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I was working on a project over the last 6 months - originally i estimated 40 hours however due to client changes it spiralled out to about 100 hours. This was in Australia.

The client originally found a new developer who was supposed to work along side me but ended up taking over the project as he convinced them to rebuild the project another framework. I said I wasnt confident taking it on and the client ended up terminating the contract and going with the "supporting web dev".

Sometimes I would take 2-3 days to reply to emails and the job still wasnt finished that we agreed upon and I will admit my code wasnt the absolute greatest but it worked. Overall I was unhappy with the project and the client but continued on to try at least finish the job.

The only part in my contract that specifies anything relevant is that if the client was unhappy they could terminate me - apart from that there was nothing else about needing to finish the job.

I'm just curious here if the client would have any right to sue? They have indicated before when I didnt reply for a few days to threaten legal action but im curious if they are just talking tough?

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  1. You gave them an estimate. Not a definite promised delivery date. So they can't claim that a longer timeline breaks your contract. They were free to pull the plug at any point. As long as you kept them in the loop.

  2. You produced a working demo/complete solution to what you were originally agreed to do. Mission accomplished.

  3. They changed their minds about goals when they talked to the second developer. It's not your fault that they didn't know what they really wanted when they gave you the go ahead.

  4. 2-3 day delay in correspondence for this kind of project is not a big deal (absent an agreement otherwise).

Think they are just trying to scare you into giving them a refund that they know they aren't actually entitled to. They will look foolish for having paid twice to get their project done.

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Threatening legal action ("talking tough") is, as you've rightly stated, merely a basic business tactic to get people to do things they might otherwise not, in this case presumably offering a refund. Until you receive an actual communication from their solicitor you've got nothing to worry about, and even then the odds of ending up in court justifying your business practices are essentially nil.

In this instance the relationship appears to soured. You admit that the project was poorly coded and that the spec spiralled out of control, ultimately leading to them taking on a second developer who's evidently convinced them that you're an incompetent and that he needs to start almost from scratch.

In short, you've nothing to worry about legally but you should refuse to return any money that they've already paid for the work that you carried out. By the same token, it's unlikely that they'll pay you any outstanding monies and it's unlikely you'd win a court case fighting for it. Simply break off the relationship and advise them that it's at the advice of your own solicitor.

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