WILLARD P. WAGNER, ET AL.
ERIC MARTIN NOVELLI
Session April 17, 2018
from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County No. 14C1262 W.
Neil Thomas, III, Judge
appeal concerns a dispute over an agreement to install a
heating and air conditioning system ("HVAC") in a
house. Eric Martin Novelli ("Novelli") engaged
Willard P. Wagner d/b/a Wagner Heating & Air
("Wagner") to install an HVAC system at
Novelli's house. There was no written contract. Novelli
grew dissatisfied with Wagner's work and dismissed him
from the project. Wagner sued Novelli in the Circuit Court
for Hamilton County ("the Trial Court") for payment
on the project. Novelli filed an answer and counterclaim.
Novelli alleged, among other things, that the units Wagner
installed were too large which created problems. After a
trial, the Trial Court found that it could not find any
breach of contract with respect to installation. Instead, the
Trial Court applied the Uniform Commercial Code
("UCC") and awarded Wagner $11, 400 for payment on
the project. Novelli appeals to this Court. We find, as did
the Trial Court, that Wagner in sizing the units relied on
specifications Novelli gave him, installed the HVAC per their
agreement using merchantable, fit for purpose units, and is
entitled to judgment as awarded by the Trial Court. We affirm
the judgment of the Trial Court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
Timothy M. Gibbons and Logan Threadgill, Chattanooga,
Tennessee, for the appellant, Eric Martin Novelli.
William G. Schwall, Chickamauga, Georgia, for the appellee,
Willard P. Wagner d/b/a Wagner Heating & Air.
Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Richard H. Dinkins and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ.,
MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE
2013, Novelli sought to install an HVAC system in his three
level house. The house did not belong to Novelli personally,
but rather belonged to a trust established by Novelli's
father of which Novelli was trustee. To install the HVAC
system, Novelli hired Wagner. No written agreement exists
between the parties. The parties, who disagree on almost
everything, agree that Wagner was to install the HVAC system
for Novelli. Both Novelli and Wagner are experienced
was highly critical of Wagner's work. Novelli cites
numerous claimed flaws, one of which is that Wagner allegedly
overestimated the necessary cooling capacity. According to
Novelli, this excessive cooling capacity caused the HVAC to
malfunction. For his part, Wagner contends that he merely
acted on computations he made to size the units based upon
information supplied by Novelli. Novelli sent Wagner an email
telling him his work on the project was complete and not to
October 2014, Wagner sued Novelli in the Trial Court. Wagner
alleged that Novelli owed him $14, 100. Wagner also asserted
mechanic's and materialman's lien. In June 2015,
Novelli filed an answer and counterclaim alleging that
Wagner's work was inadequate and that Novelli spent $18,
850 to repair Wagner's deficient work.
case was tried on August 9 and November 8-9, 2016. Wagner
testified in part regarding his working relationship with
Novelli and what he understood their agreement to be:
Q. We really need to get specific. Specifically, what was
your agreement with Mr. Novelli?
A. To install heating and air in his house in Thunder Farms.
Q. Did you go further and talk about what needed to be done
to do that?
Q. And what exactly did you discuss?
A. Equipment size, location -- this is over several different
meetings -- generally just where to put the equipment, what
he wanted as far as gas appliances, you know, things like
Q. Did you ever ask Mr. Novelli for a punch list?
Q. And what did he say?
A. He just kept saying he would have me something, and he
Q. Was that a constant problem you had?
Q. Let's get back -- how often were you actually on this
A. I was there -- for every five days, I was there at least
three days of those five. I had to go do service calls and
look at other jobs; so I couldn't be there all the time,
but I was there quite a bit.
Q. How often did you talk to Mr. Novelli?
A. Every day I was there. He wasn't there every day, but
he was there quite a bit, and I talked to him every day.
Q. Were those pleasant conversations?
A. Only that I was a poor planner and I couldn't do
anything right. That's about -- you know, a lot of times,
we would actually discuss relevant things and get things
placed where they should be.
detailing his own account of his dealings with Wagner,
testified in part:
Q. Did you have discussion with Mr. Wagner about the HVAC
units that would be installed in the house?
A. No, other than the brand of it.
Q. And what brand did you ask for?
A. I asked for Rheem.
A. That's correct.
Q. Did you tell Mr. Wagner how many units you wanted?
A. Actually, when we first discussed this project, I wanted
to run two units. But he told me that was against Hamilton
County code; you had to have one unit per floor of living
space. I had built other houses in Georgia and Alabama where
we used two, because, essentially, these type houses have a
high roof, and you have a bonus room that's not always
utilized; so it seems kind of excessive to run an
air-conditioning system for a room that gets used