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Troubleshooters: Update on unfinished construction job

In this Troubleshooter’s Report, we have an update on a New Hanover County woman in a dispute with a contractor. Linda Kasyan hired Brian Duffy to build a sunroom for her. After she had already paid him thousands of dollars, she found out he never got a permit and the work he had started did not pass code. Linda wanted to take Mr. Duffy to small claims court, but despite more than half a dozen attempts, sheriff's deputies were never able to find Duffy to serve him a summons. When we did the story last month, several attorneys recommended that Linda use "service by publication," where Linda could place an ad in the newspaper, ordering Brian Duffy to court. While that is a legal avenue in many cases, we have since found out it is not allowed in small claims court, which put Linda back to square one. She has now decided to write this off as a loss on her taxes, but she hopes our stories serve as a warning to other would be customers of Brian Duffy.

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Service by Publication

Are you sure that the documents cannot be served by publication? Even the NC Magistrates Association states in their small claims court guide (

"By Other Means. If you cannot get the complaint and summons to the defendant using these instructions, there are other ways to try to serve the defendant. For instance, you can start over with a new summons form, which you can get from the clerk. Or you can use what's called "service by publication," which is giving notice to a defendant through a newspaper. You may need a lawyer to help you do this."

Did She

Check to see if he is licensed by the state? Prior to writing a check, did she obtain a certificate of General Liability insurance? Those may be avenues for pursuit. Let it be a warning to anyone contracting to have work done at their residence. Before writing the first check, get a certificate of insurance from the Contractor's insurance agent.