A number of years ago I left a construction company I was working for. I held the (CA) state contractors licence number in my name, I was the name on the licence. Its been a few years and thought the licence would fall out of date. I checked, and the license is still valid, and being maintained by a company and someone I don't know. Apparently they have been operateing for at least 8 years under my license. Do I have any recourse? Can I sue for money? The type of constuction is high tech and I can bet they have made lots of money with my name. Thanks.
A follow up to the comment of my colleague Mr. Smith: what you cannot do is say something like "settle with my or I will call the police/state contractors license board." That would be the crime of extortion. You can say - I intend to sue unless you settle and immediately cease using my license for any existing or future projects. Having a lawyer write the letter for you would be the best idea so as not to cross the line and give you greater credability that you have the capacity to file a suit.
I am not at all sure that any lawsuit would be in your best legal interests. In all events, you need reliable legal counsel about YOUR potential legal liabilities on these facts before you make non-revocable contentions that can put you at risk for civil penalties and even possible criminal prosecution.
As a CSLB licensee, you know that you were/are affirmatively obligated to make and keep current certain specific mandatory notifications to CSLB re your license. Your statement that you "thought the licence would fall out of date" strongly suggests that you did not meet your legal responsibilities in this respect, and this is a license enforcement issue on which CSLB is usually rigid and inflexible.
Further, because of the interplay between the fiscal crisis in California State government over the last 3 years and the special funding available for SWIFT matters, CSLB currently operates with powerful incentives to allocate many enforcement activities for SWIFT. SWIFT is an elephant gun, an elephant gun with a hair trigger, not a laser.
Finally, as you know as a CSLB licensee, if you did not meet your statutorily-allocated obligations with respect to the notifications re your license and business activities under your license, there may be potential civil liabilities that can be asserted against you by any person or entity that contracted with an entity under your license, and those liabilities may be imposed without evidence of intent on your part.
But there is much that does not add up here. You say "Apparently they have been operateing for at least 8 years under my license." Plain and simple, that is just not possible. Something in your factual statement is fundamentally incorrect and you need CSLB-experienced legal counsel to sort this out BEFORE you file any documents setting forth any factual allegations that you can never retract or disclaim.
So, there are a number of difficult and challenging issues re potential statute of limitations, strict liability -- as against you by a 3rd party and by CSLB -- under Business and Professions Code and also under Cal Admin Code. And, it is not at all clear based on the unique and specific features of law applicable to CSLB licensees that you can sue the user of your license number -- or what you might be able to sue for. There are a considerable number of potentially harsh legal penalties, specific to CSLB contractors, that can (1) create a substantial and genuine risk of legal jeopardy for you and (2) bar you from recovering on the facts you have summarized here.
Get a lawyer. You really need one.
Yes, you can sue in civil court to recover damages that you sustained, if any, and to obtain an injunction to prevent further use of your license.
CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) receives complaints against unlicensed individuals actively working on a construction project where the cost for labor and materials is $500 or more. SWIFT is set up to monitor and combat illegal activity and has teams around the state that conduct stings on a regular basis and sweep construction sites.
In this type of situation a lawsuit is really just one of many tools to implement a legal strategy to achieve your goals. You need to figure out what your goals are with the guidance of counsel.
It is difficult to know what potential damages you may have suffered, profits you may be due, or liabilities you may have incurred without knowing more information. With the CSLB there are several different types of licenses and your role could be different in each kind of license and your damages, profits, or liabilities would be different in each role.
For example, you could have been an RMO (Responsible Managing Officer) or an RME (Responsible Managing Employee) for a Corporate License. Or, the license could have been issued solely under your name as a Sole Proprietorship. Or, the license could have been issued as a Limited Partnership or General Partnership.
Knowing the structure of the license and the entity holding the license is necessary for any attorney to make an evaluation as to your rights and responsibilities. If you were the initial RMO or RME then the license was not yours, but it was to benefit a corporation and the corporation could have just replaced you after you left. If the license was in your name as a sole proprietorship with a dba, then the license is in fact yours and the underlying company may also be yours as well along with all of the personal liability for all of the jobs completed over the last 8 years that you did not know about.
Contact an attorney and sort out those issues, decide on your goals, then implement whatever strategy that you and your attorney agree upon to achieve your goals.
You clearly can sue. The question is what is the best course of action in light of your potenial recover of damages and their exposure. Perhaps they would like to to settle the case without a suit for a significant settlement amount.
Choose an attorney and explore all the possibilites before you file a lawsuit.
Phillip M. Smith Jr.
Los Angeles Tax & Business Attorney
Call: 855 IRSTAXBIZ
Get free answers from experienced attorneys.
27,472 answers this week
3,008 attorneys answering
Get answers from top-rated lawyers.
27,472 answers this week
3,008 attorneys answering
Don't speak legalese? We define thousands of terms in plain English.Browse our legal dictionary