December 18, 2013
WATERWORKS RESTORATION, LLC d/b/a Paul Davis Restoration of Delaware Valley, Plaintiff-Below, Appellee,
JOHN MARRA, Defendant-Below, Appellant.
Submitted: November 26, 2013
Stephen Morrow, Esq. Law Office of Joseph J. Rhoades Attorney for Defendant-Below, Appellant.
Michael P. Morton, Esq. Attorney for Plaintiff Below, Appellee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFTER TRIAL
Honorable Sheldon K. Rennie, Judge
This action comes to this Court on appeal from a Justice of the Peace decision awarding Waterworks Restoration, LLC, d/b/a Paul Davis Restoration of Delaware Valley (hereinafter "Paul Davis" or "the Company") Si 1, 271.62 plus court costs and interest. The action arose from a contract dispute over work performed by Paul Davis at John Marra's (hereinafter "Marra") property. Mr. Marra filed an appeal with this Court on March 13, 2012. A trial was held on November 26, 2013, and the Court reserved decision. This is the Court's Opinion in connection with the relief sought by Paul Davis.
Mr. Marra first hired Paul Davis after a pipe burst in his bathroom on October 22, 2010. He contracted the company to perform mitigation and renovation work on his home to restore it to its condition prior to the water damage. Mr. Marra signed a Work Authorization form on November 24, 2010, under which he agreed that, "This work authorization, along with all approved estimates, supplemental estimates and change orders shall constitute the contractual obligations of the Owners and Contractor." On December 15, 2010, Paul Davis provided Mr. Marra with an initial estimate that Paul Davis also sent to Mr. Marra's insurance company. Paul Davis also drew up estimates for mitigation, which involved stopping the damages caused by the water damage, and for reconstruction, which involved returning the house to its condition prior to the damage. In addition to the mitigation and restoration work, Mr. Marra requested that Paul Davis perform certain remodel work on his home, primarily to his second-floor bathroom. It was understood by both parties that the remodel work would not be covered by insurance and Mr. Marra would have to pay for that work outside of insurance proceeds. The overall cost for all work performed totaled $19, 042.75. Paul Davis completed the work on March 21, 2011, at which time Mr. Marra signed a Certificate of Completion and Satisfaction for Reconstruction Services. The Certificate reads, in part, "This is to certify that all work required under our contract...to repair damage caused by water to our property...has been completed to our satisfaction." Throughout the project, Paul Davis generated invoices that were sent to Mr. Marra. Mr. Marra and/or his insurance provider paid two invoices totaling $7, 771.13. Mr. Marra refused to pay the remaining balance on the invoices.
On December 22, 2011, Paul Davis filed a debt action against Mr. Marra in the Justice of the Peace Court to recover the remaining balance for the work performed on Mr. Marra's house. On March 7, 2012, that Court found in favor of Paul Davis in the amount of $11, 271.62 plus interest and costs. Mr. Marra appealed the Justice of the Peace decision to this Court.
Paul Davis contends that Mr. Marra owes a total of $11, 271.62 in unpaid invoices for the work that it performed on his property. The company alleges that it provided Mr. Marra with copies of all estimates, and that it would not have begun construction and renovation work on his house without Mr. Marra's approval of the estimates. Paul Davis also contends that it sent Mr. Marra periodic invoices. Mr. Marra foiled to pay all of the outstanding invoices, even though he did not voice any discontent with the work performed or completed prior to signing the Certificate of Completion. Paul Davis asserts that Mr. Marra should be required to pay the entire amount owed, because his signature on the Certificate bars any future allegations of dissatisfaction with the workmanship.
Mr. Marra admits that he entered into a contract with Paul Davis, and that the company performed construction work on his house. However, Mr. Marra alleges that Paul Davis did not restore his house in a workmanlike manner, and he alleges that the company did not perform some of the tasks and supply some of the materials for which Mr. Marra was charged on the invoices. Mr. Marra seeks to have the amount he owes lessened by the amount he was allegedly overcharged on the invoices.
Appeals from matters decided on the merits by the Justice of the Peace Court are reviewed de novo. In order to succeed on a breach of contract claim, Paul Davis must prove the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) the existence of a contract; (2) that defendant breached an obligation imposed by the contract; and (3) that plaintiff incurred damages as a result of the breach.
Mr. Marra and Paul Davis entered into a contract on November 24, 2010, when Mr. Marra signed the Work Authorization form. Mr. Maria's counsel argued that the Work Authorization form does not constitute a contract, because Paul Davis had not yet provided Mr. Marra with the "original estimate" underlying the form at the time it was signed. The Court does not find that argument compelling. The signed Work Authorization is sufficiently definite to form the basis of a meeting of the minds among the parties.  In addition, the Court finds that the Work Authorization sets forth the obligations to be complied with by the parties and the consequences of non-compliance.
Under the Work Authorization form, the signing party agreed that "any portion of work, such as deductibles, betterment, depreciation, or additional work requested...not covers [sic] by insurance, must be paid by...the homeowner on or before completion." At trial, Paul Davis introduced into evidence the invoices sent to Mr. Marra throughout the project. Paul Davis also introduced a Customer Statement dated November 8, 2011, that outlined the various invoices sent to Mr. Marra, and which sets forth the payments that had been made on the account. According to the Customer Statement, Mr. Marra paid $7, 771.13 toward the total amount owed. Under the Work Authorization, "any payments...shall be considered delinquent after ten days, " and thus, be subject to interest.
Mr. Marra failed to remit any payments after the submission of a check on July 11, 2011, and thus, he has breached the terms of the contract. Mr. Marra argued at trial that he did not receive the invoices until his appearance at the Justice of the Peace hearing on March 7, 2012. However, both invoices were paid prior to the filing of the Justice of the Peace Court action, and from the testimony presented at trial, it appears unlikely that Mr. Marra would have been able to pay the exact amount for two invoices without first receiving them from Paul Davis.
Mr. Marra also argued that Paul Davis' breach of contract claim fails because Paul Davis first breached the contract by failing to complete the job in a workmanlike manner. Mr. Marra makes this argument without producing an expert at trial to discuss the alleged deficiencies in Paul Davis' workmanship. Without the assistance of a qualified expert, the Court was not able to properly substantiate Mr. Marra's claim of faulty workmanship. As a result, the Court finds that Paul Davis did not breach the contract with Mr. Marra.
Based on the evidence in the record, it is clear that Paul Davis sustained damages as a result of Mr. Marra's failure to pay the outstanding balance for the work performed by the company. The standard amount of damages recoverable in a breach of contract action is "the expectation interest of the non-breaching party." The damages cannot be speculative, and the party must prove the damages to a reasonable certainty. Paul Davis provided the Court with copies of invoices sent to Mr. Marra from February 1, 2011, through April 13, 2011, in addition to the billing sheets for the matter. The amount that remains outstanding on the invoices is $ll, 271.62.
Mr. Marra raised a challenge at trial to the amount of damages requested by Paul Davis. Mr. Marra testified that Paul Davis did not complete all of the work and/or supply all of the materials set forth in the invoices produced at trial. Therefore, he contends that he should not be required to pay for those specific items not purchased or work not performed, as detailed in the invoices. Mr. Marra testified about each of the items that he contends was not provided or performed, yet were billed in the invoices.
Paul Davis argues that Mr. Marra should not be able to recover for work that was allegedly left incomplete, because he signed the Certificate of Completion prior to raising this issue. The Court disagrees. Testimony at trial revealed that Paul Davis provides a one-year warranty for all work performed. Mr. Marra expressed his dissatisfaction with the work performed within the one-year warranty period,  and therefore, he should not be required to pay for work that was not actually performed on his home.
The Court finds, after weighing the evidence presented at trial, that Paul Davis did not complete every itemized repair or supply every itemized material listed on the invoices sent to Mr. Marra. The Court's finding is based primarily on testimony of Mr. Marra that did not require an expert and which was not rebutted by Paul Davis. The amount in question that was improperly charged to Mr. Marra totals $1, 015.97. The Court will thus deduct that amount from the damages sought by Paul Davis.
Accordingly, the Court finds in favor of Paul Davis on its breach of contract claim for payment of invoices related to the restoration and remodel of Mr. Marra's house in the amount of $10, 255.65.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds in favor of Paul Davis in the amount of $10, 255.65,  pre-judgment interest at the contractual rate of 1.5% per month beginning February 21, 2011, court costs, and post-judgment interest at the legal rate of until paid in full.
IT IS SO ORDERED.