You could sue everyone involved in the construction - the question is whether a cost benefit analysis makes it worthwhile.
I understand that the contractor was referred to you by the interior designer - but who hired the contractor? You or the designer?
If the contractor invoiced you directly and you wrote checks directly to the contractor, then you would have a difficult case against the designer. You would have to prove that the designer knew that the contractor did substandard work and negligently recommended the contractor's services to you. Absent evidence that the designer knew that the contractor was no good, it is unlikely you would prevail on a negligent recommendation claim.
If you received invoices from the designer and paid the designer for the contractor's work, then you would likely have a claim against the designer. Since you likely dealt directly with designer, you could sue him or her personally as well as sue his or her business entity. You indicate that the designer has no insurance - but he or she may have other assets to satisfy a judgment.
I am not familiar with CA consumer protection laws. However, here in NJ, there are strict regulations governing home improvement contracts and contractors which provide for punitive (treble) damages and fee shifting (defendant must pay your fees and costs).
The fact that the contractor no longer lives in the USA means that although you could sue the contractor, as a practical matter service of the pleadings on the contractor would be difficult and you might not be able to collect on any judgment that you receive.
If this answer was helpful, please mark it as helpful or as a best answer. This answer is for general education purposes only. It neither creates an attorney-client relationship nor provides legal guidance or advice. The answer is based on the limited information provided and the answer might be different had additional information been provided. You should consult an attorney.
You can sue everyone, but serving a handyman who is overseas is not easy and collecting a judgment will be impossible.
If you'd like to discuss, please feel free to call. Jeff Gold Gold, Benes, LLP 1854 Bellmore Ave Bellmore, NY 11710 Telephone -516.512.6333 Email - Jgold@goldbenes.com
It is my opinion that you should contact a construction attorney here in the LA area to answer your question. In that there was no contract between either you and the designer or you and the contractor/handyman or both, this then becomes more of a construction issue and in particular construction negligently done. There are a lot of questions that need to be asked and answered.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not intended nor construed to be "legal advice" but rather it is analysis, and different lawyers may analyze this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I have been licensed to practice law in California since 1978. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
Under the Rules of Civil Procedure, in order for a cause of action to continue, the defendant in the action must be properly served with the complaint. Additionally, if the defendant is not in the jurisdiction it will be difficult to serve them absent a forum clause in a written agreement.