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Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC

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Home Construction Firm Prevails on Appeal against Homeowners Seeking Damages

Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, recently successfully represented a client in New York State Supreme Court, Westchester County, and on appeal in the Appellate Division, Second Department, in an action involving the issue of the proof necessary to obtain damages in a home improvement construction dispute. 

The Firm's client, a construction company, contracted with the plaintiffs to perform construction work on the plaintiffs' home located in Chappaqua, New York. The plaintiffs paid $300,500 to the client for work completed pursuant to the contract. However, the plaintiffs filed suit after they became dissatisfied with the work and then hired others to complete the project and remediate what they alleged to be improper and poor work.

On March 14, 2014, the plaintiffs moved for summary judgment which was granted in an order dated September 3, 2014. The Court ordered a nonjury trial on the issue of damages which was held in December 2014. Following the trial, the Court determined that the plaintiffs were entitled to damages in the amount of $300,500; however, the Court also found that the plaintiffs failed to establish that they made payments to other contractors to remediate the work or to complete the project.

Agreeing with the Firm's arguments, the Appellate Division cited that it was "fundamental to law of damages that one complaining of injury has the burden of proving the extent of the harm suffered, must demonstrate actual damages, and must lay a basis for a reasonable estimate of the extent of the harm." The Court went on to hold that the trial court erred in awarding damages equal to the amount paid by the plaintiffs to the defendant. It went on to state that "the proper measure of the plaintiff's damages was the cost of completion of the construction work and the correction of defects of the defendant's work." The Appellate Division, finding that at trial that the plaintiffs having failed to demonstrate they sustained actual damages, then dismissed the case.

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