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Allen v. Ames

A-2902-02T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTORS—A contractor’s customer is entitled to receive documentation from the contractor when such documentation is needed to obtain an expert report with respect to alleged construction defects.

Pursuant to a written agreement, a builder was to construct a one-room addition to a home “with certain other features including a crawl space.” The work was not completed for several months. The builder sued for a small balance and the homeowner counterclaimed for a larger amount, “alleging poor workmanship and other defects.” The lower court analyzed the testimony and evidence and dismissed the counterclaim except to allow a small credit against the builder’s claim. On appeal, the homeowner asserted that the lower court precluded her from presenting certain evidence. One complaint was that “in order to prove that there were defects in the flooring installation, she needed evidence from the flooring manufacturer.” She was told by the manufacturer that without the receipt for the flooring, which had never been given to her by the builder, the manufacturer would not inspect the problem. She also certified that other floor manufacturers would not review another manufacturer’s flooring. The lower court had directed the builder to obtain the documentation and forward it to the homeowner but said that it was not going to deal with the flooring issue because there was no evidence presented to the Court on that point. The Appellate Division found it anomalous for the lower court to order the builder to furnish the documentation that the homeowner needed to prove her claim, yet simultaneously close the trial record saying that there was no evidence with respect to the propriety of the floor installation. As a result, it vacated the judgment and remanded the matter for a new trial.

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