Should You Sue a Client Who Refuses To Pay?

Joan Crawford, Upset Joan Crawford, Client Won't Pay, To Sue or Not Sue, Suing Your Client, How to deal with a client who won't pay, Preston Bailey, Preston Bailey's Blog

Dear Preston:

I am a planner who is in a serious situation with one of my brides. After all of my work and efforts, she will not pay me for my services.  When my bride and I looked at venues, she fell madly in love with one and booked it instantly.  The venue was lovely but had very poor lighting. I mentioned this in my proposal and suggested that she hire a lighting company to provide additional lighting for her guests.  Concerned about her budget, she told me this was an unnecessary additional cost and ignored my warning. Though the florist did a beautiful job with the flowers, she used minimal candles and you can guess how that impacted the design–guests could hardly see the beauty of the flowers.  Fast-forward to the day after her wedding, when she blames me for ruining her big day and refuses to pay me.  I am hurt and angry.  Should I sue her to get my money?

To Sue or Not To Sue
Dear Sue or Not To Sue:
First of all, I feel for you.  Some clients will ignore the advice of an experienced professional thinking they are avoiding additional costs, but they will wind up unhappy in the end.  In situations like this, I like to look at what has gone wrong.  I personally would never have shown my client a venue with poor lighting, and if she wanted one that had this issue and did not want to pay for a lighting company, I would have insisted on additional candles.  This would have been cost-effective and allowed her to have more light, win-win.
I would suggest that you send the client an email and remind her that you did your best to protect her interests, told her that she needed additional lighting and that you provided your services to her.  If she still refuses to pay, chalk it up to experience and move on with a lesson learned.  You do not need the aggravation and negative energy involved in suing a client.
Readers: Do you agree with my advice?  What would you do if you were in this planners position?
(Photo Courtesy of IMDB)
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  • Jasmine Guy

    you provided service in which you informed of concerned and you did due dilligent as a professional. I can’t imagine any court not awarded you for your time and effort. The work you do speaks for itself!

  • Rob Schenk

    Based on these facts, I believe this wedding planner has an excellent case for breach of contract against the client. If successful, the planner would be entitled to the unpaid portion of the contract (and if her contract specifies, his/her attorneys fees in bringing the suit). The suit would go much more smoothly if there was an email communication verifying the ‘warning’ re: low lights at the venue, although this is not fatal to the claim if the Bride denies any such verbal warning was provided.

    But to the more important point- Is it worth it to sue?

    Point One: Even if the planner is successful in court, a judgment is simply a piece of paper that says “Bride owes Planner X Dollars”. The planner will have to COLLECT the money with that judgment. This is an entirely different process and can be quite difficult. If the Bride has no money, the planner won’t be able to get any money from her. “You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.”

    Point Two: Mr. Bailey is ABSOLUTELY right. This should be taken as a learning lesson on how to better serve clients in the future (although a potentially pricey lesson). Lawsuits are not fun, time consuming, and costly. Did I mention ‘not fun?’ Further, no planner wants to have the reputation of suing clients. This is not to say that lawsuits are never an option. They can be extremely effective. But, unless this Bride has truly damaged the planner’s reputation, profession, or otherwise warranted such step, it’s better to walk away.

    Great blog!