Legal Question in Business Law in Texas

I am a chef/kitchen manager in Texas at a new restaurant. As part of our lease, our landlord agreed to install new air conditioning. Unfortunately for everyone, this service was not completed until nearly a month after we had opened, which complicates the problem. During the installation, the electrician caused a power surge, which damaged the motor in our freezer and the controller in our electric smoker, making both inoperable. The electrician admitted fault and offered to pay for product lost in the freezer, freezer repairs, and for a new smoker. While this would have been an inconvenience, that offer would have been acceptable, if both the freezer and smoker were repaired quickly. Instead, the freezer was repaired incorrectly/incompletely on three occasions before finally being fixed completely almost a month after the initial failure. The smoker still has not been replaced. So beyond the initial product loss, we now have additional product loss, as well as nearly 100 hours of additional labor directly related to recovering lost product,inventorying lost product, remaking lost prep items, moving product back and forth between refrigerators, and task redundancy related to not being able to prep items in large batches and freeze them. Basically, my direct losses are difficult to calculate because this menu relies on economies of scale in both production and purchasing. For example, Just being reimbursed $60 for raw, frozen turkey breast does not account for the fact that for nearly a month, we had to purchase more expensive pre-made turkey, at a lower profit. Also, my additional labor was performed almost exclusively by me, a salaried employee. My question is if and how I can calculate my bill to them, and at what point does their liability end? I am not looking to rip off the electrician, but our business cannot afford to lose Money on this deal, and it seems that no matter what we will. Additionally, I cannot as a manager and personally afford to not be reimbursed for the hours lost directly to the lack of a freezer. I realize that the electrician is not liable for the many hours of catch-up that I will work in the next few weeks, but how do I calculate the rate for the hours already lost. I just want the kitchen to eat back to its normal routine, not money, but it seems that is the only way to correct this major setback. What can/do I do? Help!

Asked on 8/05/13, 3:56 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Adam Kielich The Kielich Law Firm
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You're right about the underlying premise that at some point the electrician's liability ends. However, I think most of your financial losses so far are still within reach of the electrician and the landlord. You are entitled to repairs of the equipment, lost profits and additional costs caused by the damage, such as additional labor you had to pay for. Your own extra work would not be recoverable because as a salaried employee you are not paid on an hourly basis. However, if your work on these issues offset other work you would do that would generate profit then you might be able to recover for that lost profit instead.

It's definitely not easy to calculate all of those losses on your own. It would probably benefit you a lot to hire a lawyer to calculate your losses and negotiate settlement with the electrician and your landlord. It should not be terribly expensive to hire counsel unless you have to litigate the issue. If you're interested in discussing the issue further you can reach my office at 817.857.1123 or adam.kielich@kielichlawfirm.com and we could discuss some details and I could give you some price quotes.

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8/05/13, 4:08 pm

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