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Chartier v. Carpet Emporium

A-1381-01T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

CONSUMER FRAUD—Under the Consumer Fraud Act, a wall-to-wall carpet may mean a carpet cut and shaped to closely fit a room, even if it doesn’t reach the walls or is not attached to the floor.

An apartment dweller sought to buy carpet. The seller visited the home, measured the floor, and let the apartment dweller pick out the carpet. “The carpet was to be cut in an L-shape, bound and laid approximately three inches away from the wall around the entire the one-room apartment.” This was because the building’s rules did not permit carpet to be affixed to the floor. The carpet remained undelivered for quite some time and the apartment dweller wanted her money back. Eventually, she sued the store, alleging violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. The Consumer Fraud Act addressed unlawful practices that fall into three general categories: “(1) affirmative acts; (2) knowing omissions; and (3) regulation violations.” A party is strictly liable for categories (1) and (3) without any need to show intent, even if it acts in good faith. One administrative regulation requires that all home improvement contracts over $200 be in writing and be signed by all parties. “‘Home improvement’ is defined as, inter alia, ‘wall-to-wall carpeting or attached or inlaid floor coverings.’” The lower court accepted the apartment dweller’s testimony that she was never given a written contract. The lower court also found that “[a]lthough the carpet was not tacked down and did not come in actual contact with the wall, ... it constituted a wall-to-wall carpet as defined [in the administrative regulations], because of ‘the dimensions of the rug, the nature in which it was going to be laid, bound and overlapping the initial rug that presently was in the [] apartment and so close to the wall, taped and designed to cover the entire L-shaped living quarters.’” The Appellate Division agreed with the lower court and its legal conclusions because the carpet was “cut to the particular dimensions of [the] apartment, and covered practically the entire floor area rather than a limited area, in which case it would be classified as an area rug.” It was of no consequence that there were three inches of uncovered space around the perimeter because the rug followed the walls “thereby mirroring the footprint of the apartment.”

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