Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The Law of Paper
At one time I worked in contracts for a major construction firm - at the time one of the five biggest in the nation. Every contractor we hired had to sign a contract that exceeded 100 pages at a minimum. General Conditions (that section which generally says it is our football and our field and we get it our way) ran 64 pages all by itself.
The most important think I learned dealing with contracts was that the last piece of paper was the right piece of paper. So every dispute with a contractor required a letter beginning with the per-our-conversation-of epistle. Whatever a contractor claimed we had to counter with our version and within a few days. Our hope was that they would not counter what we claimed. That made us right, because to not refute our last letter made that letter law.
I try to follow that bit of wisdom in my personal life. But when you are dealing with issues you are personally involved in it can become a bit more difficult. Still I write letters. All the time I write letters.
Yesterday I got to look through two years of documents I had saved on the contractor-from-hell issue. I wrote letters. He didn't. I wanted someone to declare me winner right that moment. Doesn't happen. As I sat in the legal aid office conference room and sorted through my almost three inches of paper I got to relive the emotional involvement behind those pieces of paper. I was stating in each my personal truth and he never countered it. He just went for a lawyer who typed up his lies in a lawsuit and fired it back at me and my legal aid attorney. We fired our truth back.
Tentatively the trial is set for January 20, 2010. He is asking for $21,623 approximately plus legal fees estimated at $16,000. We were originally arguing over $9000. At the time, had he given me the documentation I requested, I would have given him $4000 to just go away. I figured I had already overpaid him $17,000 give or take a thousand or two. I was shocked when the lien on my property was over double what I had been billed for. That shock was on top of the fact the studio had already cost me twice his initial per square foot estimate - a third over his modified estimate for an unfinished addition.
I think he violated mechanics lien law in placing the lien. But now he wants to foreclose on my house and sell it out from under me for a tiny fraction of its worth. Meanwhile the lawyers have just begun generating more paper. So since I had my side organized and copied for my attorney I put it into a fold out folder with 12 slots (debated getting the 26 slot version at Wal-Mart) so from here on out I can keep it organized.
My mistake was considering that he would see the error of his ways. But since he was crazy enough to think himself right in the first place it was stupid of me to think he or his attorney (paid to take his side) would have an ah ha moment and drop it.
My attorney asked if he had a drinking problem. The contractor or the lawyer, I asked.