"All-Parties" Release Absolves Home Depot, Manufacturer, and Contractor From Shoddy Door Installation

Another painful reminder that you should read what you sign before you sign it, and don’t let yourself be rushed.

Carol and John Drescher bought a patio door from the Home Depot and had it installed. It was defective, and after much wrangling, a contractor came out and jammed a piece of cardboard near the hinge. That’s kwality konstruction.

The installer gave the homeowners a slip of paper to sign, which they did. And so they lost their rights.

“This was not done in a way that a reasonable person would be satisfied with,” the judge said. “I don’t think anybody would be satisfied to have this in their home. I have a hard time understanding how anybody who does installation for a reputable business like Home Depot could think this is satisfactory to begin with.”

Nevertheless, the Dreschers lost the case. Seems that slip of paper John had signed in June 2004 was a release, relieving “all parties” from further responsibility for the defective door.

The homeowners are appealing. That “all parties” release is rather sweeping, with questionable legality. It would seemingly preclude manufacturing defects, too. Any lawyerly advice for the owners? MARK ASHLEY

Christine Young: Home Depot closed the door on couple [Times Herald-Record]
(Photo: Karen Apricot New Orleans and the ugly Home Depot door photostream)

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  1. tedyc03 says:

    When you sign away your rights like that, most states only allow you to sign away your rights under negligence. However, gross negliglence (like willfully causing damage) is rarely covered.

    If they want to win their case they ought to talk to an attorney and see if they can prove gross negligence. But if they signed the papers AFTER the door was installed they still might be out of luck.

  2. bluegus32 says:

    Depends on the state. Also, we kind of need more facts. In California, for instance, a release of claims must be made knowingly. If you’re just given a slip of paper and told to sign, without knowing what it is, it probably would not act as a release.

  3. hoot550 says:

    The problem with

  4. hoot550 says:

    The problem with these “releases” that I’ve seen is that the piece of paper you sign looks like some kind of acknowledgement that the person showed up and references the other side in tiny print at the bottom. Then you flip it over and in light gray, nearly unreadable text is this “release.”

    My question is how you would avoid this? Would you just cross out the offending part of the document you signed? I’ve been in a similar situation in the past, and they’ve told me I cannot change the “agreement.”

    Unfortunately, for the consumer, you usually don’t have an option to negotiate an “agreement.”

  5. Coder4Life says:

    Wow, good reminder for me to stay away from HOME DEPOT…

  6. nequam says:

    In many states (MA included), you are presumed to have read anything you sign. You cannot avoid a release merely by arguing that you didn’t read it before signing. Everybody, please be careful.

  7. tokumei says:

    If the Dreschers had purchased the door and install at either of the three Home Depots in which I have worked, the lien waiver (release) would not preclude them from getting their problem fixed. Typically, the lien waiver protects Home Depot from damage that may occur after the installation is done. Yes, you are signing that you are accepting the door in the condition that it is installed, but it is understood that sometimes defects or damage are revealed at a later date. This post begs certain questions: 1)When was the door installed? 2) When did they realize that the installer had repaired it with a piece of cardboard? Installations are warrantied for one year. After that one year, my experience has been that Home Depot will still ‘do the right thing.’ Every case is reviewed and resolved individually, but I have never seen one single case where we have told our customers that they are liars and to take it to court. To the contrary, we take our customers’ satisfaction with our installs personally. I work in Special Services which deals with installations and have been told over and over…it’s okay to make a mistake, just make it on the side of the customer.

  8. forgeten says:

    wow the flicker account that picture came form is really neat.

  9. TPK says:

    Interesting idea… just make it a personal policy to not sign anything “on the spot” without having a day or so to look it over. If the repair person gets mad, what are they going to do, take the door back down?

    Explain to them that you don’t sign any papers without a 24 hour review period, and if their supervisor has a problem with that, then they can give me a call.

  10. mac-phisto says:

    ALWAYS put a W.P. or U.P. next to your signature, or write “without prejudice” or “under protest” esp. in cases like this. i like to be sneaky & mix it in w/ my name, so it’s clearly there, but you’d have to be looking for it.

    IANAL (& maybe someone can clarify), but this reserves your legal contractual rights under section 1-207 of the u.c.c. it does not nullify a contract entirely, but my understanding is that it basically nullifies any “additional terms” that aren’t spelled out within the u.c.c. (such as an arbitration clause which removes your right under the code to challenge the contract in a court of law).

    i do know that when an employer finally noticed i was signing forms that way (don’t you love “at-will employment” with contracts?!?), i was given the option to remedy or leave. so i left.

  11. ironchef says:

    they can file a complaint with the state contractor’s board.
    regardless of this “boiler plate” clause they weaseled out…every complaint needs to be reviewed with the state contractor’s board.

    Also file a complaint with the BBB. You may have signed a waiver….but that doesn’t stop you from posting complaints where it counts.

    A nice press release about the shoddy service to the local news channels should get a good response.

  12. Kaz says:

    Well, if they haven’t paid for it, perhaps “all parties” being relieved from responsibility now means that they no longer have a responsibility to pay for it…?

  13. crayonshinobi says:

    Not that I condone violence, but to allow “all parties” to go on living would be a grave injustice to us all.

  14. MonkeyMonk says:

    What would be the repercussion if you just refused to sign anything at the end of an installation, delivery, etc.?

    It’s not like they’re going to uninstall or undeliver the item? Or will they?

  15. MeOhMy says:

    Small claims court might be a better option. I think those judges have a lot more flexibility to address the case itself instead of worrying about some corny mouseprint.

  16. Mr. Gunn says:

    That picture is instantly recognizable as New Orleans. Notice how the house is symmetrical about a line between the two windows? That’s called a shotgun double, a common form of construction originating in New Orleans.

    Misaligned doors like the one in this article are extremely common. Due to subsidence, almost no house has a doorway that’s exactly square, and I think the contractors have just given up trying. In new construction, however, they should at least make the effort.

  17. CaptainRoin says:

    @Mr. Gunn: While it is true that no rough opening would be exactly square, any competent contractor should be able to correctly install the door without it being misaligned. I installed Pella windows and doors while in college and it is just part of the installation process.

  18. tokumei says:

    the install p.o. is closed and the installer gets paid.

  19. tokumei says:

    A note on the lien waiver (release): Once the lien waiver (release) is signed, it is sent to Home Depot and which time the install work order is closed and the installer gets paid. The installer is not paid until the lien waiver is signed. If the work looks good, then sign it. Don’t just not sign it. There are processes in place for warranty repairs and issues. There is much more to the Drescher’s case than meets the eye, I’m sure. But I doubt it would have got to court in my neck of the woods.