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Construction Defects in Home a Breach of Contract

September 9, 2011 — CDJ Staff

The Supreme Court of North Dakota has ruled in Leno v. K & L Homes, affirming the verdict of the lower court. K & L Homes argued that district court had erred in several ways, including by refusing to instruct the jury on comparative fault, denying a request for inspection, and not allowing a defendant to testify on his observations during jury viewing.

The Lenos purchased a home constructed by K & L Homes, after which they alleged they found cracks, unevenness, and shifting, which they attributed to improper construction. They claimed negligence on the part of K & L Homes. K & L Homes responded that the Lenos were responsible for damage to the home. The Lenos dropped their negligence claim, arguing breach of contract and implied warranties.

Before the trial, after the discovery period had passed, K & L Homes requested to inspect the home. This was rejected by the court. Kelly Moldenhauer, the owner of K & L Homes sought to testify about his observations during the jury’s viewing of the house. The court denied this too. The jury found that K & L was in breach of contract and awarded damages to the Lenos.

The North Dakota Supreme Court noted that K & L Homes gave “warranties that the home had been built according to local building codes and laws, and that the house was fit for its particular purpose as a residence.” The court found that a defective home breached this warranty. Further, the home violated an implied warranty of fitness.

The district court had denied K & L’s request to inspect the home, as the discovery period had ended and it would not give the Lenos time to do further discovery of their own. At the time of the request, there was only twenty-two days before the trial. The Supreme Court ruled that this was not an abuse of discretion of the part of the district court.

The Lenos had requested that Moldenhauer’s testimony not be permitted, as it would “have the same effect as if the court had granted K & L Homes’ pretrial request for inspection.” K & L Homes agreed to this in court, replying, “okay.”

The decision affirms the judgment of the district court and the damages awarded to the Lenos by the jury.

Read the court’s decision…

Construction Defects in Home a Breach of Contract