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Alberti v. Manufactured Homes Inc.

9/5/1991

Plaintiffs, who are consumers, purchased from defendant retailer a mobile borne produced by defendant manufacturer. The floor of the home did not conform to certain representations made about it. We must consider what remedies, if any, are available to plaintiffs under the Uniform Commercial Code against defendant manufacturer, with whom plaintiffs had no direct dealings. We conclude plaintiffs have a remedy for breach of warranty made by the manufacturer, but the remedy of revocation of acceptance against the manufacturer is unavailable.


I.


Evidence at trial tends to show the following:


Plaintiffs were interested in purchasing a mobile home from defendant AAA Mobile Homes, a retailer ("AAA" or "the retailer"). They emphasized to AAA's branch manager Lowell Bockert that they desired plywood flooring because they had previously had trouble with particle board flooring. Bockert assured them that the double wide Caprice model manufactured by defendant Brigadier ("Brigadier" or "the manufacturer") had flooring made of a new material called "Novadeck" which was a waterproof, tongue-and-grooved plywood thicker and stronger than particle board. While Bockert was showing Mr. Alberti the Caprice home, they tried to examine the flooring to ascertain its type but could not get the carpet up without damaging it. Rather than calling in a serviceman to check the floor, plaintiffs trusted Bockert's representations about it. In August 1984, they purchased the Brigadier Caprice home from AAA for $32,600, making a $10,000 down payment and financing the balance of the purchase price through CIT Financial Services. Plaintiffs received a one-year manufacturer's limited warranty covering defects in material and workmanship.


At trial, Bockert claimed to base his representations about the unit's flooring on information given him some time earlier by Brigadier's sales representative Donald Phillips. Phillips allegedly described the Novadeck flooring system during a conference, when he highlighted the attributes of Brigadier merchandise so that AAA could pass along this information to customers and thereby facilitate sales of Brigadier products. Several witnesses corroborated Bockert's testimony that Phillips made these representations to him.


At trial, Phillips admitted having met with Bockert, but denied representing to him that the Caprice's floor was made of Novadeck; that it was stronger or thicker than particle board; or that it was waterproof.


Shortly after occupying their new Brigadier Caprice home in 1984, plaintiffs discovered their hot water heater was leaking. A service representative from Brigadier examined the area and told plaintiffs that the flooring was made out of particle board. Because of water damage to the utility room floor, a washing machine leg fell through. Plaintiffs also claimed to discover over thirty other defects.


After discussing problems about their home several times with agents of the retailer AAA and the manufacturer Brigadier, plaintiffs on 25 April 1985 gave both AAA and Brigadier notice that they were revoking acceptance of the mobile home. They subsequently filed suit, seeking to enforce this revocation and to recover damages for breach of warranty. Plaintiffs later amended their complaint, seeking treble damages for unfair and deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce under Chapter 75 of the North Carolina General Statutes.


During trial plaintiffs negotiated a settlement with the retailer AAA and dismissed it from the case. The trial court submitted two issues about Brigadier's liability to the jury:


1. Did the defendant, Brigadier Homes, Inc., rep

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