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Being Sued for breaking a teacup

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Junior Member
What is the name of your state? MA

This is regarding my wife who does part time house cleaning to make some extra income.

About 5 weeks ago she was cleaning a house of a certain client, during the cleaning she knocked off a teacup of a display shelf and it broke. The husband of the family where she cleaned was at home at the time, and as she always does my wife informed him of what happened. He did mention that his wife would be upset by this because she was collecting the tea cups and tea sets and that they were pretty rare and valuable. My wife offered to compensate them for the loss and asked him to have his wife contact her to "work things out".

When she called us there was noone home and she left a message. Said that she did want to be compensated and that the cup was valued at 590 Dollars.
I was shocked to say the least when i heard the message. 590 dollars seems like a lot of money for something the size of an expresso cup. After my wife got home we talked things over and decided that we will compensate her for the loss but will require proof of the cups origin/manufacturer and value.

After a few phone conversations we got nowhere, she insists the cup is worth the 590 dollars and she wanted the money. Needless to say we got nowhere and now im faced with a small claims lawsuit.

The lawsuit it for 3400 dollars, she now claims the cups cannot be purchased seperately and to replace the broken one she will have to get a whole new set.

We are not disputing the fact that my wife broke the cup because she did. All we wanted was some type of proof that the cup was worth 590 dollars and we would have payed her the money for the loss. (my wife has been cleaning homes for almost 6 years and breaking things in clients homes is as i would say 'inevitable', and she did pay back for broken things before, including a scratched wooden floor that happened when she moved a sofa to vacuum under it at the cost of 600 dollars to fix and she still cleans that house). This is a really bad situation, my wife lost a client at 8 hours a week at 20 dollars per hour of cleaning, for what seems to us is such a trival matter that could have been resolved easily without the need for court.

The family/client involved are very affluent people, they own a 14 room house that is probably worth 1.5 - 2 mil or more on the market, plus they own a machine shop business. It seems to me the lawsuit is motivated by emotion and not by actual loss because they can easily afford to replace the item. Like i said before we would have absolutely no problems compensating for the loss if we had confirmation of the items value.

What do you think we should do? Should i try talking to the client again and get this resolved? What could happen at the courthouse during the hearing?
Would we be liable for the cup even if she fails to provide proof of its worth?

On last note, this client hasnt been exactly holly during the time my wife worked for them. My wife was always paid for their house cleaning by checks issued from their machine shop business and as such we/she received 1099-MISC twice from their business for tax purposes. Can they do that? Or is that illegal?

I really would want this resolved without going to court. It seems to me this is a mess that never should have occurred.

Any adive/comments are greatly appreciated.



These people are ludicrous.

At the small claims hearing, I urge you to let her talk as much as she wants. Don't interrupt. The more she talks, the more outlandish her story will become.

When it comes your turn to talk, politely ask to see her documentation for the cost of the cup. She will have tons of stuff, but notice that she will nowhere have a receipt.

If she perchance does have a receipt, dispute it mightily. I hope the judge is smart enough not to fall for this.

Post back with results.


Junior Member
Thank you for your feedback. The court date is 9 march. I will post the outcome of the case. On one hand i feel I should compensate the party for the loss, BUT my other side is telling me to screw them and let them prove their case.

Is it legal for them to use their businbess account to pay for their private 'house cleaning'? Im not exactly sure of the laws but by doing this arent they avoiding paying some taxes? I'm just not sure if i should bring this up at court. Some have told me its a seperate matter entirely. I think that since my wife is very poor at speaking english they think they can get away with it.

Again Ty Judge for the reply.


Q: Is it legal for them to use their businbess account to pay for their private 'house cleaning'? Im not exactly sure of the laws but by doing this arent they avoiding paying some taxes? I'm just not sure if i should bring this up at court.

A: This is a separate matter.



Please do write back and let us know what goes on March 9.
$590 for one cup is a lot of money. How many teacups are there in the set?


Senior Member
I have a large tea cup etc collecton, all safely stored in large display cabinets, where they have safely ridden out earthquakes and teenagers. None is anywhere near $590, that is a part of the fun collecting is the search. I have traveled the world and carried them back in my suitcase, bought antique cups and saucers, never broken one, whether they are on a display stand or stacked 3 high. Would I be able to replace them, possibly not although they do have china services which sell replacement items, easy to find on the internet. Was the cup appropriately displayed with museum wax to prevent breakage of items not in cabinets? Was your wife just clumsy? Has your wife thought about insurance?

You Are Guilty

Senior Member
Side note: unless you are named as a defendant, your wife will need to be the one to appear in court to do the talking, not you.

In any event, all you and your wife need to know is that she's only obligated for the replacement cost of the cup, not a full set. Good luck.

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