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Termite Legal Issues for Homeowners

Termites are a serious problem in 49 out of 50 states (the sole exception being Alaska).  Decades of litigation on termite issues has given the legal community firm guidelines on the grounds for a termite related lawsuit.

If you are considering legal action, before consulting an attorney you should ask yourself two questions.  How was I injured and who is at fault?

What was your injury?

When considering legal action the first question you should ask yourself is how was I injured?  Injury does not necessarily refer only to physical injury but who also financial loss, or property damage.  So before you consult with an attorney you should consider whether your injury was in the form of monetary damage due to improper repairs, or re-infestation after service or you or your family was injured in some way physical way by inhalation of toxic chemicals, or injury from rotted wood collapsing.

Who is to Blame?

The next question you should consider is who is responsible for my injury?  Was your house improperly repaired by the contractor after treating the termite damage?  Did your termite treatment technician discharge poisonous gas and not give your family proper information to protect yourself?  Did you just purchase a home under the impression that it was termite free and now are surprised the extent of the infestation?

Blame may fall on the shoulders of several parties.  Depending on the laws of your state, the fault may be spread upon several parties or may be accessed on a percentage basis or one defendant may be held responsible for all of the damages even if they are not the only party at fault.

The most common defendant in a termite related lawsuit is the termite control company.  The structural pest control industry is highly regulated, licensed termite companies are required by law to act and treat properties according to tight guidelines.  Because a termite service is so difficult and because regulations are so strict, it is very easy for a termite company to make a mistake or miss something when treating a property.  To learn about state control of structural pest control you can find the law in your state on the following page.

FIND THE LAW IN YOUR STATE

Potential Legal Action

Some of the most common causes of action in termite related lawsuits include: Breach of contract/warranty, fraud, negligence, and strict liability.

Breach of Contract

Breach of contract lawsuits generally arise under two circumstances in a termite case:    1) breach of a real estate contract with a real estate agent or home seller or 2) breach of a termite control agreement with a pest control company.

Breach of contract is a legal concept in which a binding agreement or bargained-for exchange is not honored by one or more of the parties to the contract by non-performance or interference with the other party’s performance.  In honor to recover in a breach of contract case the breach must be as to a material term of the contract.

Click here to learn more about breach of contract and damages recoverable under a breach of contract lawsuit.

Several courts have upheld a known undisclosed termite infestation as a material breach of contract.

Remedies in a Breach of Contract Case

A remedy is legal devise to cure the damages caused in a particular lawsuit.  The most common remedy in a breach of contract case is damages, which you are probably familiar with by its’ non-legalese name, money.

In the real estate contract breach scenario some courts have found that rescission is the best remedy.  The goal of rescission is to put the party back to the place before the contract breach occurred.  So rescission in this case would mean that the sale of the house is overturned, the seller is given the house back and the buyer is given his money back.


Negligence

Another common cause of action in a termite case is negligence.  Negligence is cause of action when the injury you sustain was intentionally caused by the actions of another.

An example of negligence in a termite lawsuit would be if the termite company you hired performed services as contracted but caused further injury to your property or person by mistakes made in servicing the problems.  Say your termite company only treated one section of the house and forgot to treat other problem areas you may have grounds for a termite lawsuit.

A good overview of a negligence cause of action can be found by clicking here.


Strict Liability

Courts have found liability without specific fault or negligence when a parties performs an ultra-hazardous activity that cannot be made safe.  Certain courts have found strict liability applies to cases where a party was injured from the toxic fumes caused by fumigating a home for termites.  Strict liability is not as common a cause of action as negligence or breach of contract and only applies to specific cases.  The only way to know if strict liability may apply in your case is to contact an attorney.

To learn about strict liability for ultra-hazardous activities you can click here.


Fraud

A less common cause of action in a termite lawsuit is fraud.  Fraud denotes an intent to deceive a party resulting in damages suffered by that party.  Fraud may occur in a termite case where a pest control company sells services to a company than intentionally does not perform the services.  For example if you contracted with your pest control company to treat multiple areas of house with termite control products and the pest control company shows up and just sprays some water on your floorboards you might have a pretty good case for fraud.

You can find out more about what constitutes a fraud cause of action here.

Find an Attorney

You can find an attorney that specializes in termite cases through The Termites Public Service website.

Find a Lawyer
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