Iowa Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Construction Company

  • Jul 07, 2021

Legal Update by Attorney Adam Bates and Law Clerk Jordan Gehlhaar

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently heard an appeal involving a claim for breach of implied warranty of workmanlike construction in McIntosh v. Classic Builders, Inc. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the Defendant construction company due to lack of evidence presented.

In 2015, the McIntosh family purchased a home that was built by Classic Builders in 2011. Subsequently, water seeped into the basement on several occasions, damaging personal items and requiring repairs and waterproofing. The McIntoshes sued Classic Builders, asserting a claim for breach of implied warranty of workmanlike construction. To prevail on such a claim, a plaintiff must prove each element:

(1) The house was constructed to be occupied by the buyer as a home;
(2) The house was purchased from a builder-vendor who had constructed it for the purpose of sale;
(3) When sold, the house was not reasonably fit for its intended purpose or had not been constructed in a good and workmanlike manner;
(4) At the time of purchase the buyer was unaware of the defect and had no reasonable means of discovering it; and
(5) By reason of the defective condition the buyer suffered damages.

The issue on appeal was whether the McIntoshes had presented enough evidence to generate a genuine issue of material fact regarding the third element. Because housing construction is complex, an expert witness is needed to determine the fitness of a home or the workmanlike condition of construction. The Plaintiffs’ expert opined that more likely than not, the water seepage was caused by either a crack in the foundation, a crushed drain tile, or the house being built below the water table; only one of which Classic Builders would be responsible.

The Plaintiffs did not take further steps to identify the specific cause of the damage. Without evidence showing the house had any condition which their expert suspected, the Plaintiffs were unable to generate a fact question as to the third element of their claim. As such, the Defendant construction company was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

An expert opinion, on its own, is not enough to proceed with a claim for breach of implied warranty of workmanlike construction. Evidence must be presented that would create a question for the trier of fact to decide regarding the fitness and manner of the construction product.

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