Does a breach of contract occur when a roofing job results in moisture developing inside of a building? An Ohio appellate court recently addressed that issue in Coliadis v. Holko Enercon, Inc. and found that despite the water problems, the plaintiff property-owner received the benefit of the bargained-for work.
In Coliadis, the property-owner contracted with the defendant to perform re-roofing work. The contract specifically stated that a new roof would be installed over the existing prepared roof surface. The court noted that the contract did not contain a promise or agreement to prevent any moisture from developing inside the building.
Soon after the roofing work was complete, the owner contacted the defendant about moisture and condensation problems in the building. The owner claimed that the roof installed by the defendant caused the water issues. According to the owner, the new roof installed over the pre-existing roof did not allow the building to vent properly, causing water to be trapped between the two roofs, and leading to the leaking/water problems.
The owner filed a complaint, and the case proceeded to a magistrate trial. The Magistrate’s Decision entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff property-owner and ordered the defendant to return the contract price of $39,800 to the plaintiff. The defendant filed objections to the Magistrate’s Decision, and the trial court found those objections to be well-taken, rejected the Magistrate’s Decision, and entered judgment for the defendant. The trial court found that the defendant performed the work described in the contract, and the plaintiff failed to offer any expert testimony to show that the roof was defective so as to constitute a breach.
The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court first recognized that the contract did not show a promise or agreement to prevent any moisture from developing inside the building. The contract simply stated that a roof system was to be installed over the prepared roof surface, and the property-owner received exactly that. Although the court noted that the installation of the new roof may have caused different conditions with moisture inside of the building, that fact did not mean that the owner did not receive the benefit of the bargained-for work that was described in the contract.
There are two important takeaways from the case. First, contracts need to be specific about the bargained-for benefit that each party is seeking. If the contract in this case would have specified that the owner wanted a leak-proof roof and a dry building, the court likely would have reached a different outcome.
The second takeaway is the importance of pleading all available claims. The trial court and appellate court discussed that a claim for a breach of warranty for fitness for a particular purpose would have been more appropriate than the owner’s breach of contract claim. The owner failed to plead that claim, though, and he did not argue it on appeal. As a result, he was stuck with an obligation to pay for the defendant’s re-roofing job and a new roof to fix the condensation problems.