Was asked to take a look at work done by a (I’m going to say this early on) non-contractor. A tree had fallen during the early morning hours (I believe it was around 2:30 AM) on the rear sun porch of a 79 year old widow’s home during a late summer storm in 2010. The non-contractor came along that morning. This non-contractor said that the insurance company sent them. Testified to that in court.
Wondering who this non-contractor type is? Well I don’t normally give specific names but this time will be the exception. As a public service. They were Steamatic of a city just north of the Town of about 2500 where the storm had passed through.
The project manager had the homeowner, the 79 year old widow, sign a document that basically said that she would turn over all insurance proceeds to the contractor.
Now don’t blame this elderly women. She had this tree in her sun porch and a little water damage to the adjoining exterior wall of her home that her and her husband bought new about 40 years ago.
The tree collapsed the roof of the sun porch, wrecked some screens, and damaged one post. This porch had no glass except for a window on the wall it shared with the dwelling. That window was not damaged and neither was any of the siding on that wall. The porch was wood framed screens and posts.
After the “You pay us everything” document was signed, the “project manager” did up an estimate. One of two or three presented in court...Confused the judge and myself....The estimate was almost $26,000.00 . It included a new roof for the entire home and some other work that was done that was not the result of the storm or tree. The local insurance agent OK’d it. That right there makes me wonder... he sends this non-contractor and then OK’s a bloated estimate.....
This non-contractor did not pull a permit even though the municipality’s ordinance requires one for almost any amount of work. The dollar limit that triggered the need for a permit is less than $1500 in that Town. And it didn’t matter if it was a repair, renovation, addition, remodel, window replacement or new construction. But Steamatic did not bother to get a permit and of course didn’t get any inspections. Steamatic did not provide a copy of the “Right to Cure” law brochure to the home owner either as required by State law. The “project manager” testified in court that he didn’t even know about it.
The reason I was called is because Steamatic was suing the homeowner for the final $10 grand of the insurance check. The homeowner, one of the sharpest 79 year old women that I’ve ever met, had asked for copies of the estimates and then got copies of the invoices from the subcontractors that Steamatic had used to do the work.
The estimates from Steamatic were grossly inflated from what work the subcontractors had actually done. Steamatic turned in a bill to the insurance company that included an extra 400 square feet of Cedar board and batten siding, 400 square feet of painting, 50 linear feet of 2x - 8 foot high stud wall and more extra “work” listed than I could believe. The screened sun porch was only 10 feet x 15 feet.
Why did I get called? I wasn’t the AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) for that municipality. The widow got my name from a Wisconsin DSPS Safety and Buildings employee. I spoke to the homeowner on the phone and went to her home out of curiosity as the homeowner claimed her new roof was leaking.
I’ve never seen such bad leaks in a new roof or a twenty year old roof for that matter. And while I was there I found electrical Code violations in her sun porch’s ceiling as well as other building Code violations done by Steamitic and company...
Her roof had a 3:12 slope and the ice and water shield had not been installed per Code and the roofing underlayment had not been installed per Code. And she had leaks.. She had no leaks before or after the storm. It wasn’t until the roofing sub tore off and replaced her roof that it started to be a problem. That’s why she held back the $10 grand.
She had a real nice 1970's style home. Well kept and in excellent condition. Except for the now leaky roof and the newly water stained ceilings.
The homeowner’s attorney asked me to be the expert witness in court. I testified and answered questions from the Judge and was cross examined. I was on the stand for probably 45 minutes.
The judge did not seem interested in the technical stuff and numbers on the estimate compared to the work that was actually done. And he must have flunked arithmetic because he wasn’t following much of anything. He was more concerned with my qualifications.
The owner of Steamatic was on the stand for quite some time as was her “project manager”.
Ever see what a little kid does when they aren’t ‘fessing up to the truth. They look down, to the left or right.. Can’t make eye contact. When Steamatic’s owner was having a problem with the testimony she was giving (that’s my way of saying she was BS’n or out and out lying) her body language gave her away. Too bad. She had a nice figure and was an attractive women. Kinds hurts when your body language gives you away.
In that Court room the Judge does not have a good look at the witness’s face while they are on the witness stand.... like Judge Judy does.
So after 3 ½ hours the Judge is giving his decision. I stayed to see how things would turn out. I felt the young gal who served as the homeowner’s attorney did an excellent job. She was patient, respectful and no push over. Steamatic’s attorney was a jerk. When the 79 year old widow was on the stand he questioned her with “on what day? At what time?..” stuff like that about letters she had written and small little details in the matter that had no bearing on the roof leak or Code violations. That jerk of an attorney just nicely verbally tried to embarrass and frustrate the owner.
Don’t tell me that was his job... He’s a jerk. If that was my mother, I would have had a hellavu time holding my tongue and not wanting to lower a little heaven with him afterwards.
Back to the Judge’s reciting his findings and judgement. Well I didn’t make it through his little dissertation without getting up and approaching the lawyer’s table to tap her on the shoulder and blurt out “The judge doesn’t realize they replaced her entire roof.” I then turned and quickly made my way back to my seat. She then spoke into her microphone and diplomatically rephrased what I just said.
When I was on the stand I countered the amount of ice and water shield the contractor said he used and did the math on the stand for the entire roof. “54 feet long,.... a roll is 3 feet wide, 54 times 3 equals 162 square feet etc etc etc. The Judge wasn’t following that, didn’t care, or had already made up his mind. The contractor claimed he used two rolls. What an idiot....
You see the Judge had begun to rule that the “you pay us everything” document the widow signed was a “contract”... even though the estimate with dollar amount was created after the widow had signed the document. The Judge bought that the water spots on her ceiling were caused by condensation per the BS’g testimony of Steamatic’s so called “project manager”. Even though I specifically called them leaks and attributed them to the improper use of underlayment and ice and water shield on a low slope roof.
After my interruption of the Judge’s dissertation of findings and rulings the Judge did a little back pedaling. Not the best. But the widow was awarded, that is, allowed to keep about $3500.00 for roof and ceiling repairs and a few bucks for the Code violations. Not enough in my book but it was better than nothing. The judge did not use a contractor’s estimate supplied by the widow during her testimony for the repairs but took a number Steamatic tossed out there at the end. Why? I don’t know... To save face???
This may be disrespectful, but that Judge needs to step down. That County has a part time Judge that serves two counties. The lawyers were respectful of his mannerisms and I suppose they are all attorneys before they become judges and as we all know, sharks don’t attack each other.
I felt sorry for the widow and told her attorney that I was waiving all my fees.
I suppose I could have been found in contempt of that Judge’s court for my interruption to his half baked ruling.... but it was worth the chance I took.
I wrote this late on Christmas day 2011. Be sure that at the final judgement my Lord and Savior will also be my attorney, I’ll be guilty as hell, the opposing party will be there scaring the hell out of me. The Judge will hear him out and rule in my favor because my attorney will have paid the price 2000+ years ago on the cross. Amen? Amen!
I won’t have to do time in eternity with crooked contractors...!