Danny Williams’ woes are instructive

Brian Jones
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Danny Williams doesn’t do anything small. No Major Junior A hockey team for him. He goes pro, or he goes home.

And speaking of homes, even when Williams is into something exceedingly common — such as a legal spat with a contractor — he has to go grandiose.

No bickering over 20 grand here or $30,000 there for him. Those amounts might be typical for commoners’ lawsuits, but they wouldn’t suit Williams.

According to news reports, the former premier and dam-daddy is in a multimillion-dollar legal fight with a contractor he hired to build a house for him.

Williams says he contracted the company to build his house in Outer Cove for $5.5 million, a sum that was later revised to $5.78 million, presumably by mutual agreement.

When construction slowed to such a point that the contractor apparently couldn’t give Williams an estimated completion date, Williams fired the company. He says he has paid the company $6.2 million. The contracting company claims in a lawsuit Williams still owes it $811,000.

We don’t know who is right. A judge has not yet heard the evidence, let alone ruled on it. As reported in Wednesday’s Telegram, Williams is preparing to file a counterclaim.

Let’s not prejudge either party to the dispute. Certainly, let’s not gloat or relish that Williams is apparently caught up in a homeowners’ hell that haunts so many lesser livyers.

On the contrary, I bring this matter up only because it is so instructive.

Anyone who has ever hired a contractor and then experienced a serious dispute can only wonder, “If even Danny Williams runs into problems with a contractor, what hope did I have?”


Common occurrence

Williams, of course, was accustomed to high approval ratings in his old job, reaching into the 70 and 80 per cent range.

His recent actions will likely garner an approval rating of 100 per cent among the subset of the homebuilding or home-renovating population that has had a falling out with a contractor.

No offence intended to the company involved, but contractors generally, on the ladder of public respectability, are only a few rungs above used car salesmen and lawyers (and if they look slightly further down, they’ll be able to see the fingertips of some journalists).

As has been pointed out many times, any shmuck can throw a nail gun and some power saws into the back of a pickup and claim to be a contractor.


Hard to play it safe

Occasionally, you’ll come across an article purporting to give advice on how to hire a contractor. Those who have hired a contractor, and then a lawyer, can only laugh.

“Get it in writing!” all such articles say. As if putting plans on paper will automatically forestall disagreements about schedules, money or quality. “Um, before you drive that nail, can I have it in writing that you won’t puncture the plumbing?”

“Don’t make any advance payments,” an article will advise. “Pay only when the work is complete.”

Sure. Follow that one. Maybe you’ll find a contractor by 2023.

But there is a valid reason for these articles.

Hordes of homeowners share common experiences: the day they first saw their dream home; the day they moved in; the day they brought Baby home; the day they decided to renovate and found a contractor; the day they hired a lawyer.

Williams’ statement of defence to the company’s lawsuit says he will have to spend another $1.5 million to have the house finished, and extra money to “repair, replace and rectify poor quality of construction.”

The rest of us can only gasp. On a $5-million house, did they use recycled nails and lumber from the bargain bin? We eagerly await details from the impending court case.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at

The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Outer Cove

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Recent comments

  • Corporate Psycho
    May 10, 2013 - 16:05

    Just wait for the overruns on Danny's dam.

  • david
    May 10, 2013 - 13:16

    Funny how the principle of "value for money" is such an obsession for Danny wrt his own money....downright schizophrenic. "Look, peasants....look at the monument to my greatness that I construct among you and allow you to gaze upon. Here I stay, to build my Taj Mahal and soak in your adoring envy like a drug." That no one here could possibly build a latter day Taj Mahal to save their lives ---- forget on budget or on time! ---- is completely lost on the Telegram braintrust, who spin the story on its head: Beware of Contractors. A true 'Hall of Fame' piece.

  • Wondering
    May 10, 2013 - 11:03

    I've read the court documents about the lawsuit between Danny Williams, Dean McDonald and a"friend " of theirs. The friend did substancial work to help in the sale of their cable company to Rogers for hundreds of millions of dollars. And then refused to pay the friend the amount he invoiced. Part of the problem was the omission to put in writing some verbal committments. The result was a long costly court battle, that showed Danny to be less than fair.It will be interesting to see if this pattern is here also. Whether the owner, Danny, agrees verbally for modification and extras and the contractor proceeds on good faith, but nothing in writing? Danny is very clever, and one might suggest cunning, knowing , as a lawyer, a lack of documentation would be to his advantage. But the devil is in the details, and the judge's decision may expose it. Danny's character is at issue, as well as that of the contractor. Danny usually comes out on top, financially. But it is interesting that if clever Danny could get screwed by this contractor, on a low risk house construction, how much will the ratepayers get screwed on the 8 billion Muskrat Falls, with all kinds of high risks? And both are originate from the vision of the same man. But one is financed privately, the other from the average Nflder.

  • saelcove
    May 10, 2013 - 10:43

    We are very lucky little man dan is gone

  • Eli
    May 10, 2013 - 10:24

    Wasn't Danny the "contractor" that engineered the Muskrat M.O.U.? With "God guard thee Newfoundland" quivering from his lips, he quit!

  • Little Man Dan
    May 10, 2013 - 08:52

    Stop! or I'll sue!

  • All I can say is that I hope the former Newfoundland and Labrador's premier's watchful eyes will be as firmly fixed on overseeing the Muskrat Falls Project Service Contract as they are on his own personal projects.
    May 10, 2013 - 08:47

    All I can say is that I hope the former Newfoundland and Labrador Premier's watchful eyes will be as firmly fixed on overseeing the Muskrat Falls Project Service Contract as they are on his own personal projects, since the Muskrat Falls Contract is the former premier's file. Also it is my firm belief that he should encourage his successor, Premier Dunderdale to set up an "Anti-Corruption" Commission to safeguard against the problems that are raising their ugly and corrupt heads in the Quebec economy and the economies of the rest of the World we know about and sometimes deal in. With everything we know about the crony, corrupt Capitalism that is swirling around the World today, we all have to have watchful eyes on the Muskrat Fall Project and every other project ongoing in our province today and the future. It is a very, very corrupt World we are dealing with.

  • Too Funny
    May 10, 2013 - 08:17

    So Danny's house is going from a planned $5.5M, to already reaching $6.2M, and is expected to cost another $1.5M to finish. Or an actual cost of $7.7M or more. After going through his own personal construction project, I wonder what he would say now about the Muskrat Falls estimates.