April 17, 2013

Court reviews a case involving the TCPA, rules that a violation of the Act requires more than submitting invoices for work which was not performed or poorly performed


General contractor filed breach of contract action against homeowners, alleging the homeowners failed to pay invoices on an extensive home renovation project. The homeowners denied there were outstanding invoices and filed counterclaims for breach of contract and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act against the general contractor and its owner, in his individual capacity, who contractually agreed to supervise the project for an additional fee. The homeowners alleged the general contractor failed to perform the contract in a workmanlike manner; they also asserted a claim against the owner asserting that he agreed to personally supervise the project for a percentage of the contract and that he breached his agreement by failing to properly supervise the work.

The trial court, Judge Barbara Haynes presiding, awarded summary judgment to the homeowners on all claims and counterclaims. On the homeowners’ counterclaims, Judge Haynes also awarded treble damages, attorney’s fees, and costs, pursuant to the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The counter-defendants filed a motion to alter or amend the decision as to the counterclaims; however, Judge Haynes retired before ruling on the motion. The case was then assigned to Judge Hamilton Gayden and, following a hearing, he denied the motion to alter or amend.

The counter-defendants appealed. We affirm the summary dismissal of the general contractor’s breach of contract claim for it is undisputed the homeowners paid the contract amount in full.

As for the homeowners’ counterclaims, we affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of the homeowners on their breach of contract claim against the general contractor and the award of damages for failing to perform the contract in a workmanlike manner.

We also affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of the homeowners against the supervisor for failing to properly supervise the work; however, we find the evidence insufficient to establish the damages that proximately resulted from the supervisor’s breach as distinguished from the damages resulting from the general contractor’s breach.

As for the homeowners’ claims that the general contractor and the supervisor violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, we have determined there are material facts in dispute concerning whether the contractor or the supervisor used or employed unfair or deceptive acts or practices in violation of the TCPA; therefore, summary judgment as to the TCPA claims was not appropriate.

We, therefore, reverse the grant of summary judgment on the TCPA claims as to the contractor and the supervisor and remand these claims, and the determination of damages for failing to properly supervise, for further proceedings.

Opinion available at: