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Don Cosa Images v. Brantley

A-1531-09T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2010) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTS; WARRANTIES — A court must carefully analyze whether a contract’s limited warranty provision applies to future transactions between the parties relating to the product sold, or just to the product at the time it was sold.

A woman purchased a hair augmentation process from a salon. It involved the use of a nylon filament cap to which human hair had been affixed. It was to be anchored to her head by looping her natural hair into it. The cost was $3,500, which the consumer financed through a lender. The contract with the salon included a limited warranty provision that required the woman to notify the salon of any dissatisfaction within fourteen days after the hair augmentation.

She wore her hairpiece for five months before returning to the salon. Her natural hair had become entangled with the product. A salon employee removed the hairpiece with scissors and, in doing so, cut a hole in it. In the course of removing it, she left the woman’s hair with unsightly patches. The customer later returned to the salon with her hairpiece, which was described as having rips and holes. She had it repaired and reinstalled for a fee.

One month later, the woman faxed a letter to the salon’s owner expressing her dissatisfaction with the treatment she had received. The owner responded that the process required scheduled appointments for maintenance, without which the hair would not perform the way it was designed. The woman’s complaints were not resolved, and she convinced her lender to credit her account for the $3,500. The lender charged this amount back to the salon.

The salon filed a collection action against their customer. She responded by claiming breach of contract, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress, seeking $15,000 in damages. After trial, the lower court held that because the consumer failed to notify the salon within fourteen days of her hair application process that she was dissatisfied, her claim could not be sustained. As a result, it entered judgment in favor of the salon for $3,500. The lower court did not permit testimony with respect to the woman’s claims. She appealed.

The Appellate Division reversed and remanded the matter for a new trial. It held the lower court misconstrued the contract between the parties when it applied the contract’s limited warranty provision to a dispute that did not concern the quality of the product as initially applied, but rather involved subsequent conduct involving the maintenance of the product. That legal error led the lower court to bar testimony regarding the consumer’s defenses and own claims.

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