Otte v. McAuliffe, 33316

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Citation441 S.W.2d 733
Docket NumberNo. 33316,33316
PartiesC. J. OTTE, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Edward F. McAULIFFE and Florence O. McAuliffe, Defendants-Appellants.
Decision Date20 May 1969

Daniel P. Reardon, Jr., St. Louis, for defendants-appellants.

Hansen & Stierberger, E. A. Stierberger, Union, for plaintiff-respondent.

GERALD M. SMITH, Commissioner.

This appeal involves a mechanic's lien suit in which judgment for $2,457.81 plus interest was entered by the Court in favor of the plaintiff-contractor and against defendants, the landowners, and a lien was adjudged against the property. The cause was tried to the Court without a jury. The defendants contend the action of the Circuit Court in refusing to admit testimony that the material and workmanship furnished were faulty was error. We agree.

The action was commenced by a petition to enforce a mechanic's lien. After setting out the identity of the parties and ownership and description of the real estate involved, the petition stated: 'That during the month of September, 1966, the defendants * * * as owners of the tract of land described * * * entered into an agreement with the plaintiff, C. J. Otte, contractor, pursuant to which said agreement the plaintiff C. J. Otte became the original and general contractor for the construction of improvements on the above described parcel of real estate; * * *.'

It was then alleged that, '* * * at the special instance and request of the defendants * * *' the plaintiff furnished materials, supplies, and labor in the construction, repair and remodeling of buildings on the real estate. The various materials and labor were set out in detail as well as the charge for each item. The petition states, '* * * that each and every item of said account was reasonably worth the amount charged therefore at the time same was furnished and delivered and that all of the items combined were reasonably worth * * *' $9,391.77 against which was a credit for payment of $6,933.96. Each item is alleged to have been furnished in reliance upon having a mechanic's lien and all items, '* * * of said account were furnished under one agreement between plaintiff and defendants, and with the approval and insistence of the defendants * * *.' The last item was furnished on April 27, 1967, on which date, '* * * said account accrued and became due and payable * * *.' The petition recites the filing of the lien and attaches it as an exhibit.

The mechanic's lien states that plaintiff, '* * * files the account below set forth for work and labor done, and materials furnished by the said C. J. Otte, under contract with Edward F. McAuliffe and Florence O. McAuliffe, his wife * * *' and further states that the work, labor and materials were furnished at the defendants' request.

Defendants admitted the identity of the parties and ownership and description of the real estate and denied all other allegations. No affirmative defenses were pleaded.

We will not review in detail all the evidence at trial, but certain of the testimony must be noted. The agreement alleged in the petition was oral and according to plaintiff, defendants agreed to pay him to build the house on the basis of labor and material plus seventeen per cent (17%) of the labor. A fixed charge per hour for labor was agreed to. Periodic billings for labor and materials were made by plaintiff and paid by defendants up to February 24, 1967, and plaintiff sought to recover only for the labor and materials from that date through April 27, 1967, when he ceased work on the house. Plaintiff did not seek to recover the 17% override. Defendants contended, and plaintiff admitted, that the oral agreement required plaintiff to see that the house was built according to what defendants wanted, and plaintiff had the responsibility to do the work in a workmanlike fashion using 'good middle of the road quality' material. Plaintiff and his witnesses testified on direct examination that the charges for material and labor were reasonable.

Defendants attempted during their case to elicit testimony intended to show that the material furnished by plaintiff was of poor quality and the work was not performed in a workmanlike fashion.

A carpenter who had worked on the job was allowed to testify without objection that some of the material was warped and twisted and difficult to work with. The witness stated that this was called to plaintiff's attention and plaintiff said to try and use it as he had bought it at a bargain. Defendants then called as an expert witness a general contractor who had inspected the house after plaintiff had completed his work. Plaintiff objected to any testimony by the witness on the nature and quality of the work performed, as beyond the scope of the pleadings. The Court sustained the objection. Defendants' offer of proof, denied by the Court, indicated that if allowed to testify the witness would state that the material was of poor quality and the work was faulty. He further would have testified that in his opinion, plaintiff had already been paid more than the material and work were reasonably worth. The witness was further prevented from teestifying to the specific faults he found in the construction and to the reasonable cost of building the house.

Defendant-husband was permitted to testify that his agreement with plaintiff limited his cost in building the home to $14,000.00, and that he had already expended more than $19,500.00 for the home. He was not permitted to testify, however, on the condition of the premises when plaintiff ceased work, that the work was incomplete, and on specific faulty work and low quality materials. Defendants' offer of proof of these matters was also denied.

Plaintiff supports the action of the trial court in excluding defendants' evidence of poor quality material and unworkmanlike performance upon the theory that the suit was based upon a contract and defendants' failure to allege faulty performance by affirmative defense, setoff, or counterclaim precludes them from introducing such...

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6 cases
  • Mitchell Engineering Co., A Div. of Ceco Corp. v. Summit Realty Co., Inc., WD
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 21, 1982
    ...the benefit of every reasonable and fair intentment. Yamnitz v. Polytech, Inc., 586 S.W.2d 76, 84 (Mo.App.1979). In Otte v. McAuliffe, 441 S.W.2d 733 (Mo.App.1969), it was observed that a contractor's petition to enforce a lien gave the lien claimant status to enforce the lien even though t......
  • Rolla Lumber Co. v. Evans, 9106
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 20, 1972
    ...527(1); Williams v. Cass, Mo.App., 372 S.W.2d 156, 161(10, 11); Woodley v. Esslinger, Mo.App., 458 S.W.2d 869, 873. See Otte v. McAuliffe, Mo.App., 441 S.W.2d 733, 736(2). Hence, failure to prove the reasonable value of services rendered or materials furnished is fatal to recovery therefor ......
  • Twin Bridges Const. Co., Inc. v. Ferner, 13891
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • November 13, 1985
    ...Exhibit A, "a procedure required under quantum meruit, but not where recovery is sought for a fixed contract amount." Otte v. McAuliffe, 441 S.W.2d 733, 736 (Mo.App.1969). In support of (a), defendants argue that the petition is based on the theory of quantum meruit and is insufficient to p......
  • Fowler v. Scott, ED 84820.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 17, 2005
    ...that affects the value of the materials or services, including evidence that the work was unskillfully performed. Otte v. McAuliffe, 441 S.W.2d 733, 736 (Mo.App.1969); Fitzgerald v. Schaefer, 216 S.W.2d 939, 940 (Mo.App.1949). The judgment in defendant's favor necessarily determined that th......
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