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Ltd. v. Cameron Builders, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

June 20, 2017

VISION 20/20, LTD., Appellant

         On Appeal from the 129th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2013-73216

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Jamison, and Donovan.


          Martha Hill Jamison Justice.

         This appeal concerns statutory construction of a provision of the Residential Construction Liability Act (RCLA). See Tex. Prop. Code §§ 27.001-.007. The named plaintiff and appellant, Vision 20/20, Ltd., [1] sued appellee Cameron Builders, Inc., alleging that a construction defect in a home built by Cameron resulted in significant damages. The trial court granted summary judgment favoring Cameron based on the notice provisions of RCLA section 27.003(a)(2). Concluding that none of appellant's arguments support reversal under the circumstances presented, we affirm.


         Vision is a partnership owned by members of a family. In 2005, Cameron built a home for Vision that certain family members then inhabited. In December 2011, a plumbing failure in an upstairs bathroom allegedly caused significant water damage at the home, both to the structure itself and to furnishings and other personal possessions. The family members moved out of the home, and remediation and repair efforts began. A family member spoke to Cameron's president about the water damage in December 2011 and January 2012. On March 2, 2012, Rimkus Consulting, which had been hired by Vision's insurer, Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London, reported that the water damage was the result of the failure of a hot water supply lavatory connector which was improperly routed and installed.

         On March 8, 2013, after all remediation and repair efforts at the home had been completed, an attorney representing Lloyds sent a demand letter to Cameron, asserting that Cameron was responsible for the water damage and that the total amount of the resulting damages was $207, 701.05. Cameron denied liability and the present lawsuit, naming Vision as plaintiff, was filed.

         The petition raised negligence, breach of warranty, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act causes of action. Damages were sought for both the cost of repairing the real property damage as well as for the value of damaged personal property. Cameron later filed a third-party claim against the plumbing subcontractor who allegedly installed the water supply line that had failed. Cameron filed a motion for summary judgment asserting, among other things, that Vision's claims were barred by operation of RCLA section 27.003(a)(2). The trial court granted the motion as to the claims for damages related to real property but denied it as to the claims related to personal property. The trial court specifically based its grant of summary judgment on section 27.003(a)(2). Subsequently, Vision nonsuited its claims for personal property damages, and Cameron nonsuited its claims against the third-party plumbing contractor. The summary judgment therefore was rendered final, and this appeal followed.


         We review de novo a trial court's grant of summary judgment. See Mann Frankfort Stein & Lipp Advisors, Inc. v. Fielding, 289 S.W.3d 844, 848 (Tex. 2009). In a traditional motion for summary judgment, such as was granted here, the movant has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. (citing Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c)). We consider all the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, crediting evidence favorable to the nonmovant if reasonable jurors could, and disregarding contrary evidence unless reasonable jurors could not. See id.

         The parties agree that this case is governed by the RCLA. The RCLA modifies claims for damages resulting from construction defects in residences by limiting and controlling causes of action that otherwise exist. E.g., Gentry v. Squires Constr., Inc., 188 S.W.3d 396, 404 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2006, no pet.). The RCLA does not create a cause of action but provides defenses and limitations on damages. E.g., id. The RCLA also sets forth notice provisions. Id. The purpose of the notice requirements is to encourage pre-suit negotiations to avoid the expense of litigation. In re Wells, 252 S.W.3d 439, 448 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, orig. proceeding).

         The trial court expressly based its grant of summary judgment on RCLA section 27.003(a)(2), which states in relevant part:

if . . . a person subrogated to the rights of a claimant fails to provide the contractor with the written notice and opportunity to inspect and offer to repair required by Section 27.004 . . . before performing repairs, the contractor is not liable for the cost of any repairs or any percentage of damages caused by repairs made to a construction defect at the request of . . . a person subrogated to the rights of a claimant by a person other than the contractor or an agent, employee, or subcontractor of the contractor.

Tex. Prop. Code ยง 27.003(a)(2). The referenced section 27.004 contains many requirements, but relative to section 27.003(a)(2), it requires a claimant to notify a contractor in writing of a "construction defect" that the claimant claims caused damages and to permit the contractor to inspect the ...

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