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Staggs v. Sells

Court of Appeals of Tennessee
86 S.W. 3d 219 (2001)


Facts

Christell Staggs (plaintiff) entered a contract to purchase a home owned by William and Betty Jean Sells (defendants). The Sellses never lived in the house. Rather, the Sellses’ daughter resided in the home for approximately eight years. However, the Sellses lived close to their daughter and visited her on a regular basis. The Sellses engaged an agent to negotiate and execute the sales contract on their behalf. The contract asserted that the subject property had not been damaged or affected by flood waters or storm runoff. However, the Sellses’ agent never read to the Sellses the terms of the contract and did not actually determine whether the property had been impacted by flooding that might have occurred on the property. Similarly, Staggs never asked the Sellses or their agent whether the house had ever been affected by flooding or storm runoff. For several years following Staggs’s purchase of the home, the property flooded approximately 15 times, with water completely surrounding but never entering the house. Staggs sued the Sellses for negligent misrepresentation. The trial court held for Staggs and awarded $25,000 in damages, but reduced the damages award based on the fault apportioned amongst the parties, namely 60 percent to the Sellses and 40 percent to Staggs. Staggs was awarded a $15,000 judgment against the Sellses. The trial court found that the Sellses acted recklessly through their agent, who failed to use reasonable care when representing that the subject property was not a flooding risk. The Sellses appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cain, J.)

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