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Quashne v. Thunder Hill Landscaping Ground Pro Co.

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

October 15, 2019

E. JANE QUASHNE, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
v.
THUNDER HILL LANDSCAPING GROUND PRO CO., Defendant Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: September 12, 2019

          Donald L. Gouge, Jr., Esquire Donald L. Gouge, Jr. LLC Attorney for the Plaintiff

          James J. Haley, Jr., Esquire Ferrara & Haley Attorney for Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Honorable John K. Welch Judge.

         E. Jane Quashne (hereinafter "Plaintiff) brought this action against Thunder Hill Landscape Ground Pro. Co. (hereineafter "Defendant") to recover damages for breach of contract arising from lawn care. Both parties stipulated to all exhibits and had them pre-marked prior to trial.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed an appeal of decision from JP Court 13 pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 9570 et. seq. On January 25, 2019, Defendant filed an answer denying liability, asserting Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and counterclaiming for unpaid bills for lawn services it rendered to Plaintiff.

         On February 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend its complaint to request an increase in damages from $9, 000 to $15, 000. On this same date, Plaintiff filed an answer to Defendant's counterclaim denying the allegations. On February 27, 2019, Defendant filed a letter informing the Court that it did not oppose Plaintiffs motion to amend. On March 8, 2019, the Court granted the Motion to Amend.

         On July 17, 2019, Plaintiff served a subpoena upon James Hughes ("Hughes") seeking to compel him to appear as a witness at trial. On August 16, 2019, the Delaware Department of Agriculture filed a Motion to Quash the subpoena. On August 30, 2019, this Court denied the Delaware Department of Agriculture's motion to quash the subpoena. However, this Court limited Hughes's testimony to an hour and ordered the parties pay this witness $100 for time spent testifying in this case and reasonable travel expenses to get to this Court from his Dover office. The Court ordered Hughes's counsel submit costs incurred by this witness for travel.

         On September 12, 2019, this Court held trial in this matter. At the conclusion of trial, this Court reserved decision. This is the Court's Final Opinion after consideration of the arguments and evidence presented at trial.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Based on the testimony and evidence presented at trial, the Court finds the relevant facts to be as follows.

         In March 2018, Plaintiff entered into an agreement with Defendant for lawn care and treatment. Susanne Varone (hereinafter "Varone"), owner of Thunder Hill Landscape, testified that she began the business in April 2017. Varone further testified that she has been in the business for three years, two years when she worked on Plaintiff lawn, and has a Delaware Department of Agriculture license. In addition, prior to owning the landscaping business, Varone was a construction and property manager for twenty years. In April 2018, Plaintiff requested Defendant treat her lawn with fertilizer to destroy growing weeds. Varone indicated that her twenty-four year old son, Jordan Talley (hereinafter "Talley"), applied fertilizer to Plaintiffs lawn on April 21, 2019. Talley worked for Defendant for two or three years and mostly cuts grass. After no visible signs of improvement, Plaintiff requested that Defendant retreat the lawn. Plaintiff testified Defendant promised to apply another coat of fertilizer for free.

         On June 12, 2018, Defendant had Joshua Trusty (hereinafter "Trusty") and another employee apply another coat of fertilizer. Wade Kantor (hereinafter "Kantor"), a tenant residing at Plaintiffs property, was present for the second application. Kantor observed a young man pushing fertilizer up and down the lawn. Further, Kantor watched the young man refilled the bucket of fertilizer twice on the lawn and spilled some fertilizer during the process. Moreover, Kantor saw the young man spilled fertilizer several times, notably by the fence and shed area. Trusty is twenty-one and works for Varone. Trusty further indicated at trial that he followed the instructions on the fertilizer packaging and does not recall spilling any fertilizer ...


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