Contracts Liability: Exterminators

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Can a Homeowner sue an Exterminator for Failing to Eliminate All Pests in a Residence?

Yes.  For many exterminators, failure to eliminate all household pests has been seen by some courts as a breach of contract.  In most cases, this failure to eliminate pests is usually caused by some form of negligence by the exterminator.

What Must a Homeowner Show to Prove an Exterminator Breached their Contract?

Although states vary on what exactly proves an exterminator’s breach of contract, most pest control cases follow a common theme:

  1. The exterminator, either through advertising or direct warranty, initially promises to eliminate all pests at the time the contract is signed.
  2. After performing the work, the exterminator’s inspection of the house indicates that all pests have been eliminated.
  3. Some period of time passes, usually within a year, after which pests reappear.
  4. A subsequent inspection by a third party reveals some defect in the original exterminator’s work, leading to the continued pest infestation.
  5. The homeowner contacts the original exterminator, who either fails to remedy the infestation, or refuses to honor the initial guarantee altogether.

It is important to note that most pest control cases deal with a specific type of infestation (e.g. roaches, termites, etc.).  Therefore it is unlikely that a breach of contract will be found, unless the infestation relates to one of the pests listed in the extermination contract.

What Kind of Damages Can Be Recovered from an Exterminator?

Along with the cost of the pest control itself, a homeowner may be entitled to other damages as well.  This can include the costs of hiring another exterminator to finish the job, or the homeowner’s costs in trying to remedy the infestation themselves.  In the case of termites, homeowners can even recover for any structural damage to the house.  Some courts even award punitive damages for exterminator’s who do incredibly haphazard work.

Many exterminators attempt to cap damages by including liquidated damages provisions in their contracts.  Courts are mixed as to whether such provisions are valid.  However, most courts agree that exterminators cannot hide from the damages that they create.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me?

If you contracted with an exterminator who failed to eliminate pests in your home, you should contact an attorney immediately to help you assert your rights.  A lawyer can not only determine whether you have a good case against an exterminator, but also inform you on any possible damages you may be able to collect.  An attorney can also find out whether a liquidated damages provision is contained in your extermination contract.

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Last Modified: 08-07-2012 03:22 PM PDT

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