Release date: 12/13/2018
(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today was granted an interim relief order against an out-of-state tree removal company involved in a price gouging lawsuit he filed earlier this year. After a contested hearing in which homeowners gave emotional testimony, the court granted a preliminary injunction against Scott Lacey and Randy Shannon, and their company, Scotts Tree Service. The order prohibits the company, Lacey, and Shannon from doing tree-related work in North Carolina until the trial.
“This out-of-state operator tried to rip off North Carolinians coping with the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I’m grateful that the court has blocked them from taking advantage of any other North Carolinians as we continue this case. My office will not stand for anyone who preys on the misfortune of others in violation of our state’s price gouging statute.”
The order also prohibits the defendants from collecting on all bills issued to North Carolina residents for tree work done after Hurricane Florence, unless the customers and insurance companies do not object to the payment. The order will remain in place until the trial.Homeowners from Castle Hayne testified that Lacey, who owns Scotts Tree Service, and Shannon, its employee, billed them $14,500 to remove two fallen trees without first discussing or getting agreement on the price. The homeowners also testified that the work took approximately an hour and involved eight employees, which comes to more than $1,800 per man-hour, as NCDOJ attorneys noted to the court. Yet defendant Scott Lacey testified that he pays his employees around $30 to $60 per hour. The homeowners further testified that Scotts Tree Service had one of the homeowners sign a statement of work to be done, and later filled in the document with the $14,500 price the homeowner had not agreed to pay. After the homeowners refused to pay this invoice, Scotts Tree Service sent the invoice to a bill collector, the co-defendant Goldberg & Donovan, Inc., a Massachusetts company. The court granted a preliminary injunction against Goldberg & Donovan earlier this year, barring them from doing business in North Carolina until the trial.
Attorney General Stein is seeking permanent injunctive relief against the defendants to stop them from doing any tree work in North Carolina, along with restitution for victims, civil penalties, attorney fees, and other relief.A copy of the order can be found here.
Consumers who are looking for tree removal or home repair services should always get written quotes from at least three companies to find out the fair price for the work they need done. Additional tips to avoid post-disaster scams can be found at https://ncdoj.gov/disaster.
More on this price gouging case:
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484