Wildgoose v. RI Boat Services, LLC, 010721 RISUP, KC-2017-0642

Docket NºC. A. KC-2017-0642
Opinion JudgeLANPHEAR, J.
Party NameL. DAVID WILDGOOSE v. RI BOAT SERVICES, LLC
AttorneyJohn D. Deacon, Jr., Esq. For Plaintiff Andrew J. Tine, Esq. For Defendant
Case DateJanuary 07, 2021
CourtSuperior Court of Rhode Island

L. DAVID WILDGOOSE

v.

RI BOAT SERVICES, LLC

C. A. No. KC-2017-0642

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Kent

January 7, 2021

John D. Deacon, Jr., Esq. For Plaintiff

Andrew J. Tine, Esq. For Defendant

DECISION

LANPHEAR, J.

This matter came on for trial before the Court, jury waived.

Findings of Fact

The Court makes the following findings of fact.

In 2015, Mr. Wildgoose struck a buoy in Narragansett Bay with his vessel, a 32-foot 2006 Bayliner powerboat. Mr. Wildgoose had the boat towed to Wickford Harbor where he obtained an estimate to repair the boat. He used this estimate to receive an insurance settlement but did not have the boat repaired at that yard.

Apparently unsatisfied with the cost, Mr. Wildgoose then brought the boat to RI Boat Services to obtain another estimate, speaking with Gene Messier, one of the owners. RI Boat Services is in the business of storing and repairing boats in Warwick. The estimate of work to be performed by RI Boat Services totaled $34, 339.07 and included the necessary repairs to the fiberglass hull. The bill listed the labor for the fiberglass at $85 per hour. Ex. 1.

Apparently still dissatisfied, Mr. Wildgoose then contacted Raymond Lima, who was the fiberglass subcontractor used by RI Boat Services. Mr. Lima provided a verbal quote to Mr. Wildgoose to do the fiberglass work on the damaged boat for $85 per hour. Although there was no written contract, Mr. Wildgoose authorized Mr. Lima to do the work and paid a $15, 000 deposit to RI Boat Services sometime prior to June 14, 2016.

In May 2016, Mr. Wildgoose delivered a Mako powerboat to RI Boat Services for engine work. Mr. Wildgoose claims he asked for an estimate and never received one. However, the Court finds that RI Boat Services informed Mr. Wildgoose that it needed minor engine repair and provided a rough, verbal estimate. Mr. Wildgoose never responded.

During the spring of 2016, the work on the Bayliner was completed by RI Boat Services and by Mr. Lima. On June 14, 2016, Mr. Wildgoose was invoiced $7146.25 for the completed work (after applying the deposit). Ex. 2. This invoice was prepared by Daniel Dolloff of RI Boat Services. As with the estimate, the invoice listed the fiberglass work on the bill, its routine practice. One of the lines on the invoice reads "LABOR/REPAIR FIBERGLASS/HULL DAMAGE TO BOW/RAY @ 52 HOURS." It states that the price was $100, and the total was $5200. Ex. 2. This invoice is dated April 13, 2016, as all of RI Boat Services' invoices are dated when the account is open, not when the bill is sent.

Immediately upon receipt of the bill, Mr. Wildgoose commenced a tirade of emails. Ex. 3. He first noted that he was going to pay Mr. Lima, and Mr. Dolloff promptly replied that he could do so. Twelve minutes thereafter, Mr. Wildgoose demanded Mr. Lima's telephone number, which Mr. Dolloff provided promptly. On the next day, Mr. Wildgoose claimed that the invoicing was "excessive according to industry standards," complained about the late delivery of the boat, demanded a current bill (although he had just received a bill), and asked if Mr. Lima's business was legitimate. Mr. Wildgoose also asked for Mr. Lima's time cards and appeared at RI Boat Services demanding delivery of the boat by Friday. He also stopped by to speak with Gene Messier. Exs. 4 and 5.

The Court reasonably infers that Mr. Messier was not pleased with the email demands and the threats to Mr. Lima, after RI Boat Services had already worked with Mr. Wildgoose on the bills and completed the work. Mr. Wildgoose responded by asking, in writing, whether his boat would be released before the bill was paid, and the corporate status of Mr. Lima's business. Not liking the response from Mr. Messier, Mr. Wildgoose then approached Mr. Lima. Mr. Lima suggested that Mr. Wildgoose discuss the situation with RI Boat Services.

On June 21, 2016, Mr. Wildgoose sent a certified mail letter which he referenced as a "Notice of Intent" to obtain legal counsel. Ex. 6. On the same day, RI Boat Services paid Mr. Lima $5200 for the work on the Bayliner. Ex. 9.

Although he had threatened to get counsel, Mr. Wildgoose chose to do nothing. He left the two boats at RI Boat Services during the summer and didn't pay anything on the bill. He never informed RI Boat Services that it would not be working on the Mako, he never made a partial payment on the Bayliner (although he recognized that over $5500 was still due), and never informed RI Boat Services what his plans were. The boats stayed at RI Boat Services.

Exhibit 10 is another invoice (again dated April 13, 2016) prepared and sent in September 2016, as it contained late charges through September 13, 2016. RI Boat Services began to add interest to Mr. Wildgoose's bill for the Bayliner starting on July 13, 2016. It charged for summer storage and indicated the boat will be considered abandoned on October 13, 2016. With the boats still there, inactive in the fall of 2016, RI Boat Services shrink-wrapped (a plastic covering) and winterized the Bayliner for the winter to protect the engine from freezing. The Mako, still on a trailer, had already been winterized for the prior year. The Court knows of no response to this mailing by Mr. Wildgoose.

In May 2017, counsel for Mr. Wildgoose sent a demand letter to RI Boat Services seeking to reduce the cost of the fiberglass work and obtain possession of the Bayliner. On June 21, 2017, Mr. Wildgoose was sent a "Notice of Lien" on the Bayliner from RI Boat Services. Ex. 7.

On June 13, 2017, Mr. Wildgoose commenced litigation through counsel which referenced only the Bayliner. After filing suit and in August of 2017, Mr. Wildgoose sent a letter to RI Boat Services indicating that he didn't understand the storage charges on either boat and asking that he be able to retrieve the Mako. Ex. 16. The charges to the Mako were $1305 as of October 2017, mostly for storage. Ex 17.

On or about August 3, 2017, RI Boat Services sent an invoice to Mr. Wildgoose for storage of the Mako for $1044. Although represented by counsel, Mr. Wildgoose sent a letter to RI Boat Services on August 7, 2017complaining of the charges, and suggesting that he had tried to retrieve the Mako. Ex. 16. The Court finds this statement self-serving and not credible. There was no other evidence that he tried to retrieve the boat. Mr. Wildgoose offered no date that he tried to retrieve the boat and referred to no specific demands. Mr. Wildgoose wrote this letter in response to an appropriate bill and made no suggestion that he would pay it. In October 2017, RI Boat Services sent an invoice to Mr. Wildgoose for the Mako storage for $1305.00. Ex. 17. By then, the Mako had been at RI Boat Services for over sixteen months.

After an agreement in June 2017, the Court ordered return of the Bayliner in return for the posting of a bond. The Mako was released in June 2020, after agreement of counsel and after a bond was posted.

There was never any question that Mr. Lima did the fiberglass work, that he subcontracted for RI Boat Services, and that RI Boat Services did the engine work in the spring of 2016. There was never any question about the quality of the work.

Presentation of Witnesses

In State v Forbes, 925 A.2d 929 (R.I. 2007) the high court noted that the lower courts should comment on the presentation of the witnesses, in order to adjudge credibility.

Mr. Wildgoose had been prepared. He was familiar with the documents prior to getting on the stand and spoke clearly during direct examination. He admitted upfront that he received a higher insurance settlement, a lower estimate from a Wickford boatyard, but sought an even lower one from RI Boat Services, and then from Mr. Lima. While the Court found him credible through his discussion of the documents, the Court does not find his testimony credible concerning whether Mr. Lima agreed to a reduction in June 2016. The Court also doubts the sincerity of his actions: he immediately questioned the propriety of both Mr. Lima and RI Boat Services' businesses when receiving a bill for $1200 more than he expected. Rather than stopping by the business to clear it up, he immediately sent a series of emails, threatening the creditor.

While Mr. Wildgoose claims that he tried to retrieve the Mako boat after the June 2017...

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