of the seriousness of the situation.....advised the improvements to resolve the problem. If they don''re signing your name that YOU will be taking the chances, not me.

            Some good advice,

            If you know someone in a high pressure zone and you keep coming back working on different things, you will be held liable for damages. Stupid is as stupid does. Court of law, jury of peers would consider your logic good about the issue, but to keep opening yourself to liability is foolish.

            There's a police officer in my town that I did just that; I'm not available for services until you resolve your water pressure issue. Told him good luck in life like I planned on never working for him again. Haaahaaaaa!!!

            Fourth, any job you're doing that requires a permit, get one. Anytime you can get proof in writing of documentation of the state plumbing division that your work was performed in accordance with acceptance of their standards, the less likelihood for intermediate issues to trump up either liability or possible negligence lawsuits. Lawyers want the big fish most times and they'd rather build a case with the state for allowing such products or work practices to continue knowing it was detrimental to property owners.

            But the bigger the cheese, the more mice there are for the feast. Kitec in Las Vegas is taking down plumbing companies left and right from those who trusted a product, was approved by the state plumbing division. I "hope" the plumbing division is held accountable for the acceptance of such product.

            Other than that, have a good lawyer for writing contracts if you do large scale jobs. The fine print can be your friend or foe......
            Northern Kentucky Plumbers Twitter Feed | Plumbing Videos


            • #7
              Re: Question - Legal Protection

              I agree with P.C. and DUNBAR i used to have the pressure
              on each job my guys did, Because in L.A. they have a lot of areas with very high to extrmly high water pressure,

              Also what the thermostat was sat at on all WTR/HTR'S and BOILERS because of scald cliams,

              Docoumt, Docoumt, everthing thats wrong, or unknown ! ! !

              SINCE JAN. 1989


              • #8
                Re: Question - Legal Protection

                Records are kept religiously on commercial site because of the law suits.

                Normally I am expected to keep:

                1) Weekly Safety Meeting Reports (required by California OSHA).

                2) Daily manpower reports (who was on site and what time they arrived and departed).

                3) A foreman's log, which details what was done that day, problems that occured, delays caused by other contractors, supplies delivered, rental equipment on site, and sub-contractors on site.
                the dog


                • #9
                  Re: Question - Legal Protection

                  I make sure my bids on remodels or additions are priced right to where I am comfortable I won't have to rush, or price shop for stock.
                  Underbid and lose my shirt or put myself into situations that may jeopardize my livelyhood, overbid and free up time for the next job, Utah Mark's quote states it all.
                  Always document in detail what the contract is for, and what it doesn't include...i.e. existing plumbing thats not exposed may add more to the work.
                  If I'm too nervous to mention these things up front, then there's something wrong...either the customer is too shrewd, or my mind isn't where it should be.
                  Either way, it's best I pass on that job.
                  I was told early on to trust my instincts about potential customers, I opted to jump right in a few times and learned the hard way that advice was correct.


                  • #10
                    Re: Question - Legal Protection

                    Yeah, we keep a lot of records as others have stated as well a pictures and a daily log by the foreman for each job.

                    This does not mean you wont be sued, but when one comes up, flood them with information to review during the discovery phase.

                    Legal action is too easy these days. We are currently in the middle of a suit along with everyone who worked on the job. Short version is building settled (4-1/2" out of level from corner to corner). This is now 7 years after construction and every building on this road/street is moving big time. Our sanitary sewer broke loos about 5 feet outside the building (this side is the one that did not move much) It broke because the building moved.

                    Right now we spent over $140,000.00 fighting this. They even have the darn painters,floor covering,finish carpenters, INTERIOR DECORATOR, heck everyone who worked on the project. At this time they have not dismissed anyone from the suit.

                    So, yes, protect yourself by all means available.



                    • #11
                      Re: Question - Legal Protection

                      Document, document, document, I cannot tell you how many times my client tells me the GC approved it yet he is still getting sued over it. When the lawsuit comes down (up to 10 years later) no one remembers anything and it is always the other guys fault.

                      "Somewhere a Village is Missing Twelve Idiots!" - Casey Anthony

                      I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!


                      • #12
                        Re: Question - Legal Protection

                        An invoice is a plumbers best friend.

                        I have the lien law and warrenty period listed on my invoice and a flat rate and hourly rate signature line, if I quote the price up front, the customer signs the flat rate line before the job starts and vice versa.

                        My warrenty states 12 months, unless otherwise noted and excludes stoppages.

                        Take pictures, lots of pictures.