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Sued by my Client for her giving me the wrong date for her event

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Had an oral agreement to cater a party and the client geve me a check for 50 % of the agreed cost. The only date she gave me was wrong, her party was a week later. I showed up with all the food and staff. I showed her proff that she had given me a date and never changed or discussed a different date. She has nothing in writing to prove she gave me the correct date. She paid me the remainding 50% without a written contract or any signatures from either of us, which to me implys the oral agreement was valid She sued me in Small Claims and won all of her money back. The Judge said it was because I didnt give her a recipt!! makes no sense I have the only written evidence of the original date that was provided to me, and the client has nothing in writing what so ever.

Should I appeal?

I know it was wrong of me to not supply a written agreement or signatures exchanged but that does not negate the fact that she gave me the wrong date, and the burden of proff was supposed to be on her.

We fufilled the agreement by showing up with staff and food as promised. She did not agree with that and terminated our services.

The judge said it was a very hard decision but would not give me a valid reason for her desicion

Has anyone been through anything like this?

post #2 of 9

Cases like this make me nautious. Its malarkey that she was allowed to recover money that was spent on her food.

This is why caterers cover their azzes 16 ways to sunday with 4 page contracts in size 8 font.Because even WITH

a written contract ignorant judges can make lousy judgements.

What state was this in?

post #3 of 9

Where was the small claims decision rendered?

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Washington State
I have not repaid her and have till Fri to appeal
according to online sites she can get a lawyer and persue it and then I would have to pay his fees too
the judge just wanted to go home as it was her last case and she basically flipped a coin
I have the audio and that's exactly how she sounds
post #5 of 9

This is just my opinion, i have never sued nor been sued... so not gonna be of much help. 


Im sorry to say but IMO, usually the law favors a consumer. Regardless of evidence with no written contract signed by both, it becomes pretty hard to fight back in a situation like yours. You could attempt to appeal, but i think you have more to lose then to gain in a situation like this. 


Like you said you had an oral agreement, you may have a piece of paper stating the date of the event, but it isnt a contract, it isnt a legal agreement, and in any case a good lawyer or even the consumer could simply lie, and that piece of proof could simply mean nothing to a judge etc...


This is why when doing any event you HAVE TO have a few things. I think the basics would be:


-Signed contract (signed by you and the responsible). Detailed, with or without a refund or transfer policy

-A receipt, with date, individual costs or total

-You call confirming making sure... be it 1 week ahead of time or 2 days, you have to double check. If the client is a busy person used to dealing with with things oraly, thats when you watch out, and make sure you have a written document or contract, so a situation such as this doesnt occur. 


Even though she gave you the wrong date, you still didnt confirm, if you did, well you didnt specify on the thread. 

A piece of paper with a date and an audio, could help, but you have to consider you arent dealing with a crime scene. 

You are going to be asked... 

Did you provide a receipt?

Did you provide a contract?

Do you have someone to testify that was there?


In the end this is what really matters, you could appeal, HELL YOU COULD EVEN WIN(the probablility is small).... but it will be annoying to have to deal with this, this client could tell others of the incident in their favor. And thats when you think. Do i really want to go through with this?

In my opinion you have more at risk then your client, you client is only sueing you for the money, he/she has nothing to really lose. 


In your shoes, i would speak to said person face to face, talk it out, give the client the money back, evade getting sued and as well as evade as getting bad mouthed. And simply tell your client up straight. 

"I´ll give you back your money, we end this process, agreeing to disagree, and i won´t cater your event, you can find someone else, this way we avoid personal as well as professional problems, you don´t have to pay me, but at least pay the staff, they shouldnt have to suffer, because of any of us". 


I know this is probably what you don´t want to hear, but this is what i would try to do in the same situation. 


I have worked at a hotel, and everything be it a cup of ice, or a cork screw we would have it written down, and signed, just to keep track, maintain control and have proof. And even then some people would lie and try to get some pocket change back. I also worked at a restaurant that would do at least 1-2 events per week. Everything was written, their was always a contract or signatures exchanged, and we always called be it a day or 2 in advance to confirm if everything was correct.


You arent dealing with family and even if your client was your friend, he or she wouldnt like to have spent money to have it go to waste. 


I wish you the best in this situation, hope you 2 can come to an agreement and hope this situation serves as an eye opener. 

Edited by KaiqueKuisine - 7/31/14 at 8:27pm

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.



Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.


post #6 of 9

Nice post KaKu,raising some good points.

This sounds like a violation of trust to me, doesn't have to be friends or family,

some people are just good at getting you to trust a verbal and a handshake,

and at hiding their willingness to cycle you through an airlock for their mistake.

They'll recall incorrectly, aka lie even in court--wrong, but if it leaves them in

a better position they'll do it.

Just be sure that in future events, prospective clients don't know, or haven't

been referred by, this ex-client.

post #7 of 9

Wow what a heart breaking turn of events. Hope everything turns out as well and no worries, you will be blessed by the "Food Gods" down the road. Great lesson to learn in any business. Unfortunately the laws do favor the consumers in most of these cases. I wish there was a Yelp in where restaurants and other establishments were able to rate their dealings with consumers and customers, would sign up in a hearbeat!!

post #8 of 9


I have to side with the customer on this one. Once you took the deposit, it becomes a binding contract. It's up to you to check on dates and such to make sure things haven't changed. Date, inside, outside, tent, power etc.

You are supposed to be the professional, not the customer. Paying you the balance does not constitute an admission of guilt. It's the legally right thing to do and then leave it up to a judge.

Something you do as a professional all the time, should put the burden of proof on you.

I would be cautious though. If they do retain an attorney they might go for the jugular and run up fees and eventually slap a lien on your house or belongings. If this was me, I would have it as a valuable lesson learned and move on.

Sorry, I know this is harsh!!! but I think the community can learn something here.

BTW it may seem like the Judicial system is on the side of the customer but they usually don't have the experience as the professional.

Depending on your revenue, you should be able to claim it as a loss.

Edited by panini - 11/6/14 at 9:27am
post #9 of 9

Ouch! This is why it is so important to get everything in writing and signed by both parties. If you do events often I would print up some standard contracts where the dates etc just have to be filled in at the time of signing. Otherwise as one of my favourite judges would say just grab the nearest roll of toilet paper and a crayon and put it in writing and get it signed and witnessed.

It may be better for you just to pay up and move on than fight it, which could end up costing you more.

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