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Huber v. Kenneth Hart & Sons, Inc.

A-2957-02T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTS; INTERPRETATION—The term “man hour” is an industry term, and absent evidence to the contrary, contracting parties are deemed to have accepted that definition.

A homeowner hired a contractor to repair and repoint bricks on her property. The agreement set forth the hourly rate “per man hour,” and itemized a list of the repairs. It also provided for the owner to control how long the workers would spend cutting out certain bricks and when the contractor should stop rebuilding. Upon the completion of the project, there was a dispute over how many hours the contractor spent repairing the property. The owner paid the contractor for the number of hours during which the contractor’s employees were at the job site (regardless of how many were there at any one time), but the company claimed that the phrase “per man hour” meant it should have been paid hourly for each worker assigned to the job.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s conclusion that the contract was clear. It found the owner to have been a sophisticated individual who structured the agreement to be in complete control of the project. Because the term “man hour” is an industry term, the Court felt that the owner should have been aware of its meaning prior to entering into the agreement.

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