Introduction. In this construction defect case, Pleasant Grove Independent School District (“Pleasant Grove”) sued its general contractor, Altech, Inc. (“Altech”), for breach of warranty and the manufacturer, FieldTurf USA, Inc. (“FieldTurf”), for breach of warranty and fraud, pertaining to the installation of artificial turf in the construction of Pleasant Grove’s new football field. Pleasant Grove Indep. Sch. Dist. v. FieldTurf USA, Inc., 06-19-00022-CV, 2020 WL 1646633, at *1 (Tex. App.—Texarkana Apr. 3, 2020, no pet. h.). Prior to trial, the trial court granted Altech’s motion for summary judgment finding as a matter of law that Pleasant Grove take nothing on its claims against Altech, and granted FieldTurf’s partial motion for summary judgment finding as a matter of law that Pleasant Grove take nothing on its fraud claims against FieldTurf. The case proceeded to trial only on Pleasant Grove’s claims for breach of warranty against FieldTurf and the jury awarded $175,000 to Pleasant Grove. Both Pleasant Grove and FieldTurf appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment rendered in favor of Altech and upheld the partial summary judgment rendered in favor of FieldTurf. The Court remanded the case for a new trial of Pleasant Grove’s breach of warranty claims against both Altech and FieldTurf.
Background. Pleasant Grove retained Altech to be its general contractor for the construction of a new high school football stadium to include an artificial turf field. After meetings and discussions with FieldTurf representatives, Pleasant Gove recommended that Altech use FieldTurf to provide the turf materials and labor for the installation of the artificial turf. Altech complied with the recommendation.
The artificial turf was installed in 2009 and FieldTurf provided an 8 year warranty that if the height of the artificial turf decreased by 50% or more, during normal and ordinary use, then FieldTurf would repair or replace the defective turf.
In 2014, Pleasant Grove notified FieldTurf of significant problems with the turf and demanded that the turf be replaced under the warranty. FieldTurf offered to perform a “laymore scrape” to remove some of the rubber infill at the base of the fibers to expose more of the fibers. Pleasant Grove rejected this offer and filed suit against FieldTurf and Altech for breach of warranty and also sued FieldTurf for fraud.
Before the case proceeded to trial, both Altech and FieldTurf filed motions for summary judgment with the trial court. Altech requested that the trial court enter a total summary judgment as a matter of law in its favor on Pleasant Grove’s breach of warranty claims, and the trial court granted the motion. FieldTurf requested that the trial enter a partial summary judgment as a matter of law in its favor on Pleasant Grove’s fraud claims only, and the trial court granted the motion. The case proceeded to jury trial on Pleasant Grove’s breach of warranty claims against FieldTurf. The jury returned a verdict for $175,000 in Pleasant Grove’s favor. Both Pleasant Grove and FieldTurf appealed.
Legal analysis. The Court of Appeals first discussed the summary judgment rendered in favor of Altech on Pleasant Grove’s breach of warranty claims and found that based upon the contract documents there was some evidence to support these claims. Thus, the trial court erred in rendering this summary judgment.
Next the Court of Appeals discussed the partial summary judgment rendered in favor of FieldTurf. In regard to Pleasant Grove’s fraudulent misrepresentation claim, the Court found that there was no evidence in the record that FieldTurf made a material misrepresentation to Pleasant Grove. Since this was an element that must be proved to support a fraudulent misrepresentation claim, there was no evidence to support the claim.
The Court of Appeals then discussed Pleasant Grove’s fraudulent nondisclosure claim based upon FieldTurf’s alleged failure to disclose material facts about the artificial turf. The Court stated that “in order for silence to become actionable for fraud by nondisclosure there must be a duty to disclose.” In this case, Pleasant Grove contended that this duty existed because FieldTurf voluntarily disclosed partial information and later failed to disclose new information that made the earlier representation misleading. Pleasant Grove argued that FieldTurf represented that the artificial turf’s useful life was 10-12 years and was exceptionally durable when in fact FieldTurf knew and failed to disclosed that the artificial turf being used was defective. However, the Court apparently found that Pleasant Grove failed to present any evidence regarding the partial disclosure. Therefore, there was no evidence that FieldTurf had a duty to disclose information to Pleasant Grove. The Court affirmed the partial summary judgment granted in favor of FieldTurf as to Pleasant Grove’s fraud claims.
Ultimately, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of Altech and affirmed the partial summary judgment in favor of FieldTurf. The Court also remanded the case for a new trial on Pleasant Grove’s breach of warranty claims against both Altech and FieldTurf.
Lessons learned. Pleasant Grove reported problems it was experiencing with the artificial turf 6 years prior to the Court of Appeals’ decision. Assuming the case isn’t settled, it will now have to be retried before a jury against both FieldTurf and Altech since the Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment rendered in favor of Altech. First, one wonders if it would have been a better business decision by FieldTurf to have just replaced the artificial turf as requested by Pleasant Grove rather than spend years in protracted litigation. Second, before a party like Altech files a motion for summary judgment, it should consider whether a favorable summary judgment will be upheld on appeal. Otherwise, it may find itself having to relitigate the case years later after an appellate court reverses the summary judgment.