I'm in Canada, subcontracted for a company in the US. I have been working with them for 4 months. They refused to pay me for the last month I worked, giving a reason that my work is not up to their expectation. I told them this would go to court and that I can defend my work, and they threaten to sue me back for whatever reason.

We don't really have an official contract, but I got an email that states all the details. We agreed on hourly rate, not project-based, since they don't have a clear requirements set out.

Two questions here:

  1. I planned to sue them in small-claim in Boston, where their company is. Could my travelling expense from Canada be included in the claims?
  2. What could they sue me for? Even if there are some flaws in my work, but those've never cost the company any lost.
  • Is it common to do work without having an official contract? Having a contract would really clarify everyone's expectations and obligations!
    – jvriesem
    Feb 5, 2018 at 7:40
  • 3
    "We don't really have an official contract, but I got an email" If that email states you will work for them, and they will pay you, congratulations, you have a contract! There is no such thing as an official or unofficial contract.
    – JeffUK
    Feb 5, 2018 at 15:12

2 Answers 2


If you are subcontracted, then some other company is going to use the code that you wrote, and since you were not paid for it, you are the copyright holder. A letter to that company's legal department might work wonders.

  • Thanks for the suggestion, but they're a startup company. Don't really have a legal department.
    – ZoM
    Feb 5, 2018 at 1:00
  • 1
    Well, you could tell whoever it is your point of contact is to pay you or stop using your code.
    – Stackstuck
    Feb 5, 2018 at 3:57
  • 3
    Paying a lawyer to write and sign that letter may help to get them to capitulate to avoid further issues. Feb 5, 2018 at 4:04
  • 1
    If they have no formal legal department, then the owner or owners are the legal department.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 5, 2018 at 22:25

Regarding your 2nd question: Contract law and unjust enrichment are about compensation of losses. If they haven't incurred any loss as a result of your deliverable, they have no valid claim against you.

Their allegation about missed expectations would be adjudged on the basis of the terms in the email. Your mention that they don't have clear requirements set out makes it harder for them to substantiate how is it that their alleged expectations were missed.

They threatened to sue you for whatever reason: Did they state that in writing? If so, that might serve as evidence that they really have no merit and are just engaging in vexatious conduct. Make sure that any subsequent communications with them are in writing or (legally) recorded. People like those don't hesitate to make fraudulent statements if they think that will get them off the hook.

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