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Jones v. The Village at Lake Martin, LLC

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

January 12, 2018

Phillip Jones and Elizabeth Jones
v.
The Village at Lake Martin, LLC

         Appeal from Tallapoosa Circuit Court (CV-16-900051)

          MOORE, JUDGE.

         Phillip Jones and Elizabeth Jones appeal from a summary judgment entered by the Tallapoosa Circuit Court ("the trial court") in favor of The Village at Lake Martin, LLC ("the Village"), on their claims of breach of contract and fraudulent inducement. We affirm the trial court's summary judgment as to the breach-of-contract claim; we reverse the summary judgment as to the fraudulent-inducement claim.

         Procedural History

         On June 17, 2016, the Joneses filed a complaint against the Village and Brian Ray, in his individual capacity and as an agent of the Village, asserting claims of breach of contract, breach of warranty, fraudulent inducement, and unjust enrichment. On July 12, 2016, Ray and the Village filed an answer, which included numerous affirmative defenses, including that the claims were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. On January 27, 2017, Ray and the Village filed a motion for a summary judgment as to all claims. On March 29, 2017, the Joneses responded to that motion. On April 6, 2017, the trial court entered a judgment disposing of all the Joneses' claims; specifically, the trial court dismissed the breach-of-warranty claim on the motion of the Joneses and entered a summary judgment on the remaining claims of breach of contract, fraudulent inducement, and unjust enrichment. With regard to the breach-of-contract and fraudulent-inducement claims, the trial court held that there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding the merits of either claim and that each claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. On May 18, 2017, the Joneses filed their notice of appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court; that court transferred the appeal to this court, pursuant to Ala. Code 1975, § 12-2-7.

         Facts

         The evidence indicated that the Joneses purchased a lake house from the Village in 2009. Notably, the contract for the sale of the house included paragraph 34, which states:

"This contract constitutes the entire agreement between [the Joneses] and [the Village] regarding the Property, and supercedes [sic] all prior discussions, negotiations, and agreements between [the Joneses] and [the Village], whether oral or written. This agreement is not transferable or not assignable. Neither [the Joneses], [the Village], nor Broker or any sales associate shall be bound by any understanding, agreement, promise, or representation concerning the Property, express or implied, not specified herein."

         Additionally, the following language is handwritten on an addendum to the contract: "Buyer requests boat slip in next phase 1st choice -- @ $10, 000 to be paid at availability. Trex to be used." The Joneses and Ray initialed that handwritten note. In opposition to the summary-judgment motion, the Joneses presented their affidavits in which they averred that Ray had made representations to them, both before and at the time they entered into the contract to purchase the lake house, indicating that, once additional boat slips were built, they would be able to purchase one for $10, 000. The Joneses both stated that they had relied on the oral representations made by Ray concerning the option to purchase the boat slip when deciding to purchase the lake house.

         Subsequently, in 2016, the Village began constructing new boat slips. The Joneses requested to purchase one of the boat slips for $10, 000, but the Village refused their request. The Joneses testified that Ray denied that he had represented to them that the Village had agreed to allow them to purchase a boat slip for the purchase price of $10, 000. Phillip testified in his affidavit that he had been damaged as a result of the "deception and breach" of the Village.

         Standard of Review

         "'We review this case de novo, applying the oft-stated principles governing appellate review of a trial court's grant or denial of a summary judgment motion:

"'"We apply the same standard of review the trial court used in determining whether the evidence presented to the trial court created a genuine issue of material fact. Once a party moving for a summary judgment establishes that no genuine issue of material fact exists, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to present substantial evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact. 'Substantial evidence' is 'evidence of such weight and quality that fair-minded persons in the exercise of impartial judgment can reasonably infer the existence of the fact sought to be proved.' In reviewing a summary judgment, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and entertain such reasonable inferences as the jury would have been free to draw."'
"American Liberty Ins. Co. v. AmSouth Bank, 825 So.2d 786, 790 (Ala. 2002) (quoting NationwideProp. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. DPF Architects, P.C., 792 So.2d 369, 372 (Ala. 2000) (citations ...

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