Landscaper and couple settle suit over $400,000 driveway

JULIE LANE PHOTO | A settlement calls for the driveway on Gardiners Bay Drive belonging to Melissa Ko and S. Daniel Hahn to stay as is and Mattituck landscape contractor Matthew Daly gets an undisclosed amount of money for his work.

Details aren’t being made public, but there’s a settlement in the case between a Shelter Island couple and a Mattituck landscaper over the costs of a $400,000 driveway and courtyard.

Matthew Daly of MGD Horticulture insisted he was authorized to have his team build the driveway and courtyard paved with Belgian blocks and lined with Georgia granite at 34 Gardiners Bay Drive. Homeowners Melissa Ko and her husband, S. Daniel Hahn, insisted they were out of town when the work was done and never approved it.

Lawyers for both sides said Friday morning the settlement was in line with suggestions from Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Emily Pines in June.

“It’s more or less and more than less” of what the judge had suggested last month, said Robert Zausmer, attorney for Ms. Ko and Mr. Hahn.

Last month, he had said his clients agreed with the judge’s compromise except for one aspect.
Edward Boyle, Mr. Daly’s attorney, said last month that rejecting one aspect meant there was no acceptance by the couple of the proposal.

But Friday morning, Mr. Boyle said, “People tend to get serious as they get close to judgment day.”

Both he and Mr. Daly expressed their pleasure with the final resolution. “You know the expression, ‘Happy wife, happy life?’” Mr Boyle said. “Happy client, happy lawyer.”

At stake was a bill for $405,595 that included some landscaping and the driveway and courtyard work. The couple had already paid $225,811 for a previous landscaping bill. Judge Pine had ordered them to pay $276,000 of the $405,595 bill for the additional landscaping. That left $129,595 in question. How much was paid is part of the sealed settlement. But Mr. Daly said it enabled him to pay back money he had borrowed on credit cards to tackle the job and pay his crew.

“I feel that it was very acceptable,” he said about the settlement. “I’m happy that it’s behind us. I’m pleased for everybody involved.” At the same time, he said he learned “a life lesson” that in the future he needs to follow: “I will spend more time looking into local coding and certainly dot my ‘i’s and cross my ‘t’s.”

Mr. Daly, a licensed landscaper, lacked a home improvement license required for the driveway work, which opened the door to the suit. Mr. Daly thought that since the work wasn’t part of a home improvement but related to original construction, he didn’t need the license.

“Peace has been restored to the world — or at least to Shelter Island,” Mr. Zausmer said. “We had a very good judge and she did her job. That’s what good judges do.”

Whenever he’s involved in similar cases, Mr. Zausmer said he advises clients to weigh financial settlements with lifestyle issues.

“I think they’re happy to get this over,” Mr. Zausmer said about Ms. Ko and Mr. Hahn.

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