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liability for a "faulty" translation
Thread poster: Scheherezade Suria Lopez

Scheherezade Suria Lopez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 22, 2009

Hi there,

I think I might have a problem and I'd like to ask for advice.

Last December I translated a short brochure on massages, therapies, etc for a translation agency (it was a 15 euro transl., by the way). Today, they called me to say that there were some mistakes in the text. They told me to contact their customer directly to discuss them. A couple of them were typos and there were some other things which I think they're not entirely my fault.

Anyway, the customer printed the brochure without re-checking it (and nor did the agency) and they insinuated that the agency should pay 700 euros (the cost of printing the faulty brochures). The agency hasn't received anything formal yet but they'll need to speak to their lawyers and they've already told me that I might have to pay as well and not only for the printed material butr also for the potential loss of the customer.

What is my liability in all this? Have you had a similar experience?

I'd kindly appreciate your advice... (I've got a real knot in the stomach)

Thank you!


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Nicolette Scholte  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
English to Dutch
+ ...
They got guts! Jan 22, 2009

They really got guts! Someone has 'forgot' to check your translation on typos (essentially the job of the agency AND the end client) and now they want you to pay?

I'm not someone who knows the exact law in these kind of cases, but it seems unreasonable to me that they can put you down as liable for more than the cost of the translation they paid you.
What I mean is that they can't expect you to pay 700 Euro to them when they only paid you 15 Euro.
That would be totally unreasonable.

I think they are just trying to shove down the guilt on you really.

I'm sorry I can't be of any more help, but I'm totally outreagous that they have the guts (the agency) to push this down on you!


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xxxEric Hahn  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:51
French to German
+ ...
Don't worry, be happy ;-) Jan 22, 2009

I don't know spanish laws but normally, if they didn't even check your work and have no insurance, it's their problem, not your's ...

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Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 11:51
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
That's a load of... Jan 22, 2009

It is the agency's responsibility to check the quality of the work, to edit it, to proofread it and make sure is it good before they send it the client. If they don't, then just exactly what should they be paid for - they take their cut and they are supposed to do the work too.

All they can do is not pay you - it happens. Do not pay them a cent.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:51
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'ma bit confused by your facts Jan 22, 2009

"Today, they called me to say that there were some mistakes in the text. They told me to contact their customer directly to discuss them. A couple of them were typos and there were some other things which I think they're not entirely my fault."

"Anyway, the customer printed the brochure without re-checking it (and nor did the agency) and they insinuated that the agency should pay 700 euros (the cost of printing the faulty brochures). "


I'm a bit confused.

When did you discuss the errors?
When was the printing done?
Whose errors are they, yours or someone else's or both?


I agree, meanwhile, with the other posters.

How can an agency justify their existence if they don't assume 100% responsibility for the work they sell at one price to clients and buy at a lower price from outsourcers? In other words, it's their business to check your work, and it's now their - not your - problem to deal with that client.

However, they might decide then to claim against you for supplying a defective product. Have you signed any agreements with them about possible liability for faulty work?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:51
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I'm no lawyer, but... Jan 22, 2009

Scheherezade Suria Lopez wrote:
Anyway, the customer printed the brochure without re-checking it (and nor did the agency)...


You can't expect the customer to recheck and recheck and recheck... the customer asked for a translation, for the purpose of publishing a brochure, and they got a translation, so what do you expect them to do?

You can, however, expect the agency to double-check the text, especially since the agency would be well aware that the text is meant for publication... and brochures tend to cost a lot of money to print.

Most people in this thread agree that you can't be held responsible or even liable, but I think we should consider the possibility that the client might sue. So my advice to you would be:

* Do not contact the end-client again. Your agreement was with the agency and your negotiations should be with them. There was actually no reason why the end-client could not have pointed out the errors via the agency. Perhaps the agency asked you to contact the client because they felt it would be simpler and faster, but the fact is that your dealings are with the agency alone.

* Tell the agency that (at this time) you have no intention to pay any damages, unless a judge or arbitator rules that you must do so. They should therefore not expect you to give in to demands by them to help them pay the client his damages.

In the mean time, try to get some proof that your typos were not really typos, and that your translation errors were not really errors.

...and they've already told me that I might have to pay as well and not only for the printed material butr also for the potential loss of the customer.


My personal opinion is this: unless the client had signed a long-term agreement with them, or indicated quite clearly in writing that they fully intend to sign such an agreement, the agency can't really complain of "losing" a customer.


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 11:51
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Things to worry about Jan 22, 2009

There is something to worry about but it's not liability or the possibility of having to pay the cost of printing + fines for 'losing the client'.

The agency simply didn't do their part of the job which is, essentially, making sure the final text is suitable for the putpose it's intended for. They didn't check or proofread - the result is quite logical.

What you do have to worry about Scheherezade is your quality: 'a couple of typos' and 'some other things which you think they're not entirely your fault' = that means they are partially your fault, right? - in a € 15 job is far from what one can expect from a good quality translator.

Besides, Samuel Murray is absolutely right: all your dealings were with, and obligation to the agency - why on earth should they want you to deal with the end client now? To lay the blame on you alone? No way!

[Edited at 2009-01-22 21:38 GMT]


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Scheherezade Suria Lopez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
quality Jan 22, 2009

First of all, thank you really much for your advice! You've helped me see the situation from another point of view.

And I am well aware that it was my mistake not to look closer for those typos, Oleg, regardless of the amount fo the bill. I feel very uncomfortable with the situation because I know I am responsible (for my part of the job)... I do care because my reputation and my peace of mind are at stake.

I never sought the limelight, so to speak, and this is the first time I have to deal with this sort of things... hopefully it'll be the last.

Let's see how it goes... and thanx again!


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:51
English to Dutch
+ ...
Some advice Jan 22, 2009

What you do have to worry about Scheherezade is your quality: 'a couple of typos' and 'some other things which you think they're not entirely your fault' = that means they are partially your fault, right? - in a € 15 job is far from what one can expect from a good quality translator.


I couldn't agree more.

Besides, and I'm very well aware of the fact that many translators won't like hearing this, this is a team effort. Yes, the agency is responsible for the quality, but so is the translator. It bothers me that so many translators seem to think they can get away with everything because the agency is supposed to check their work.

It works both ways: if you don't want to bear any responsibility for anything or run any risks at all, then you should not charge for anything either. Many people seem to forget this. In fact, many translators behave like surgeons refusing to take responsibility when they leave their tools in the patient's body. It just doesn't work that way.

The client may have a problem with the agency, but the agency has a problem with you, and for very good reasons it seems.

Hey, we all screw up sometimes. But a couple of typos is something you'd expect in a translation containing a few thousand words. Not in a 15 euro job.

That said, asking you for 700 euro while the job cost only 15 euro doesn't seem very reasonable. On the other hand, I wouldn't expect to get away with 15 euro either. A fair judge would probably rule something in between.

However, I'm quite sure this case will never see court. 700 euro is too trivial for that. And the agency can forget about sueing you for losing their client. That is the risk they run as an agency; it's not like the agency doesn't need to bear any responsibility at all.

I'd take my losses, offer the job for free and hope that it will end with that. I would not contact the client, and if the end client ever contants you again, I'd refer them to the agency. I'd also contact a lawyer, inform him of the matter, and then forward the agency's lawyer directly to your lawyer. Chances are it will end right there and nothing will happen after that.

Oh, and get a liability insurance and a legal aid insurance while you're at it.

[Edited at 2009-01-22 22:19 GMT]


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Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Algeria
Local time: 09:51
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
Cheer up ! Jan 22, 2009

Scheherezade Suria Lopez wrote:

Hi there,

I think I might have a problem and I'd like to ask for advice.

Last December I translated a short brochure on massages, therapies, etc for a translation agency (it was a 15 euro transl., by the way). Today, they called me to say that there were some mistakes in the text. They told me to contact their customer directly to discuss them. A couple of them were typos and there were some other things which I think they're not entirely my fault.

Anyway, the customer printed the brochure without re-checking it (and nor did the agency) and they insinuated that the agency should pay 700 euros (the cost of printing the faulty brochures). The agency hasn't received anything formal yet but they'll need to speak to their lawyers and they've already told me that I might have to pay as well and not only for the printed material butr also for the potential loss of the customer.

What is my liability in all this? Have you had a similar experience?

I'd kindly appreciate your advice... (I've got a real knot in the stomach)

Thank you!


1°/ You are not liable to the end client so you don't have to talk with him he's not your problem ! SO REFUSE TO DEAL WITH HIM ! AND BE OFFENSIVE ABOUT IT !

2°/ As the work was done for an agency they had to do a proofreading ! Did you sign any quality agreement ? Which type of typos ? Anyway they can't charge you 700 EUR they should have proofread it and if you didn't sign anything you're not liable, especially if the translation didn't contain a major mistake !

3°/ Fight for it, don't think it's not your fault, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT ! So just tell them you don't have to talk with the client and make your point...Yell if you have to but don't show weakness they just want to be the good guys who where scammed by a bad translator. While they are the lousy agency which didn't bother to contract a qualified proofreader in order to make more money on you !

4°/ Did you do a test ? if yes and if it contained some typos you're 100% on the safe side as it was their decision to have your translation. Which makes you non liable as they accepted the translation proposed...Furthermore one can't take a translation, accept it ...And then a month or two later comes and says oups I didn't notice the mistakes till now!


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:51
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Yes, liability insurance Jan 22, 2009

Loek van Kooten wrote:
Oh, and get a liability insurance and a legal aid insurance while you're at it.



This subject comes up from time to time and some bunch of fools always pipes up saying how unnecessary such insurance is. However, this is a very good case for where what the Germans call Vermögensschadenhaftpflicht applies. This covers damages for screwed up print jobs, damaged original documents and materials, etc.

Reputable agencies, by the way, do carry such insurance, and that should cover this incident. If the agency is not insured, then they deserve to take the hit just for being so stupid.

In a strict legal since, I think only the agency can be held to account by the end client, and your obligation to the agency is probably limited to the value of the job itself unless agreed otherwise in writing.

However, several errors (at least) in a small job like that? We all have our bad days, but that doesn't sound like something you can make a habit of and hope to have a thriving business. Be glad you're getting such a cheap lesson here and apply it before it costs you a lot more.


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:51
English to Dutch
+ ...
It is her fault too Jan 22, 2009

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT !


Mohamed, I'm not sure where you get the idea that translators can just charge for anything they can deliver. Of course it's her fault. Anyone who charges for a certain service is - to a certain extent - liable for the quality of that service. Any law will tell you that.

That said, the client should have an insurance and as Kevin said, if they don't have such insurance, they are just as faulty. That however is a problem between the agency and the end client, and therefore not relevant for the translator.

[Edited at 2009-01-22 22:34 GMT]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:51
Spanish to English
+ ...
.... my mistake not to look closer for those typos ... Jan 22, 2009

Scheherezade Suria Lopez wrote:

.... my mistake not to look closer for those typos ...



This sentence of yours bothers me. Especially as there were few words involved.

You haven't clarified the sequence of events so I'm still a bit confused.

When did you look for the typos - before you delivered the job or once you realised you had a problem?

I'm asking becuase I've revised enough translations not to ever want to do one again - so many so-called pros amazingly fail to run a spell-check! As Loek points out, you can't abstain all responisibility for something you do in return for a fee

Obviously you should have looked for them BEFORE, and if you didn't, the agency has a very good case to make a claim against you - becuase you claimed/represented yourself to be a professional translator and didn't deliver a professional job. Human error is possible, but their argument is likely to be that you submitted sub-standard work, in other words there were more errors than could be allowed as "human error".

So, if you took due care before you delivered and submitted a job with no more errors than would be considered admissible as reasonable human error, you really have no need to feel worried.

It would be interesting to know:

how many words in the job
how many typos /other errors in the job

Also, the question I asked before, did someone else incorporate errors or typos that you know for a fact weren't yours?

The agency's problem with their client is THEIR issue - they have to answer for what they "promised" to them, irrespective of what you did / didn't do. As far as their client is concerned, the agency did the job. You have to focus on what you delivered to YOUR client, the agency, and on your responsibility to them.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:51
English to French
+ ...
It is her fault - and the agency's Jan 22, 2009

I also find that, to a certain extent, it is her fault. Scheherezade did make the mistake of not checking closely enough to make sure there are no mistakes.

However - and this is a big, huge however - the agency made the mistake of not checking her work. Had they done so, they could have done the right thing: request that Scheherezade correct her mistakes. The wrong thing to do would have been to hire someone else to correct her mistakes (unless there were so many that it would have been easy to conclude that Scheherezade is incompetent, and therefore untrustworthy to correct even her own mistakes) and then refuse to pay her or pay less than the agreed upon amount. The second mistake the agency made is to dodge the pie intended for them so it hits Scheherezade's face instead.

Had the agency done its work, which it is getting paid for, the end client wouldn't have printed faulty material. It's as simple as that.

The agency didn't do what they were paid to do. Whether Scheherezade submitted substandard work or not is up for debate. But there is no way she is responsible for the end client's misfortunes.

As several of us have already said, her dealings are with the agency. The dealings between the agency and the end client are none of her business and not her problem. No translator should have to take the blame for their clients' mistakes.


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Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:51
English to French
+ ...
Liability vs fault Jan 23, 2009

Scheherazade,

we could discuss all year long your moral responsibility in the typos, extend it to your schoolmaster when you were a child, to the history of your country, to the development of spelling since the Roman expansion, etc.

However, liability is not about that. Law is not ethics.

The product was sold by the agency to the end client, and the end client chose to print it.

Your product was sent to the agency, accepted and paid. You are excluded from what happened afterwards.

The only liability that would rest on you would be in two cases:

- you signed a detailed agreement concerning the printing decisions and costs of the end client

- you signed an agreement warning you that your work would not be proofread

Obviously you didn't sign any of that.

Any court of law will rule that both you and the end client assumed rightly that the product would be proofread by the agency, because proofreading is universally recognized as one of the roles of agencies.

At most, you were liable to be not paid or things like that at the moment the agency received your product. When they paid you without complain, being in the capacity to check what it was, and being professionals of checking what it was, they accepted your work as satisfactory.

You were liable in the transaction between you and the agency, not in the transaction between the agency and the end client.

The first transaction, between you and the agency, was concluded satisfactorily, the agency being expert and sovereign in the appreciation of the value of your product.

As for you, you delivered a translated text, as ordered, and it is universally admitted that texts delivered by translators need proofreading.

Afterwards, since the product was not closed and extremely short and easy to check, the agency cannot claim an impossibility to check the product, and cannot claim either an ignorance of the role of agencies in checking.

The agency then delivered a faulty product, perfectly conscious of not having applied the basic quality procedure, thus abusing the trust of the end client by implicitly or explicitly stating the product had been checked.

Or, if you want it simpler, delivering a faulty product to the agency is no excuse for the agency delivering a faulty product to the end client, because it is precisely the role of agencies to check and remove faults.

In case you had delivered your product to an innocent postman, in a sealed letter, and the postman had delivered it directly to the end client, then you would be liable.

[Edited at 2009-01-23 00:57 GMT]


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