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Charter Communications, Inc. v. Lewis

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

December 19, 2019

Charter Communications, Inc., Appellant
v.
Dan Alan Lewis, Appellee

          On Appeal from County Court at Law No. 2 Denton County, Texas Trial Court No. CV-2015-01451

          Before Birdwell, Bassel, and Wallach, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MIKE WALLACH JUSTICE

         Appellee Dan Alan Lewis sued Appellant Charter Communications, Inc. for damages he sustained when his house flooded during the installation of an internet cable on his property. Based on the jury's verdict, the trial court awarded Lewis damages on his claim for breach of an implied warranty of workmanlike performance, and Charter now appeals. Because the evidence was not legally sufficient to establish that Charter's breach of the implied warranty was a cause of Lewis's damages, we reverse the trial court's judgment and render judgment that Lewis take nothing on his claims.

         Background

         Lewis sued Charter[1] for breach of contract, breach of the implied warranty of good and workmanlike performance, and violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as several other claims that were dismissed on summary judgment. Lewis alleged that the flooding in his home resulted from the use of a water spigot on the side of his home by an employee of Charter's subcontractor while that employee was burying an internet cable. Lewis had previously removed the spigot's handle to prevent unauthorized use of his water. Nevertheless, the subcontractor's employees managed to use the water spigot. Lewis sought to recover the costs to repair the damage to his home and lost income; a symphony pianist and cellist, Lewis also taught music out of his home but found it difficult to do so during the repair process.

         Lewis testified that a Charter employee installed the internet cable on his property on July 8, 2013, but told him another crew would come by in a few days to bury it. According to Lewis, on July 10, 2013, he walked into his kitchen and found it and his utility room "under about an inch of water," and water then migrated to other parts of the house. Lewis stated that in following the flow of water to his garage, he found the subcontractor's vehicle in his driveway, alerting him for the first time to the crew's presence.

         The jury found that Charter had breached an implied warranty of workmanlike performance, which was a producing cause of Lewis's damages, and it awarded him $15, 000 for repair costs, $25, 000 for lost income, and attorney's fees. The jury further found that Charter did not fail to comply with its agreement with Lewis and did not engage in any unconscionable action or course of action that caused Lewis's damages. The trial court signed a final judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict.

         Discussion

         In Charter's first issue, it argues that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury's finding that Charter's conduct was a producing cause of Lewis's damages because Lewis failed to show a causal link between Charter's alleged wrongful conduct and Lewis's damages.

         I. Standard of Review

         We may sustain a legal-sufficiency challenge-that is, a no-evidence challenge-only when (1) the record discloses a complete absence of evidence of a vital fact, (2) the rules of law or of evidence bar the court from giving weight to the only evidence offered to prove a vital fact, (3) the evidence offered to prove a vital fact is no more than a mere scintilla, or (4) the evidence establishes conclusively the opposite of a vital fact. Ford Motor Co. v. Castillo, 444 S.W.3d 616, 620 (Tex. 2014) (op. on reh'g); Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. v. Martinez, 977 S.W.2d 328, 334 (Tex. 1998) (op. on reh'g). In determining whether legally sufficient evidence supports the finding under review, we must consider evidence favorable to the finding if a reasonable factfinder could and must disregard contrary evidence unless a reasonable factfinder could not. Cent. Ready Mix Concrete Co. v. Islas, 228 S.W.3d 649, 651 (Tex. 2007); City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 807, 827 (Tex. 2005).

         II. Causation Evidence

         Texas law recognizes an implied warranty to repair or modify existing tangible goods or property in a good and workmanlike manner, and an action for breach of this warranty may be brought under the common law or under the DTPA. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. § 17.50(a)(2); Nghiem v. Sajib, 567 S.W.3d 718, 719 (Tex. 2019). "The implied warranty of good and workmanlike manner provides that a service will be performed in a skillful and workmanlike manner," which is "'that quality of work performed by one who has the knowledge, training, or experience necessary for the successful practice of a trade or occupation and performed in a manner generally considered proficient by those capable of judging such work.'" B ...


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