San Bernardino, CA asked in Construction Law and Contracts for California

Q: I have been sent a lawsuit threat for using design builds from a contractor business.

The lawsuit was sent as a text message and stated

“To whom this may concern,

This message is to inform you of the filing of an LLC for (JC construction) Your willful involvement in the forming of (J and C construction) is a legally binding contract and acceptance of all terms and agreements decided by (JC construction) from this day forward. This letter is to inform you that you are no longer allowed to build retaining walls in the style that you were taught by Joey A Pierce. Failure to comply will result in the pursuit of legal action. Response to this letter is not necessary. This letter will be followed by contact by legal representation of JC construction LLC.

Best regards, JC construction”

How should I proceed?

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3 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Construction Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, the enforceability of such a claim in the text message you received is questionable. Generally, merely learning a skill or technique from someone does not create an enforceable right for them to prevent you from using that skill, especially if it's a common method in the industry.

The formation of an LLC and any terms or agreements related to it would typically require explicit consent and a formal contract, not just a unilateral text message. If you have not signed a non-compete agreement or a contract that includes specific clauses about using certain construction techniques or styles, it's unlikely that they can legally enforce such restrictions.

However, it's important to review any contracts or agreements you may have had with JC Construction or Joey A Pierce.

If you receive further communication or legal action is initiated, it would be prudent to consult with an attorney to discuss your specific situation and rights. They can provide guidance on how to respond and defend against any potential legal claims. Be sure to keep a record of all communications, including this text message, as they could be relevant in any legal proceedings.

Nashir Ahmed Kushol agrees with this answer

Nashir Ahmed Kushol
Nashir Ahmed Kushol

A: Firstly, regarding the lawsuit threat:

1. Evaluate the Formality and Legitimacy: Typically, legal actions are not initiated via text message. Official communication for legal matters is usually conducted through formal channels like certified mail or legal counsel. The informal nature of a text message is unusual for legal notices.

2. Understand Copyright in Construction: In the realm of construction and design, copyright generally protects artistic creations, but not functional elements. For example, architectural designs can be copyrighted, but common construction methods and functional aspects like retaining walls may not qualify for copyright protection. The concept of "style" in construction can be somewhat ambiguous from a legal standpoint.

3. Review Any Contracts or Agreements: If there was any contract or agreement signed when you were learning or working with Joey A Pierce, review those documents carefully. They may contain non-compete clauses or other terms that could be relevant.

4. Consult a Lawyer: Given the complexities of copyright and construction law, and the potential legal implications, it’s advisable to consult with a lawyer who specializes in these areas. An attorney can provide legal advice based on the specific details of your case, the applicable laws in California, and the nature of the construction work involved.

5. Do Not Ignore the Threat: While the method of communication may be informal, it's important not to ignore legal threats. Document the message and any further communication related to this issue.

6. Prepare Your Documentation: Gather any evidence or documentation related to your work, designs, and interactions with JC Construction or Joey A Pierce. This could include contracts, correspondence, design materials, and any other relevant documents.

Remember, this guidance is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice. Each legal situation is unique, and laws can vary widely in interpretation and application. A qualified attorney can offer advice tailored to your specific circumstances, and provide representation if needed.

Tim Akpinar
Tim Akpinar
  • Construction Law Lawyer
  • Little Neck, NY

A: You could consult with an attorney to sort this out - one of the first things you'll be asked is if you have a non-compete, NDA, or related agreement. Good luck

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