How To Have a ‘Shield of Protection’ and Frustrate Attorneys

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In my last post I talked about where you should source your technical information and what information will and won’t hold up if you end up in a bad situation, like in front of a judge. It isn’t the first time I’ve talked about how to protect yourself in case you get sued. Why all this talk about a “shield of protection” and how to frustrate attorneys? 

Because it’s always the installer’s/refinisher’s fault, that’s why. That’s the first place blame gets put, and it's such a simple thing to use your power and live another day.

The stuff we do is called “place utility,” meaning we don’t deliver refrigerators and expect our pay. Instead, we have parts delivered and “create” a finished product on site. We are artists, and we put our hearts into our product. We have slivers, monkey knuckles, bruises, cuts, sweaty shirts, dirty jeans, messed up shoes and messed up hair to show for it. Sometimes I feel we are at war for our dollar, but it all makes sense when it comes to the completion of the contract and we get the spoils of winning the war: the paycheck. In all seriousness, we do alright. We have a lot to show for our flooring life, and we deserve all the accolades.

To win that war, you need to do some things right.

If someone tells you to drop the flooring and start installing the same day, if you have even a shred of doubt, back yourself up and get the necessary info straight from the NWFA or manufacturer. If not, you’ll be the first to fall if something, anything, goes wrong. Being an installer/refinisher means the buck stops with you, and you have tremendous power to say NO if something isn’t right. A simple phone call to the NWFA (write the name of who you talked to) or the manufacturer’s representative (again, get the name of the person you talked to) is immensely powerful. Ask for an email or text so you won’t forget (it’s not actually about remembering, it’s about validating). Say to the representative, “I don’t have anything to write with, can you email or text me that?” ... then, BOOM, you have that shield of protection.

Keep the NWFA and manufacturer’s guidelines close to the vest, or close to your heart. Rely less on “what Joe said” (see my last post) and back up the foundation of your decision by connecting to the industry standards. Here are some examples of questions I’ve seen asked on the Facebook groups that need to be answered by the manufacturer or industry standards, not other contractors:

Example 1: Should I put sealer over a pink-blocker?

Example 2: Can I really put the first coat of finish over Quick Dry stain after two hours?

Example 3: Can I hot-coat a third coat of finish after 2–3 hours like the can or bottle says?

Example 4: Is Aquabar better that 15-pound felt?

Example 5: Is it okay if nails perforate the moisture retarder membrane when I nail down ¾” plywood to concrete?

Example 6: I’m installing LVP. Should I put the tongue against the wall or the groove against the wall when I start?

You see where I’m going with this? In each case there’s a straightforward answer … a real answer, NOT an opinion.

Many, many times I have made calls to reps and, if need be, asked that they come to my job to help me sort it out. Then, I ask them for an email or text summarizing what needs to be done.

For one customer, I emailed the regional tech of a leading adhesive manufacture and stated what the CaCl test results were, what I was installing over, the parameters of the job in general and what I intended to install. The rep emailed (with his company’s letter head and position with the company) his “sign of the cross” blessing and stated plainly the manufacturer’s warranties would be in full effect after the completion of the job if I adhered to the recommendations stated plainly – and specifically in the email.

It was a technically intense install, and I gave the customer a copy of the email and made them sign receipt for it. I promptly scanned that hand-signed receipt into their customer job folder and backed up my file three ways before I called it quits for the night.

You really have to play this game with a sharp focus if dodging darts and arrows is important to you.

See all of Angelo DeSanto's popular blog posts and magazine articles here.

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