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First call from an attorney


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Well after 8 years in the business I got my first call from an attorney. Evidently the seller didn't disclose to the buyer that they have a problem with water getting into the duckwork, which is in the slab. I always open the registers when I see them in a slab and take a picture. My question is this. I did a phone interview with the buyers attorney twice and now they are sending me a questionnaire to fill out asking me what my advice would have been if I'd seen water in the duct. Should I charge the attorney for my time to fill out the questionnaire or should I just do it and go about my way, not wanting to stir any waters?

I can only tell you what I'd do.

After one or two phone calls, I'd explain that I'm available to provide litigation support for hire. I'd give them my litigation support/expert witness contract, tell them to look it over and, if they want to hire me, sign on the bottom line. I'd then collect a retainer.

If they declined to hire me to do litigation support, then I'd gently explain that I fulfilled the terms of my contract with regard to the home inspection and I'd politely refuse to spend any more time on the project without compensation. If they were to subpoena me to testify (highly unlikely) then I'd be a witness of fact. I wouldn't give any opinions; I'd just confirm what did and did not happen with regard to the inspection.

If they decide to sue me, then so be it. I'd call my insurance company and get them involved. Giving away free questionaires isn't going to prevent that.

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a friend of mine had this problem years after they moved into their house. After much drywall replacement and moving the ductwork into the attic I found the problem when we added a bathtub adjacent to the existing tub. A cheap chrome trap had been installed under the tub, rotted out and all bath water for X years had drained into the ductwork [:-taped] The same could have happened at my in-laws house but they had me replace the shower pan (lucky coincidence) before it became an HVAC issue.

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Just a note on - "which limits my liability to 180 days and on top of that the statute of limitations in Arkansas is 1 year from date of inspection." if you offer any free opinions AFTER the 180 days or the statute of limitations, in almost all jurisdictions, a good attorney will say that you have voluntarily extended that time limit by answering any questions and the day count starts all over. Not so if you say "Sorry, but a new agreement for my opinions must be signed," even if the new agreement is for free.

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