In the recent unpublished decision, Tim McClincy v. Miller Roofing Enterprises (Div. I, May 7, 2012), the Washington Court of Appeals held that a roofing contractor, which provided its customer with a 5-year warranty on labor and substantially longer warranties on manufactured roofing materials was not liable on the manufactured materials portion of the warranty.
In McClincy, McClincy Brothers Floor Covering (“Owner”) entered into a written contract with Miller Roofing in 1997 for the construction and replacement of flat and pitched roofs at the McClincy Brothers commercial building. The work was completed in 1998. The written contract provided a 5-year warranty on labor, and 12- and 50-year warranties on the manufacture of “torch down” and “metal” components respectively. In late 2007, severe weather resulted in extensive water intrusion and in excess of $1M damage to the building. The alleged cause of the damage was defective construction of the torch down roof by Miller. The Owner sued Miller Roofing in 2009. The roofing contractor claimed that the Owner’s claim was barred by the 6-year statute of repose, but the trial court ruled that Miller “stepped into the role” of manufacturer for the Torch down roof, that the 12-year warranty applied and awarded McClincy $1.387M in damages. On appeal, Miller argued that it did not warrant the torch down roof as a “manufacturer,” and the court of appeals agreed. The court based its decision on the fact that Miller was not the “manufacturer” of the roof materials and that there was no evidence that Miller “stepped into the role” of manufacturer. While it is not clear from the court’s opinion, it does not appear that the Owner raised the argument that Miller’s contractual warranty was broadly worded to encompass both its own labor as well as the manufactured products it installed.
While the case was ultimately sent back to the trial court for resolution of other issues, Miller was fortunate to have the court of appeals interpret its warranty provision as it did. Given the potential for claims and lawsuits years after a project is completed, it is essential that contractual warranty provisions be clearly and carefully drafted. Contractors and subcontractors that install components, which are required to have extended manufacturers’ warranties need to make clear that their warranty obligations as contractors are limited to labor and installation components only, and that any manufacturers’ warranties will be supplied solely and directly by the manufacturer.