Getting Paid: You did the work, but you didn’t get paid

Many business people have sought advice because of an inability to get paid when working as an independent contractor. Often we find that our client did not have adequate documentation to go to court on their own and obtain a judgment for services rendered. Our office has helped business people obtain compensation for services provided despite having no written contract.

Even though a formal contract for services performed was never memorialized in writing, there are ways of proving the agreement existed. To be sure, a contract (with certain important exceptions) does not have to be written to exist or to be legally enforceable.

For example, one way of showing evidence that a contract existed between parties is to demonstrate custom of the parties. Perhaps the independent contractor was paid previously and can show proof of payment via check. The negotiated check can be subpoenaed to show that the parties conducted business in the past and one party paid the other. Alternatively, if you cashed the check at your bank, you can request a front and back image of the check you deposited into your account.

Another approach would be to use the theory of quantum meruit. Quantum meruit is a legal doctrine in contract law whereby a party is entitled to compensation for services rendered, even if there is some deficiency in the contract, no contract, or there was an implied promise to pay for the services. The law does not assume services rendered are merely a gift, but instead that services done or labor performed should be compensated.

Finally, evidence may be available that proves the existence of a contract. There may be witnesses, business records, invoices, correspondence, or emails that demonstrate the business relationship between the parties.

It is unfortunate in these situations when there is no written contract. But our office can seek to remedy that issue for independent contractors which can result in the successful collection of money for services rendered in the future.

Fred Antenberg is an attorney who is located in Columbia, Maryland and provides legal services to individuals and businesses in Howard County and surrounding counties. Call Fred at 410-730-4404.