Schuppe v. Harber

188 A.3d 825 (2018)

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Schuppe v. Harber

Connecticut Appellate Court
188 A.3d 825 (2018)

Facts

On April 30, 2016, Sylvia Schuppe (plaintiff) and stonemason Darwin Harber (defendant) signed a written agreement for the installation of a 400-square-foot stone patio at Schuppe’s home in Simsbury, Connecticut. The agreement provided that Harber would ensure the patio had “appropriate drainage.” Schuppe agreed to pay Harber roughly $15,000 for the patio work. On May 15, 2016, Harber sent Schuppe an email stating that Harber proposed drilling four drainage holes in the patio to ensure that water would drain away from the patio and not pool near Schuppe’s home. Schuppe emailed Harber the same day and agreed to Harber’s proposed drainage plan. Once Harber began installing the patio, Harber realized that drilling four drainage holes in the patio would negatively affect the patio’s overall appearance. Without consulting Schuppe, Harber decided to drill only three drainage holes. Harber completed the patio, and Schuppe paid Harber the agreed-upon price. Over the next two months, Schuppe noticed that water had pooled on her new patio after every rainstorm. Some of the pooled water seeped into Schuppe’s basement and caused damage. Schuppe contacted Harber, but Harber refused to perform any more work to address the drainage issues unless Schuppe paid another $10,000. Schuppe sued Harber in Connecticut state court, alleging claims including breach of contract. Schuppe asserted that Harber had failed to provide the promised appropriate drainage for the patio. Harber contended that the three drainage holes were appropriate for the size of Schuppe’s patio and that the water pooling had occurred only because Simsbury had experienced heavier-than-normal rains during the summer of 2016. During a bench trial, Schuppe introduced the May 15 emails to show that Harber considered four drainage holes to be appropriate drainage for Schuppe’s patio. Harber argued that the parties’ original written contract was complete and final and that the emails were inadmissible extrinsic evidence under the parol-evidence rule. The trial court found that the contract term “appropriate drainage” was ambiguous and allowed the emails into evidence to explain the term’s meaning. The court ultimately entered judgment in Schuppe’s favor. Harber appealed, challenging the trial court’s decision to admit the emails.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Samsky, J.)

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