Legal Question in Real Estate Law in Maine

I am selling my house. I hired and paid someone to remove trees, mulch, and yard clean up before my open house. They never performed the work. I had the open house and people said the yard was a turn off. I feel this cost me and I had to reduce the price of my house. Can I sue for damages?

Asked on 5/23/19, 5:11 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Jerome Gamache Ainsworth Thelin & Raftice, P.A.

The short answer is that you can sue the company for damages under a legal theory called “Breach of Contract”. Most of the time, the goal of the court is to “return the parties to the state they were in prior to the breach”.

The first place to look would be in the contract itself, as potential damages are usually addressed there. If you paid the company say $1,000, and they did no work, you are very clearly entitled to get back the money you paid them. Furthermore, additional damages maybe be available. One example would be if you had to hire a new company last minute and they charged you $1,500 for the same exact work. In that scenario you would be entitled to not only the $1,000 you paid the original company, but also the additional $500 you needed to spend to remedy their breach of contract.

However, it is unlikely you will be able to collect damages for the price drop of your house. In order to do that you would not only have to prove, by a “preponderance of the evidence” (51%), that the price was lowered due to the condition of the yard, but also that price drop was a foreseeable outcome of breaching the contract. In your example, the yard was an existing condition, the contractor didn’t make the condition worse, they just did not show up to do the work.

Depending on how much you are suing for, you might have a choice of venue. Maine Small Claims allows for damages up to $6,000, plus court costs and fee. Any amount above $6,000 will require you to file in District Court where damages can be higher, but the legal procedures are significantly stricter.

I hope this helps and we wish you the best of luck.

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Answered on 5/23/19, 10:52 am

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