19-SP-1338PL, 19-CV-0169, 19-SP-2622

March 10, 2020

Housing Court, Southeast Division



This matter is back before the court on Defendants motion to alter or amend the judgment entered on January 2, 2020. In his motion Defendants contend and insist that, contrary to the Court's findings, there was in fact testimony and evidence provided that indicates the value of the Defendants' labor concerning improvements made to the premises at issue.

Based upon this representation, the Court again reviewed the documentary evidence submitted, notes taken and also listened to over two hours of taped testimony by the Defendant and supporting witnesses. During that time, the Court found no additional documentary evidence heard no testimony or any other information that would support Defendants' contention that an actual dollar value had been assigned to the Defendants' labor on the premises.

During the aforementioned listening period, the Court heard much testimony concerning what was done, when it was done, whether the Plaintiff was aware of the work and the material used in the repairs. All elements necessary to support a quantum meruit claim were presented with the exception of a dollar value for the services rendered. On the morning of trial the Plaintiff attempted to examine two experts whose testimony was intended to place a value on the services provided but the Defendant objected to the late nature of this expert testimony and the Court sustained that objection. As a result the two contractors were not allowed to testify. After re-listening to over two hours of testimony of the trial at no time was there mention of an actual assigned value for Defendants' labors. Other than the written agreement executed at the inception of the tenancy defining an estimate of labor costs for a specific job in "man days" there was nothing else presented that would allow the Court to assign a value to the labor of the Defendants. During his testimony, Edwin Rivera claimed that he was in fact paid by his corporation in cash for which he had no recall as to amounts paid, that he had maintained no records concerning payroll and that he had no bank account for reasons yet unclear to the court. In short there were no written records of any kind concerning his rate of pay, any written estimates for his labors or any invoices concerning same.

As was stated in the earlier opinion, this dispute between the parties serves as yet another example of the importance of producing agreements in writing and maintaining accurate payroll records or invoices for services rendered. In the case at bar, the Court was presented with quantum meruit claim made by an actual contractor, who evidently failed to keep records of his time or clearly define what he was charging per hour for the labor of he and his crew. There were no cancelled checks submitted, no receipts for labor submitted and further no demand for labor expended on performing the tasks alleged. There is no question materials were purchased and the parties stipulated to the invoices reflecting those expenditures. The simple fact is that no information regarding the labor costs was submitted to the Court prior to the Defendant resting his case.

It is not for the Court to search and blindly assign a value to the labor performed. It had been suggested that the Court look to the cost of materials and multiply that figure to arrive at a certain labor costs. I find that method to be speculative at best and certainly not the proper method to use in determining with any degree of specificity the costs associated with labor. As a result the Court reaffirms its prior decision concerning the Defendants' claims for quantum meruit.

With respect to the other items of work performed by the Defendant, I find that the Plaintiff was aware of the work being done on the premises, did nothing to indicate his objection to any work and has reaped a material benefit from same. Under a theory of quantum meruit the Defendant is entitled to the fair market value of the labor performed on the services rendered. There was at trial however, no testimony presented, expert or otherwise as to the value of services provided and no invoices or estimates for labor. As such the Court is limited in what it may find concerning the value of the extra services provided to the value of the five windows which the Defendant testified cost $144.00 each.

Additionally, I find that the Defendant is entitled to the stipulated value of the materials of $12,700.00, the costs of two dumpsters with surcharge of $850.00 and the cost of the 5 windows valued at $720.00 totaling $14,270.00 to be offset against the judgment for the Plaintiff for unpaid rent.

Based upon the credible evidence submitted during trial and a re-examination of same and drawing reasonable inferences therefrom;

1. Defendants Motion for Judgment notwithstanding the Verdict and/or to Amend the findings and Judgment is DENIED.