Neighbor sues neighbor over botched bathroom renovation

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: We were friendly with our next-door neighbor, who owned a contracting company, and we hired him to renovate our bathroom. At the time, we thought he did a wonderful job. It looked beautiful. Unfortunately, he didn't set the tub correctly, and a slow leak was happening underneath it. Three years later, our kitchen ceiling came down. We had to pay $10,000 to repair the damage, and the entire tub and shower had to be removed and redone.

We talked with our neighbor about it, and he seemed apologetic, but after speaking with his wife, who is a lawyer, he told us our options are to "eat it" or sue him. We did sue him.

The case was dismissed prior to trial on a technicality, and the judge suggested we refile with a lawyer. We had tried to represent ourselves in small claims court, and the judge said it's difficult to do when the opposing side has a lawyer. I have so much anger and resentment toward them that when I see them my heart pounds.

Our other neighbors are on our side. They all say the couple will move, but if they don't, can you give us any advice on how to deal with this if we choose not to refile a lawsuit? He knows he completed this part of the job wrong, but his wife won't let him do the right thing. I'm blown away by the lack of ethics from people we regarded as friends. They have now cut ties with the entire circle of friends in our neighborhood over this. -- THE RIGHT THING IN THE EAST

DEAR THE RIGHT THING: Do not blame only the wife for what happened; her husband is her willing partner. They are equally ethically challenged, not to mention shameless, so don't count on them moving any time soon.

Because you are reluctant to incur the expense of hiring a lawyer to represent you in court, consider reporting the husband to the Better Business Bureau and the state contracting license board. If you do, it may save another family from experiencing the frustration and monetary loss you have.

DEAR ABBY: I feel like I do better on my own. I don't want kids, I don't want a husband, and I don't want commitment. I have accepted that I'm better by myself, but my mother, who is religious, is still convinced that I will want a kid one day. She feels she "knows" this, even though I have told her many times that I wouldn't be able to handle a husband or children. I have done my best to grin and bear it, but I feel guilty for disappointing her by not fulfilling her fantasy about my having a breadwinner husband and being a trophy wife with perfect kids.

It's not that she won't get to be a grandmother. She already is, but my sister isn't perfect, and I don't like that Mom wishes me to be what the rest of my siblings couldn't be. Also I can tell the idea of my being bisexual makes her queasy. She is still in denial.

What can I do when she says things like she can't wait until I have a husband or a kid of my own, or when she makes the same irritating face whenever anything about anyone's sexual orientation is mentioned? -- LIKES IT SOLO IN TEXAS

DEAR LIKES IT: Because you have told your mother repeatedly that marriage and parenthood aren't what you want, when she brings it up, change the subject. Do not allow her to make you feel guilty for wanting to live your life the way you see fit. It is your life, not hers, and you were not put on this earth to fulfill her fantasy or make up for your sister's deficits.

DEAR ABBY: My son-in-law was diagnosed with epilepsy 25 years ago. He typically has two or three seizures a year. He has seen a neurologist on and off over the years, but he has not been to the doctor for his medications in several years. He works in the medical field and gets his meds from the doctors he works with.

He recently had a seizure after dropping one of his children off at an appointment. Fortunately, the child wasn't in the car when he wrecked it. My question is, how involved should I be? Should I confront him? Unfortunately, my grandchild reached out to her dad's mother. Her answer was she would pay for spine alignments for him. Did I mention he refuses to stop driving?

I'm extremely concerned about the well-being of my daughter and four grandchildren and the lives of others on the roads who could be injured or killed as a result of his actions. Do I have a right to be involved? My friends and other family members tell me there is nothing I can do. -- FRIGHTENED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR FRIGHTENED: Your son-in-law should not be taking medications for his epilepsy from doctors who are not intimately involved with his care. If the accident didn't serve as a wakeup call to talk to his doctor, it should have.

Consider contacting your auto insurance company and asking what can be done about an epileptic motorist who is prone to seizures several times a year while still driving. If you can't find guidance there, the state police where your son-in-law lives might be interested in what you have to say.

Your daughter and her family have been lucky so far not to have been seriously injured, but they may not always be. The only thing you should not do is stay silent.

DEAR ABBY: Over the last several years I have learned the value of counseling, which helped me deal with years of undiagnosed depression. I overcame my preconceived notions about therapy, and I'm happier now than I have ever been because I was able to let go of tons of burdens I carried from my past. It has been a wonderful and life-changing experience.

One of my relatives has mentioned several times that she has a very strained relationship with her mom. I can't think of a nicer family, so I have never understood what could have caused this rift.

On Mother's Day, I saw several social media posts from people celebrating their mothers, expressing how much they love them and how much they appreciate all their mothers have done for them. My relative posted something along the lines of, "My goal in life is to be a better mother than mine was" and some other things that demonstrated her disdain for her mother.

When I saw the post, my heart ached for her mom, but my heart ached for my relative even more. It seems she carries so much hurt in her heart, and I wonder if she could benefit from therapy as I have, but I don't know how to suggest it. I am afraid of hurting her feelings or getting her upset with me. How should I approach this? -- HELPING OUT IN IDAHO

DEAR HELPING: Approach it by telling your relative you saw her post and were struck by the pain she must be feeling to have put something like that online for all the world to see. Explain about the baggage that therapy helped you to overcome in your own life and what a difference it has made for you. Then offer her your therapist's phone number.