QUESTIONS RELATIVE TO PRESENTATION ON RANDOM LEGAL QUESTIONS 11-12 PART C

QUESTION #11
Slander per se damages? I have read and researched a lot but am still confused. With per se one does not have to prove damages, damages are implied by the statements. So how does a jury determine damages? For example, if I called my professor an uneducated idiot and he proves he is educated that would be like a nominal $1 damage. So how do people justify filing $1,000,000 slander claims?

ANSWER TO QUESTION #11
First of all, I will be answering from the perspective of a California lawyer;
In California all claims filed in the Courts of General Jurisdiction, i.e. Superior Court of California throughout the state, the amount of damages is not be stated in the complaint, other than to state that the claim is in excess of 25k, or below 25k; if it is the latter the claim falls into the classification of “limited jurisdiction matter”, and the other would be “Unlimited jurisdiction matter”.
So if you reference a million dollars in damages in your complaint, your opponent will most likely file a challenge to the complaint called a Demurrer, and or a motion to strike. The matter will be set for hearing and the Court will likely remove the statement of the damage figure from the complaint.

Damages Otherwise—

So, the ‘per se’ classification of slander/ (oral form) or libel ‘per se’ (written expression ) finds it’s origin in the type of things that are being said about you;

If you are being called a ‘criminal’, a prostitute, or there are statements that you have a loathsome disease ( say for instance that you have AIDS) and you don’t etc. ) the requirements of the proof establishing the slander / and or libel are lessened somewhat. But, in no way , do those allegations allow you to make statements within the complaint for large damage amounts.

In all cases, you must have damages of some amount and prove the same, or you have no case.
The two basic categories of damages are economic and non-economic damages.
An example of non-economic is the concept of ‘pain and suffering ‘ in assorted different types of claims.
Economic damages are as they sound, grounded in proof by evidence of the damages that have been incurred by the plaintiff as a result of defendants actions.

In sum, whether in a slander or libel claim/ whether per se or not , ultimately the plaintiff still has to prove and establish by evidence what the pecuniary damages that are incurred as a result of defendants actions / or inactions amount to economically.

So, financial losses caused by , for instance , a loss of business because people believed – in the question example, that the teacher was ‘uneducated’ and as a result of the same the person did not go to this teachers class resulting in a loss to the teacher of a certain amount of money since the student chose another course from which the teacher would not make a profit.

This factual pattern discussed above, is a very simple example but gives the reader the essence of damages. There are entire legal treatises written about different types of damages; how to prove the same and how to prove that they are the proximate cause of the actions of the defendants and that ‘but for ‘ defendant’s actions these damages would not have resulted. These latter two causation issues must be resolved by a preponderance of the evidence before proof of the actual economic or non- economic damages is tendered to the trier of fact.

QUESTION #12

Is it illegal to hire an unlicensed contractor in CA? Can I hire a certified mold remediator from another state? Can I hire a flooring person with several years of experience who is not licensed?

ANSWER TO QUESTION #12
Three separate questions in #12.
First, this is sort of a chicken or the egg question;
By that I mean, it is not illegal for a person to hire an unlicensed contractor in California or a Mold Remediator who is licensed in another state but not in California . There is something to the old adage however, that you get what you pay for.

There are a lot of handyman types who used to have contractor’s licenses, but no longer do so;
There are also lots of handy man types who have never been licensed.

Bottom line is that if the only item of importance to you is cost and not competency, then by all means go ahead a use unlicensed people.

Usually, the unlicensed people are less costly because in large measure they don’t have to incur certain overhead that the licensed persons do have to incur.
However , if you have the unlicensed people you want to use, whether it be an unlicensed contractor or an unlicensed mold remediator, the key is to vet their qualifications and then call and talk to their references.
If you use these folks without doing the same you might very well have taken on a burden that you never expected, such as they start a job for you, take your money, and then don’t complete the job; or they go out of business; or they simply leave the State. At that point you have not only lost time, and money paid to them, but depending upon how bad or incompetent they are /were, you might have to spend more to clean up their mess and then get the job done the right way.

With all of the review internet sites that rate professionals, such as Yelp; such as Alice’s list; or other such services, there is not excuse to not vet any professional person or company with whom you believe you want to do business. On top of the internet review sites is the individual follow up on references to clientele recently receiving the same or similar experiences.

In sum, use your common sense the vet the people licensed or not.
HOWEVER-
Generally, we would recommend that you use licensed people as they have to utilize certain insurances to become licensed. Further, they have to pass certain basic tests for the different type of licenses in addition to having experience that is detailed in their application to the Contractor’s Licensing Board.

The thought process is that if someone is licensed there is a much better chance that they will be able to do a competent job. (Not always the case so vetting is important license or no license).

Within the Contractor’s License Board in California, there are many sub-classifications; and one is well advised to make sure that whomever you hire has the type of license for the type of work you are hiring them to do;

Then are general contractors licenses under Category B- ‘General contractor’ and much of the time these persons can handle a large number of the subspecialties.

However, too, generally General Contractor’s with B licenses will hire subcontractors with specific sub licenses for particular areas and type of work; such as electrical; plumbing; tile and the like. The reader is directed to the website for the California Contractor’s licensing Board for discussion of the types of classifications etc.

Also, if someone is not licensed, not only do you take your chances on the expertise, but too, they, the unlicensed contractor takes a chance as well, as if there is a fee dispute, and they are performing jobs that require licensure with the Contractor’s Licensing Board, then the Court will likely throw out any suit that they might bring in the event the consumer fails to pay the contractor all or part of their stated fee.

Another good aspect of a licensed contractor is that they have to as part of their registration have proof of workmen’s compensation insurance and other type of surety bonds vis a vis completion of their jobs. Also, you as the consumer should not only require licensure, but also, proof of general liability insurance on the job site as well.

Even licensed contractors make mistake and are found negligent, but at least you have a fighting chance that they are reasonable competent.

So, it is Not Illegal for you to use them; but it is technically illegal for them to hold themselves out as contractors if they are unlicensed.
So, ‘buyer beware’; further I would recommend that they provide you with a list of satisfied customers and their contact information so that you can call these people and ask them specifically if there were any issues with their performance/ work etc. charges and the like.

So hopefully, armed with this information all of your questions including the hiring of an out of state mold remediator as well as an unlicensed flooring person should be self evident.

Respectfully submitted,
Steven H. Wilhelm

©Steven H. Wilhelm,A.P.C. 2015

By | 2015-10-28T16:16:09+00:00 October 28th, 2015|