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Client trying to sue

Client trying to sue



4:25 am on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have a client that has completly neglected paying me and feel that he had no intention of even doing so. It started as a slow process of approvals and getting content from them and has dragged on for four month's now.

Their website has been completed and online for a month and a half and I had not seen a dime from them so I took it down. I tried my best to collect, but they kept blowing me off and making up excuses.

This morning I get a call that he is going to sue me for taking it down! For What!
It was definitley my mistake for not having them sign a contract, but I have had little problem with the small "Ma & Pa" Business's so now I have learned my lesson the hard way.

I did however contact their previous hosting provider and recovered their old website and when I went to upload it, and they have already changed their FTP information. So I uploaded it to my server for them to download.

So they walk away with the same thing they had before plus that I saved them $300.00 / year in hosting and I walk away empty handed and them trying to sue me!

Any advice?


4:49 am on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I've seen some cases like this where the client tries to act tough even when they have no grounds to do so.

If they haven't sue yet, consult your lawyer or an association that speak on behalf of your industry's vendors, to contemplate suing them first. If they have already sued, counter sue.


2:05 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I did contact a lawyer and they suggested that I counter sue them.
Ahhh. What a pain.


2:44 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Everyone should sign contracts.

Everyone designing, marketing and "doing" website in general should upload to your own server, get paid and then transfer it over.

Not think?


3:18 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Clients from hell appear from time to time... deal with it learn and add it to your cost of doing business.


3:57 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Sound's like they are going to follow through with their lawsuit attempt. I cannot even imagine what they think they will gain from this.

Without making up lies, I dont think there is anyway possible way they can even turn this around on me. We dont even have any legal contracts binding an agreement.


4:00 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Clients like this can and will sue.. it can be unpleasant.

cut it loose as early as possible.


4:14 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

But what can they sue me for?


4:20 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Without going into specifics - what I have found is that anyone can just up and sue anyone for anything.. It can be ALL lies, it can be vexacious, it can be lacking in substance, it can be any jolly thing...

BUT, they can still do it. and if their lies fool the court, you can loose, no matter how right you are.

So, all I am saying is to write them off and deal with them early rather than have it incur further costs - even if you have done no wrong.

They will wear it in their conscience.


4:26 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have tried doing this and they will not respond to my rational talks and messages I have left them.

They seem to have their hearts set. They did call a co-worker of mine at work to tell him he was going to make my life a living hell.

They are out of control. I just wish I would have never accepted this project.


4:32 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Clients from hell tend to be out of control... so you need to pull back... think rationally, record all conversations, document all correspondense. What are they trying to get from you? is it punishment? is it cash? What will bring the best resolution for you?

If they are threatening or harrising you - go to the police. Get it on file.

document everything... don't think that just because you have done every thing absolutely right that people will not try to pull you down and try to hurt you.


5:17 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

It's really worthwhile consulting a lawyer as we can't give legal advice here at WebmasterWorld.


5:44 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Are we talking about hundreds of dollars, thousands, etc?

When having to make a decision like this, you should discard sunk cost (the time and money spent previously doing the work) and look at costs going forward.

Regarding the whole lawsuit/legal hassles: How much time, money, and frustration will you have to spend working going this option? Then multiply this amount times the % chance of success.

Compare this dollar amount to the amount of money you could earn taking that same time, money, and emotion into a new project.

Which number is greater?

I have learned over the years that there are people crazier than me, richer than me, and have more free time than me. One alone is usually not a problem, but when you take 2-3 of these characteristics then watch out!

I have been in similar situations and can imagine your frustration. It is also tough to let go of a situation when you know you are morally and legally in the right. You just have to figure out at what expense you are willing to go to prove it.

Good luck


6:21 pm on Jan 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I billed them at about $1,400 which was more than reasonable for the site they recieved.

I just want out and am willing to take the short end of the stick. I just think they are going to keep at me out of spite.


2:05 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

godyak, for only $1,400 I believe I would just give the site to them - after you receive a full release that your attorney writes up.

Any lawsuit or cross-complaint is going to cost you $thousands more than the $1,400.

Depending on the country, the lack of a contract can actually be beneficial to your case, since what was not provided by the client and created by you is often owned by you unless a "work for hire" agreement was in place.

But at this point, I would recommend that you talk to your attorney and bail out of the mess for the least amount possible without incurring added legal expenses.



3:03 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for the advice everyone!


7:46 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It get's better now..

I checked the website today to see if they had uploaded their old site and sure enough they had contacted their hosting provider and had them restore all my webfiles!

Before I uploaded their website to their server, I created a backdoor in fear of them doing something like this. The question now is do I run the query to delete the critical files? I would hate to have to go this route but this is considered theft. I would definitley just leave it alone if he was not planning on sueing me.

They contacted a sales rep at my place of work to tell them that he knows that he knows he will not be able to get any money out of me but is still going to try and sue me so that I have to go through the trouble of court costs and ect..

What a pain. Lesson Learned.


7:57 pm on Jan 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Before I uploaded their website to their server, I created a backdoor in fear of them doing something like this. The question now is do I run the query to delete the critical files? I would hate to have to go this route but this is considered theft.

Absolutely not... that would look bad in court.

I would file a claim in Small Claims court if you can for that amount.

Even without a contract I assume you have some paper (email) trail of what you were to do and how much you were charging for it?



8:04 am on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Take this as a learning lesson and walk away. You screwed up in the following areas from what I can tell.

1. You didn't have a written contract that specified the terms. If you did, this would be a no brainer. I've had a few clients like this that hired an attorney, and once I talked to their attorney or their attorney saw the contract, the whole thing ended rather quickly. People who haven't been involved in lawsuits are usually the first ones to threaten to sue. If someone threatens to sue right off the bat I pretty much know they don't have a clue, because a lawsuit is the last thing you want to deal with even if you win.

2. Come up with a billing system that helps to limit your losses. Get payment for every X amount of hours worked for larger projects, and if you take checks then payment has to be upfront and the check has to clear before doing any work. My contracts require checking account information, and permission to debit the account for authorized work performed (with an accompanying signature by the client authorizing up to X hours for the project). It also states that I will do a partial billing for every 8 hours of accumulated work. If it's under 8 hours I bill after the work is done. Some clients like to just authorize 8 hours at a time so they can judge how things are going, and that's fine.

For creating check drafts you can purchase check writing software fairly cheap and some of the magnetic ink that is required. Some clients don't like giving out their bank information, but I've never had that be a real problem. The client is fully protected, they can reverse drafts with a bit more work than reversing a credit card charge. Plus the bank info is the same that is on the check they would send you anyways.

Or you can use paypal or get a merchant account. Anything is better than accepting checks.

Fortune Hunter

7:52 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


I would take a little different direction on this. You are basically letting yourself be pushed around by someone that is clearly in the wrong and has taken your work for nothing and is using a lawsuit to scare you away from collecting from them.

Yes, you did make some mistakes by not having a contract and that would have helped a lot in this situation, but that ship has sailed, fight with what you have. If he sues you he is going to have to do it in small claims court since the amount is under $3,000 and in small claims court you don't need a lawyer, you simply go in and tell the judge your side of the story and he tells his.

You can also counter sue in small claims for the $1,400 you are owed and bring proof the actual work was done. If you restore his old site whatever case he had against you will probably fall apart in front of the judge since at that point he has no monetary damages done to him. On the other hand your case against him will probably stick if you can prove you did the work and are owed the money.

Unless you are a rich person with lots of assets you actually are a hard person to sue for him. He has to find an attorney that will take the case and most attorneys won't do that unless they think you have so much money they can soak you for a settlement out of court and hence will work on contingency.

If you look like you don't have much the attorney will tell this clown that he will take the case, but he will have to pay as he goes. See how much his appetite for a fight continues when he has to start writing checks to an attorney over a $1,400 web site. I would guess the problem will vanish as fast as it started.

Lawsuit or no lawsuit in your situation I would not give up my work just to make it go away. That is simple legal blackmail. I would at best give him back his old site and walk away, but most likely I would file my own claim against him in small claims to get my money.



9:45 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You might send a DCMA demand notice to their hosting company stating that the site is your copyright and they have no right to it. Have it sent from a lawyer and that might help. That will at least might make them want to work it out.


2:04 am on Jan 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for the feedback.

They have since deleted my authorship signature from the CSS file to make it appear that I did not build the site. I do however have the entire site on my server that they used to populate the database before moving it to their own server.

I have filed a complaint with the BBB and have a lawyer that wants to represent me in exchange for a website. Too funny.


1:07 pm on Jan 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

a lawyer that wants to represent me in exchange for a website.

Get a contract, and have another lawyer vet it. The chances are very good that your lawyer might leave a "hook" in there that allows them to keep you indentured while they never have to agree that the site is complete.

The single biggest issue I have ever had with doing sites for minor cost (and I've done a lot of them) is the "One last little thing" syndrome. They claim that it is ALMOST done, except can you make this one last little change...

This can go on for months.


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