Ever been sued?

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Dec 8, 2003
There has been tons of talk lately about lawsuits. I’m probably naive as I run my business with reckless abandon and no fear of a lawsuit. Maybe I should reconsider my stance.

Have you ever been sued for something you did or didn’t do at your frameshop? I mean actually served papers and settled before court or as the result of a judgment.

I did a search for the word “sued” and got 236 threads. I did a search for “Sue” and it maxed out the search at 300. A search for “lithograph” yielded 28 threads.

Many of the “sue” hits might be from talk about a lady (or boy) named Sue, but I doubt that makes up a significant portion of the threads.

Again, have you ever been actually sued? Did you have to pay?
Jay, framers who have been sued are probably, for the most part, not active on The Grumble because they no longer are involved in framing.

I personally don't know any framer who has been sued, so any further speculation on my part would be inappropriate.
The person talking about the 3M pump-ons on another thread is the first I have heard of a real lawsuit toward a framer. I guess it could happen. I have always figured the repercussions you would suffer after suing me would not be worth what little sum of money you would get from me.
I read a survey a few years ago which stated that the reason anesthesiologist get sued more often than general practitioners is that patients rarely get to sit down and talk to their gas passers. Most GPs will take the time and just talk to a patient. You generally get to know your primary physician (or used to before HMOs).

This article claims that psychologically people are less willing to sue someone with whom they feel they have a good relationship. It would seem to me that if you were in a situation where you might be sued, it would make good sense from a professional (and personal) standpoint to be as accommodating as you possibly can. I would think if people thought you were trying to deal with them in a fair and equitable manner, even if you had screwed up royally, they would be less likely to take you to court.

But to answer your initial question: no, I haven't.
I too have heard talk of shops that were sued out of existence. I have never heard of why or what the actual out come is and would be interested in hearing more so as to avoid any possible pitfalls.

Jill Hennes
Omro Gallery
My first job as a frame was at a franchise Ben Franklin store in the late 80's. The people I worked for owned 5 BF's. I am not sure if this was a law suit or just a settlement. However, during the early years of Terry Redlin, someone that worked in one of their frame shops had dry mounted two Redlins. When the owners went to sell the Redlins, the dry mounting was discovered. If memory serves me correctly, they ended up settling for $4,000. A lot of money then and a lot of money now.
I have watched Judge Judy so I am practically an attorney. Were the Redlin's worth $4000? If not then why would you ever pay that much for them?

I believe it was John who recently told the story about a 1/4" tear at the bottom of a print 5" away from the image. I think he said he paid $3000 but lawyers would have tried to get $10,000. Was it worth $10,000? $3000? If not then why would you pay that much for it? Do judges typically award settlements 4, 5, or 30 times the value of an item? I realize it’s perfectly legal to sue anybody you want for any reason. That doesn't mean it's legal to claim your losses are drastically more than what they really are. This is why I don't understand this constant discussion of lawsuits and nobody has been sued.

Lawsuits are mentioned everytime we talk about glass, hanging methods, hinging, matting types, drymounting, and conservation framing. Its insanity. Are we really that scared? Do we really frame items we can't afford to buy or are uninsured? I don't know the first thing about law, which is why I asked but as I expected it sounds like a whole lot of to do about nothing!
As I recall, at the time Terry Redlin was just becoming a real hit in the art market. He was really big in Minnesota and North Dakota at the time. Yes, those were some of his earliest and best work. They were worth about $2,000 each. They were also very limited --- not the 60,000 print editions that have been seen in more recent years.

As a new framer, it was a lesson to me about what can be and can not be drymounted.
Jay, here's my opinion about lawsuits against framers. Having never been sued, this is worth about what you'll pay for it.

We should all exercise due diligence - in our framing, our eating, our lives in general.

Having done that, we should stop worrying. If we spend all our waking hours, plus quite-a-few that we should be spending sleeping, worrying about lawsuits, worrying about terrorists, worrying about cholesterol, we will die young and miserable or possibly old and miserable.

I used to wake up with a start around 2 or 3 a.m. and start thinking about stuff over which I have no control or stuff that I'd already done everything humanly possible to avoid. One of the few really useful things I've learned in 27 years of business is when to let it go and go back to sleep. Most of the time I don't wake up at all until about 5:30, which works out well, since that's when I like to get up.

BTW, most of the search results you got for "sued" won't have anything to do with litigation. On The Grumble, to be "Sued" means to be sent to your room by Sue May.

It can be an honor or a punishment, depending on how you feel about your room. I myself have been Sued so many times that I finally had to get an internet connection, a microwave, a little fridge and a camp potty for my room.
If you're sued get the attorney to cap their fees. Go to different attorneys and negotiate the fee, balance your decision on the fee and your opinion of the attorney. If they won't cap it walk away and find another. That's the only thing that almost killed me. It ended up being 3 against 1, the 2 people who were suing me and my attorney who "had to think about her firm." Bah. I learned a lot and lost hundreds of thousands which I'm still paying off 11 years after the lawsuit was filed and 4 years after it was settled. Lots of attorneys are great. You have to protect yourself against the ones who are trying to maximize billable hours in order to work their way up in their firm. If someone wants to sue me now, well, bring it on. I'm battle seasoned and have trustworthy and reasonable legal services at the ready.
Jay ,I have never been sued either .I do however belive that the talk of suits came from the concern about FACTS and other Documents being full of Legalese nad written by lawyers.
I thought the original concern was and still is ;what could the average Framer be held resposible for and why.
John mentioned Paying the $3000 as asettlement not as a decision in a suit.
His concept was he would rather reimburse the client than wait to see what a lawyer MIGHT demand and a court award. Both of which might never happen.However I think we should all be aware of whight may happen ,and practice our trade in such a way that we can defend it even if it does.
Furthemore NO Document makes us less responsible nor more.It is the fact that we are supposed to ALL be profesinals and there by do no harm by what is commomnly excepted and current practices.
PS I also agree that those who have gotten stung may either be no longer Framers or are very reluctant to confess.
Ron & Buddy have it right. Due diligence is the key. Take your customers concerns seriously, do everything you can to make them happy when things go awry.

Make payments to the customer if you can't come up with the amount they think they are due. If the amount is so out of line that it will put you out of business, then heck with it, let them sue you.

It is true that the courts will lean in favor of the consumer as apposed to the big greedy businessman, but if your going out of business anyway, take your chances, who knows, you could win.

Due diligence is the key, do the best you can, try to protect yourself, be nice to your customers.

I find that every business (framer and other kinds) that I know well enough to talk with about this subject admits to having to replace, repair, or somehow "settle" to resolve a situation that may or may not be directly attributable to something they or an employee has done. Most of the "experienced" business people I know contend it is probably better not go to court, just "settle" in some way.

The businesses that I know that were sued (a restaurant nearby - customer sued over a meal, and a customer involved in a car accident) did end up in court. Because the customer sometimes delivered things for her husband in the vehicle, the injured party went after the husbands business. The customer told me that thankfully, they had a very large umbrella policy, which paid for the legal stuff and kept them from bankruptcy.

I have been a witness twice in trials - neither of which had anything to do with a business being sued. Both times I found that you were not allowed to tell "the whole truth and nothing but the truth", but were coached, prompted, cajoled, intimidated, and pressured to say just exactly what the lawyers wanted you to say. After these experiences, I am not sure that I would want to go through a trial, and I can see why the more "experienced" business people say to settle rather than go to court.

I am sorry that the melting bumpon framer had to go through this. I am sorry that 3M had to go through this.

I don't think that FACTS as an organization, or the FACTS documents, make it more likely that a framer will be sued. I would not, however, utilize the documents as part of a sales agreement.

Ya, Ron, I know - delusional paronoia!
I don't ever want to be sued, and my business is set up to avoid that eventuality. Our policies are comprehensive, lawyer-blessed, and posted in the gallery for all to see. We're very careful about customer satisfaction, right from the beginning of every job.

I'm acquainted with two local framers who were sued; I think one probably deserved it, the other didn't. One 'retired', and the other closed 'to pursue other interests'. Both are long gone from the framing business.

When it comes to framers being sued, the best defense is avoidance. Being innocent has little to do with financial survival in our legal system.

If a customer decides to sue the typical small shop framer, he'd probably go broke before judgment day, just trying to fund his defense. A few months of legal defense could add up to a 5-figure bill.
I posted this under the survery section, but FACTS has come up again so I want to repeat it. Forgive me if it's not approriate.

An attorney appeared at a FACTS panel class in Las Vegas a few years ago where Jim and I also did presentations. The attorney said that anyone can be sued at any time BUT in picture framing, if you frame to the standards of the day, you have a better chance of winning the suit and because our industry has not had standards until FACTS you had very little defense. The one suing simply had to come up with an expert witness who would testify that you did not frame to the standards of the day. With FACTS, we have published standards on the website (www.artfacts.org) and available to everyone at any time.. The industry is changing so fast with new techniques and materials, as the document is now, it is flexible.

If you know the materials you use meet preservation standards (do no harm to the art) and FACTS spells out what those standards are, and the manufactures tell us which of their materials meet those standards, it provides protection for us.

Nona Powers, CPF