San Diego, CA asked in Contracts, Business Law and Collections for California

Q: A freelance client owes money and won't pay. Can I use equipment I have from their company as collateral?

I performed hourly consulting for a small company. They were developing a drone and paying weekly through upwork. The scope of the project exploded from something simple to developing the whole drone. The initial timeline was three weeks start to finish. Initially my role was limited and clear. The change was acceptable because he committed to paying regardless. Near the end he said he could not pay and there was a sticking point that nobody else could solve, so I offered a day of time that he would then pay for, since his client would then pay him. It became a week. He brought some other engineers who were inexperienced (and would work for free), took the drone for testing and against my recommendation tried to fly it and crashed. Now he is saying it failed, does not have the money but wants peripheral hardware (such as extra flight controllers and cameras) and all my work (that hasn't been paid for). I made an error stepping outside upwork, it was high pressure work.

1 Lawyer Answer
Joel Gary Selik
Joel Gary Selik
  • Collections Lawyer
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Licensed in California

A: You cannot keep property that belongs to them that they provided to you and which is not your work. If they own the drone, you must return it.

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