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TH Flooring, Inc. v. Hackett

A-3969-02T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTORS; HOME IMPROVEMENTS—Floors are inherently imperfect; therefore, a flooring contractor isn’t responsible for failing to eliminate all floor bumps.

A customer purchased flooring and hired an independent installation company to install it. Prior to installation, the company noticed the floor was uneven and that particle board underneath the floor had to be replaced. After replacing the particle board with plywood, the company installed the new floor. The customer then noticed a bump across the middle of the room and complained about the appearance. At first, the customer refused to sign the invoice, but after some insistence, did so and paid by check. Then it stopped the check.

The company agreed to return to fix the problem. In exchange, the customer paid one-half of the original invoice amount, leaving the rest to be paid after the problem had been resolved. The company made the repair, absorbing its cost. After the repair was made, the owner signed the invoice, but noted that there was still a slight bump. The company’s position was that both parties mutually understood that the bump was the result of the inherent unevenness in the natural flooring and that the floor would never be perfectly flat. Nonetheless, the company then withheld payment on the balance of the account.

In response, the company filed a complaint against the owner in small claims court, seeking the balance due on the account. The customer counterclaimed, alleging the floor installation was defective. After a bench trial, judgment was entered in favor of the company. The owner did not bring pictures of the bumps or defects claimed nor did she bring any other installer or other professional to testify that the work was improperly done. The lower court held that floors are inherently imperfect, and it was unwilling to infer that the floor covering installation was defective. The Appellate Division agreed.

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