For Want of a Nail – Evidentiary Version

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

This poem/proverb/story has many variations across the centuries. But now we have the 2020 equivalent, from the Pennsylvania courts.

For a wastewater treatment facility, Port Vue Plumbing engaged Rite Fence to install a perimeter fence, for $38,000. Other than an initial payment of $5,000, no further money was paid to Rite Fence.

In the ensuing lawsuit, Port Vue claimed that the fence posts had not been properly set, and Port Vue had incurred costs exceeding the balance due to Rite Fence in making repairs. At trial, Port Vue attempted to introduce photos of the claimed defective work. The judge refused to admit the photos, because “Port Vue’s witnesses were unable to state who took the photos, at what time during the course of construction the photos were taken, and where specifically on the engineering plan each photographed post was located.”

To be sure, there was other testimony and conflicting evidence presented. But a critical element of Port Vue’s case was missing, because the photographer had failed to note elementary information. The trial court ruled against Port Vue, and on appeal the trial court decision was upheld.

We may never know if the posts were improperly placed as argued by Port Vue, or if only a few were wobbly due to unstable soils adjacent to a gravel parking lot as claimed by Rite Fence. What we do know is that Port Vue failed in a small but essential element, which tarnished its entire claim.

The case is Port Vue Plumbing v. Rite Fence, 2020 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1095 (Mar. 30, 2020).