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Carpentry firm wins $85,000 in court case over underpayment by contractor

A contractor has been awarded more than $85,000 after the Supreme Court ruled the firm was underpaid for work on a string of projects by a developer.

BS&R Group, a carpentry firm, launched legal action against Westport Architecture in 2015 after it claimed it was owed $87,760 for work carried out at three different homes in 2014.

Westport admitted that it had not fully compensated for one of the contracts, but claimed in court that BS&R had breached a deal and inflated costs.

But Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden found that Westport had broken the contract and held back payments on jobs as BS&R general manager Anthony Madeiros worked to finish the customer’s home in time for Christmas.

The court heard that Westport – a partnership of F Stephen West and his son Tripp West – had subcontracted BS&R to carry out work at three homes – Braemore, Trevena and Vista Verde.

BS&R was to be paid $38,475 for carpentry work at Braemore, with extras to be carried out on a “costs and charge” basis at $65 per man an hour plus materials.

The carpentry firm said it was only paid $44,723 of the $47,140 owed, but Westport insisted Mr Madeiros had agreed to a lower cost for the extra work done.

The second contract concerned a “punch list” of work to tackle faults at Trevena.

Westport agreed to pay BS&R at the $65 per man per hour costs and charge rate.

BS&R said the cost of the work reached $35,302, but they only received $3,500.

Westport accepted that they still owed Westport the bulk of the cash, but said the total cost of the work was $31,399.

The final project related to the construction of wooden cabinets for a kitchen and living room at Vista Verde, along with a kitchen island.

It was agreed that BS&R would be paid $80,000 for the fabrication work, but it was disputed if the installation of the cabinets and island would be included in the rate or charged as a separate job.

BS&R later invoiced Westport for $93,540, including extras, but Westport only paid $40,000.

Westport claimed the cabinets were not built to the specifications, were not completed on time and that BS&R left the job before it was finished.

But BS&R insisted they were given the wrong measurements at first by Westport and that the work had been slowed by two hurricanes, as well as by slow progress by other subcontractors on site.

The firm added said they had left the project before installation of the living room cabinets because it was made clear that they would not be paid for their invoiced work.

The court heard evidence from Timothy Berry, an expert witness, who said that some of the costs associated with the “extras” slightly exceeded reasonable costs, the majority were appropriate.

Mr Justice Mussenden found that while BS&R had offered Westport an $800 discount on the extras for the Braemore project, but there was no evidence it had been accepted or that BS&R had ever agreed to an even bigger discount as claimed by Westport.

He also ruled that there was no reasonable excuse for Westport to withhold payments to BS&R for the Trevena job and there was no evidence the invoiced fees were excessive.

Mr Justice Mussenden found in a recent judgment that in the case of Vista Verde the living room cabinets were completed, if not delivered, and BS&R was entitled to payment for the work.

He said: “Mr Madeiros pressed on to do the other tasks so that the homeowner could have a working kitchen for Christmas.

“This goes to his credit especially as he was working on non-carpentry items such as drilling boreholes in masonry and shopping for trash cans as well as earlier helping Frederick West to fix the muffler on his van, as well as helping him, with payment, to board up his house before hurricanes struck Bermuda.

Mr Mussenden added: “On the contrary, in my view, Tripp West was withholding the payment for the completed work at the Braemore job.

“I also find that Tripp West was withholding the significant payment that was outstanding for the Trevena job in order to get the Vista Verde cabinets delivered and installed.”

He said, although there was no agreement in the contract about extras at Vista Verde, e-mails showed that BS&R notified Westport extra work would fall under the $65 per man per hour rate.

Mr Justice Mussenden awarded BS&R $2,417 for the Braemore job, $31,802 for the Trevena work and $53,124 for the Vista Verde contract.

But he also awarded Westport $1,500 for an appliance removed from Vista Verde and $65 for a painting “touch-up” job at the house.

The reductions resulted in a final award of $85,780 to BS&R.

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