Anthony Osborn | The Dispute Resolver | November 13, 2014
In Bennett v. CMH Homes, the plaintiffs’ purchased a 2,180 square foot manufactured home from CMH Homes after their prior residence was destroyed by fire. As part of the agreement, CMH was required to deliver and install the home. In addition, CMH warranted the home would be installed “in accordance with applicable governmental requirements.”
Shortly after they moved into the manufactured home, the plaintiffs began noticing defects which led them to believe the home was not level. CMH assured the plaintiffs it would repair and level the home, but CMH’s repair efforts were unsuccessful. As a result, the plaintiffs filed suit in Tennessee federal court, asserting various claims which included a breach of warranty claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (“WMWA”), a federal statute regulating the sale of consumer products which applies to warranties for “tangible personal property.”
After a bench trial, the District Court found CMH had breached the contract and its warranties by failing to properly install and level the residence. On appeal, however, the Sixth Circuit held that a manufactured home is not a “consumer product” and was, therefore, not intended to be regulated by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. As the Sixth Circuit reasoned, a manufactured home is not designed to be moved once constructed and placed on land, and is not an expendable product or an item which is meant to be replaced periodically. Thus, the Court of Appeals found it more akin to a house than “tangible personal property” which might otherwise qualify as a “consumer product” subject to protection under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
One of the Circuit’s Judges delivered a dissenting opinion. Do you agree with the majority or dissent? A copy of the decision can be found at http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/14a0272p-06.pdf.