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MyuserID 01-31-2010 02:01 PM

Can a contractor bill me to fix pipes he broke?
Hi all. I had a pool cover installed and when the contractor was installing it they drilled down into the pool plumbing and broke it in many places. They did fix the plumbing but they presented me with a bill to fix it. The contractor states it's not his fault because "if he was a putting up a picture in the house and put the nail though an electrical wire, it wouldn't be his fault." Thoughts? Thanks!

Bondo 01-31-2010 02:07 PM

Ayuh,... Personally,... I'd tell 'em to go pound salt....

When I'm at somebody's adobe doin' My work,+ happen to trash something,...
I fix it,+ I pay for my Own mistakes...

AtlanticWBConst. 01-31-2010 02:18 PM

If he damaged it = its his fault. He should pay/cover the costs.

He should also be carrying liability insurance as well.

Scuba_Dave 01-31-2010 02:34 PM

Can he bill you.....Yes
Are you legally responsible to pay him to repair damage that he caused ?

I think not, unless something in a contract you signed stated that such a problem might occur
How far down was he drilling ?
My cover the holes only go down maybe 3", not enough to hit any pipes

nap 01-31-2010 02:36 PM

I'm with the others, generally.

there are times when it is impossible to determine a hidden hazard. In those situations, it is the onus of the contractor to inform the customer of the possible hazards, the fact it is not possible to discover them prior to activity, and who will be responsible for any subsequent damage.

Since the contractor is the pro (apparently, in this case by title only), he is the one who would know of the possible problems and either how to avoid them or warn you. If he failed to warn you and give you the option of accepting liability for the damage, it is on him.

Oh, and to his picture hanger situation;

he is wrong there as well. A pro would know how to check for wires and avoid them or warn you of the possible problems and let you decide if it is worth the risk.

if they failed to warn you of a known risk (known to a pro) and there is subsequent damage, it is on him to repair without cost to you.

I have been is situations where I did not know and had no way of really checking for an obstruction when drilling into the ground. I went to the customer and said " I do not know what is down there. There could be <this or that> and if I hit it, it will need to be repaired. Now, I can spend a lot of your money checking for it and when I am comfortable enough to certify it is good to go, we'll go and if I hit something, it is on me or; I can drill with your permission and if I hit something, it is up to you to repair what ever; or we could simply not do this" and hopefully have some alternatives.

MyuserID 01-31-2010 02:44 PM

Hi - thanks for the responses. He didn't warn us of possibly hitting pipes when installing cover. We didn't really have a contract (NJ is supposed to be very detailed and signed by both parties) just an invoice. It's a safety cover so anchors go down 15" or 18". He hit the pipes in 7 places. We didn't know that the pipes were broken until he came to open the pool the following summer. Not sure how he didn't know he hit the pipes but I suspect he didn't do the drilling himself but can't prove this. He did fix the work (took over a month) and then sent us a bill for 2k. Wrote him a letter (certified) asking why he was billing us for this when it was just work to fix what he broke. No reposnse until I got a small claims summons for unpaid invoice almost exactly 5 months later. :(

nap 01-31-2010 02:57 PM

I would simply argue it based on the reason he caused the damage without any notification that there could be damage due to his work. He also did not include any disclaimers that would have given you reason to ask of any possible damage.

if you really want to be a pain to him, you might actually research just how particular NJ is about contracts. Some states would allow you to refuse to pay for work done unless proper contracts are signed and especially if any licensing required by the state is not present.

who knows, maybe you have a counter suit against him for the original work if he was not legally allowed to do it to begin with. Wouldn't that just be a bummer, on his part anyway.:laughing:

Scuba_Dave 01-31-2010 03:01 PM

What kind of safety cover ?
See what their specs list
I have one you can walk on & they only went down ~3"...maybe 4"
Drilling down 15-18" he should have warned you as any pool person would know its possible for pipes to be within that distance

MyuserID 01-31-2010 03:11 PM

We did file a counter suit. We had already paid all of his invoices including the cover. NJ law is pretty strict about home improvement contracts over $500 - have to be in writing, both parties sign etc. Part of my counter suit is over having to pay someone else to install anchors after the suit is over. Even though I know I could argue no contract, and possibly get my money back, he did install the cover and I'm not looking for something for free....just not to get screwed.

He seems to think our pvc pipes were not low enough in the ground. But all the research I have done there seems to be no "code" for them. From what I have read generally they are 6"-12" deep like sprinkler pipes.

It was Coverlon cover. I assumed the included the anchors. It went into paving stones not concrete if that makes a difference.

nap 01-31-2010 03:30 PM


Originally Posted by MyuserID (Post 392303)
I assumed the included the anchors..

and that is one reason NJ requires the contracts. Misunderstandings.

he really could have avoided liability if he had a contract and included a specific disclaimer concerning this type of situation. He failed on both parts. Maybe he will learn how to be a better contractor when he loses this (or, based on what you have stated, surely should lose) but I have my doubts. Most people that do business like this seem to never learn.

Hopefully you did learn that a contract with all the details included is a good thing.

Bondo 01-31-2010 04:18 PM


We had already paid all of his invoices including the cover. He seems to think our pvc pipes were not low enough in the ground.
Ayuh,... In my experince, sprinkler plumbing that's a foot down is Way Deep.... Couple inches is where it's Expected to be....
I'd probably go to court with the reciepts for services,+ materials Requested by you,+ refuse to pay for damages caused by the installation crew...

I don't see how you could be ruled Against...

vsheetz 01-31-2010 06:34 PM

I have a pool - when I am doing any digging, drilling, or similar anywhere near where the pool plumbing could possibly be, I take great care. If I were drilling 15-18" deep (!) I would surely be aware and super careful - and fully expect any workmen I hire to do the same - especially so if it's a pool professional!

I would tell him to jump in the lake, pound sand, and whatever else similar. And I would be really upset over my time and agravation, both in the delay for him to do the repairs and to deal with his bill and suit - I would pursue money from him as compensation...

wnabcptrNH 01-31-2010 07:05 PM

The judge will throw it out. He was doing work in your home and HE damaged the piping therefore he is responsible.

If it were me I would file a claim with his insurance company for the 2 grand and see how he likes that.:furious:

Daniel Holzman 01-31-2010 07:15 PM

This sounds like a legal question, and this is a DIY forum, not a legal forum. I find it curious that anyone on this forum feels they are expert on the very difficult legal question of tort liability for property damage. I recommend you consult an attorney.

spark plug 01-31-2010 07:27 PM


Originally Posted by wnabcptrNH (Post 392429)
The judge will throw it out. He was doing work in your home and HE damaged the piping therefore he is responsible.

If it were me I would file a claim with his insurance company for the 2 grand and see how he likes that.:furious:

You can't file a claim (for damages) with the contractor's insurance Co. You can sue the contractor in Court, and to defend his claim of liability, the Insurance co. will either defend their client (and in the process find a flaw in your lawsuit) or pay the claimed amount of damage to settle the case.:(!

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