May 22, 2009

Tennessee consumer protection act regulates modular home builder's representations concerning quality; builder's representations unfair and deceptive

MIKE MILLS, and wife, MARY ANN MILLS v. RICHARD PARTIN, and wife, PEGGY PARTIN, ET AL. (Tenn. Ct. App. November, 4, 2008).

This appeal involves a dispute about the poor construction of a modular home. The purchasers brought a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that the manufacturer violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. After a bench trial, the trial court found that certain representations made by the manufacturer were "unfair and deceptive" under the Act. Because the trial court found that these violations were made knowingly and willfully, it awarded the purchasers treble damages. The manufacturer appeals. We find that the trial court did not err in determining that the manufacturer's representations were unfair and deceptive. We also find that the trial court did not err in assessing treble damages. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Opinion can be found at the TBA website:

The matter before us more closely resembles Skinner v. Steele, 730 S.W.2d 335 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1987). In Skinner, the court considered whether certain transactions were “specifically authorized” by the insurance code, Tenn Code Ann. §§ 56-8-101 et seq., and thus exempt from the TCPA. Skinner, 730 S.W.2d at 337. The court found no exemption and held that: [the TCPA exemption section] is intended to avoid conflict between laws, not to exclude from the Act's coverage every activity that is authorized or regulated by another statute or agency. Virtually every activity is regulated to some degree. The defendants' interpretation of the exemption would deprive consumers of a meaningful remedy in many situations. Id. (internal citations omitted). Similarly, in this case, we do not find that the TCPA is preempted simply because the construction of modular homes is otherwise regulated.