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Goodwin v. Jim Bale Construction, LLC

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 18, 2015

DONNIE G. GOODWIN, ET AL.
v.
JIM BALE CONSTRUCTION, LLC

Session April 07, 2015

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Sumner County No. 2011CV506 Jane W. Wheatcraft, Judge

Kirk L. Clements, Goodlettsville, Tennessee, for the Appellants, Donnie G. Goodwin and Julie Goodwin.

Ronald B. Buchanan, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Jim Bale Construction, LLC.

Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which J. STEVEN STAFFORD, P.J., W.S., and Arnold B. Goldin, J., joined.

OPINION

KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE

I. Background

Jim Bale Construction, LLC ("Bale" or "Appellee") constructed homes on three lots in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. On April 30, 2008, Donnie Goodwin purchased one of the homes, which is located at 1015 Emily Drive (the "Home"). Mr. Goodwin paid $321, 000 for the Home and later added his wife, Julie Goodwin (together with Mr. Goodwin, "Appellants"), to the deed for the Home.[1]

The instant lawsuit arose after the Appellants discovered that the Home's concrete driveway, porch, and garage floor were cracking. Appellants' neighbor, Dr. Ruth Haley, informed Appellants that she witnessed the construction of the Home and watched "truckloads of fill brought into the property." The Appellants subsequently hired Christopher Beaver, an expert geotechnical engineer, to investigate the cause of the cracking.[2] Mr. Beaver opined that "the house was built on uncontrolled fill and the instability of the soil, particularly on the southeast side of the home is the reason for the excessive cracking of the concrete in the garage and driveway." Relying on their neighbor's statement and Mr. Beaver's opinion, the Appellants filed suit against Bale in the General Sessions Court for Sumner County, alleging breach of contract, breach of warranty, and intentional and reckless misrepresentation. On March 4, 2011, the case was transferred from General Sessions Court to Circuit Court. On March 22, 2012, the trial court granted Appellants' motion to amend their complaint. Appellants filed their amended complaint the same day, alleging breach of contract, breach of warranty, and intentional and reckless misrepresentation.

The trial court held a bench trial on March 17th, 21st, and April 15th, 2014. On April 17, 2014, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Bale, finding that the Appellants had not "carried the burden" of proving any of their claims. Specifically, the trial court found that, given the "strong proof in the record, " the Home was, in fact, built on virgin soil. The trial court also found that the Home "passed codes at every level of construction and was built to the standard of the construction industry…." On May 8, 2014, Bale filed a motion for discretionary costs in the amount of $9, 210.60. On June 4, 2014, the trial court granted the motion over Appellants' objection.

II. Issues

Appellants raise several issues for review. However, we perceive that there are two dispositive issues, which we state as follows:

1. Whether the trial court erred in finding that the Home was constructed on virgin soil.
2. Whether the trial court erred in awarding Bale discretionary costs in the ...

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