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[In canada] A small company recently asked me over email if I could do some work related wordpress blog posting for one of their clients. I never signed anything, just said it would be about $200. We never set a timetable, and the work was defined as, upload some blog posts, install and configure some plugins, change the navigation menu. All through email.

I did the majority of the work and then was asked to wait until their client finished creating their content. I waited and forgot about the project. Two months later I receive the content and was asked to put it up on the site. They also asked to me write a document on how to post content. I threw that in and asked if the project was considered complete. They said yes. Before I could create an invoice, they came back asking questions about search engine analytics and if I could look at that account. I looked at it for them and they asked if I could add it to the site. I said yes and did. No additional fee's or monetary reimbursement was discussed for this update.The original bill has still never been produced.

It is possible that the code injection was bungled. It looks like the script was accidentally placed inside another script - invalidating the data collection. I did test the analytics after, and it was working, but I don't know if this is an error that takes time to propagate. I also have no history of knowing who else was potentially editing files.

I was asked about the error rather bluntly, and because of previous stress related to communication with the project, I said if it was my fault I am sorry and I will forfeit the original bill and we can not work together again. I also said I would fix the error no matter their decision.

I haven't heard a response and I am really stressing that I made a fundamental error here and opened myself up to a lawsuit I can't afford. I am not even a freelancer, I was just referred from my employer to help these guys as they were looking to cut costs on the project...

Like I said, I am stressed, any advice on how to deal with this?

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I wouldn't be so affirmative about "you didn't assume liability" on the grounds that nobody signed a contract. There has been pre-contractual discussions and work was performed based on these discussions, under mutual agreement, so technically speaking the commercial agreement was established, and "by default" rules will hold.

Anyway, being sued for such a small stake is completely unrealistic and will not happen.

What you should do

  1. relax,

  2. rewind the statement "I will forfeit the original bill and we can not work together again",

  3. repair any harm done, for free,

  4. invoice them all the work performed, on a constant hourly rate. Clearly list the work package that you estimated $200, and the additional work,

  5. continue the good relations with them.


Think for a second: these guys want their website to function, at a moderate cost, which is exactly what you offer. They have no need for a stupid trial that will cost them 20 times as much, last for a year and not help with the site.

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You're fine.

I'm not from Canada (Maine, USA checking in), but if nobody signed a contract, you didn't assume liability. You have proof that you were asked to do work on the site (emails) and that means you were legally accessing their system. Without a contract, the only thing they could go after you for would be unlawful access, AFAIK.

Also? If they're looking to cut costs down to $200 that they still haven't paid you? They can't afford a lawyer.

  • Michael, courts can infer a contract if there is an offer and acceptance (even without an explicit document), and most especially if the work was actually performed and received by the client. – Xavier J Oct 8 '15 at 16:12
  • Liability for work for which he has not been paid, whose original scope was outside of the established statement of work, and which others were altering in the meantime? Nah. Naaaah. If I, as a mechanic, am paid to fix your petrol burning car, and do so, and am then asked to fix some other part of it, and do so, you cannot then sue me for damages when you put diesel in it. OP isn't responsible for keeping idiots out of their wordpress. – Michael McPherson Oct 9 '15 at 16:51
  • Also, if courts can infer a contract, then it would be valid to infer that it is void due to nonpayment. They would be in material breach of any legal contract ever written, if a contract had been signed. – Michael McPherson Oct 9 '15 at 16:53
  • A contract is voided due to nonpayment -- huh??? That makes no sense. – Xavier J Oct 9 '15 at 17:54
  • Sure it does. A contract works like this: I agree to do some work, in return for compensation. You agree to compensate me, in return for some work. If either of us fail to do one of those things, the other party is absolved on responsibility to fulfill their portion of the agreement. Most contracts have clauses detailing what happens next (liability for damages, remuneration for work done, etc), but regardless, that contract has been breached. – Michael McPherson Oct 9 '15 at 19:21

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