Man takes company to court over lawn care

He wants greener grass, but firm is skeptical

May 05, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Paul Weiner is in a legal fight over whether his grass is green enough.

He says it isn't, and he wants a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge to order a Timonium lawn care company to make it greener.

Weiner has filed suit in Baltimore County Circuit Court, contending that the company he hired to keep his grass green has turned it brown instead. He wants no money but is seeking a court order requiring Pro-Grass Inc. to turn his lawn into the gem that he says it was before he hired the company.

"People always admired the lawn. Now they stop and ask what happened to it," said Weiner, 80, standing in front of his two-story home in the 6700 block of Cherokee Drive.

But Louis Cariello, Pro-Grass' chief executive officer, said it's impossible to satisfy Weiner.

"There's no way you can please this guy," Cariello said. "We've bent over backwards to try to accommodate him."

Cariello said that Weiner hired his firm in 1989 and has peppered his office with complaints ever since, firing the company and then rehiring it four times over the years.

"Why we ever took him back is a mystery to me," Cariello said, holding an inch-thick stack of complaints, correspondence and other records regarding Weiner's case.

Weiner, a semiretired salesman who sold lawn and garden supplies for much of his career, says that Pro-Grass spread too much fertilizer on his lawn, creating a series of unsightly brown patches.

He said he has tried to repair the patches by scraping away the dirt, applying topsoil, reseeding and watering. But nothing has worked, he said.

"These spots just will not grow," Weiner said.

Weiner says Pro-Grass' aggressive fertilizer treatments also damaged one of three holly bushes alongside his house, turning its leaves a sickly brown. And the company damaged two dogwoods and a willow tree so badly that he had to cut them down a year ago, he said.

Weiner said that after repeated complaints brought him no satisfaction, he filed suit.

"Some people would just accept what the company had to say. A lot of people are timid. But I'm not," he said.

But Cariello said his firm has been in business 22 years, has 5,000 customers, and it's the first time any of them have sued. In Weiner's case, the problem is a customer who has extremely high expectations, Cariello said.

"You're not going to get golf course-quality grass on a home lawn," he said.

Weiner filed his first suit against Pro-Grass in December. At a trial in Baltimore County District Court in March, Judge Alexandra Williams asked Weiner and Cariello's lawyer if they could work out a settlement.

But Weiner told the judge that he didn't want a cash settlement. He just wants Pro-Grass to restore his lawn.

Williams ruled in favor of Pro-Grass, saying that a District Court judge does not have the authority to order Pro-Grass to repair Weiner's lawn.

Weiner's Circuit Court suit, filed April 24, appeals that ruling.

Weiner said this week the suit is about having the quality of his lawn restored.

"I probably made a mistake in saying I didn't want money, but it really isn't about money," he said.

Cariello said he would probably agree to pay a cash settlement of "a few hundred dollars" to end the dispute. But he said he would never agree to restore Weiner's lawn -- not to Weiner's satisfaction.

"I would have preferred he asked for money, because fixing his lawn is a never-ending story," Cariello said.

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