29 Dec Seller of Building Materials Required to Stand Behind Its Warranty
In a case involving a defective stucco-like material designed to cover the exterior of a home, the North Carolina Supreme Court recently held that the seller of the material was bound to its promise to provide a 20-year warranty to homeowners, even though that was more than would have been required under North Carolina law (Christie v. Hartley Construction).
The plaintiffs in Christie were building a custom home, and they followed their builder’s advice to use an exterior cladding system that was marketed as being “fully warranted for twenty years to not crack, craze, fatigue or delaminate from the substrate.” Just a few years after construction was completed, however, the homeowners noticed cracks and blistering in the exterior and moisture intrusion that had compromised the structural integrity of the home. When the homeowners filed suit, the defendants sought to dismiss the case, arguing that North Carolina’s statute of repose for claims arising out of improvements to real property barred any claim filed more than six years after a certificate of occupancy was issued.
On appeal, the Supreme Court disagreed with the defendants, finding no public policy reason “why the beneficiary of a statute of repose cannot bargain away, or even waive, that benefit.” Noting that the statute of repose serves the purpose of giving a supplier of improvements to real property some level of certainty against potentially limitless exposure to future claims, the Court found that “[a] business marketing its products may reasonably conclude that offering a warranty giving customers protection exceeding the limitations period will provide an edge over its competitors.” Therefore, the Court held that the seller of the stucco-like material had waived the protection provided by the statute of repose, and was bound to stand behind its 20-year warranty.
The Christie case was a victory for homeowners, who relied on the seller’s representations about its product in deciding to purchase that particular exterior cladding system to protect their home from the elements. At Parry & Tyndall, we regularly represent consumers and businesses in similar types of commercial disputes involving contracts, warranties and alleged misrepresentations. If you believe that you or your business have suffered damages as a result of another party’s misrepresentations or breaches of its contractual promises, please give us a call at 919.967.0504 for a free initial consultation.