Satterfield v. Medlin, 01-885.

Citation59 P.3d 33, 312 Mont. 234, 2002 MT 260
Case DateNovember 22, 2002
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

59 P.3d 33
2002 MT 260
312 Mont. 234

Todd and Susan SATTERFIELD, Plaintiffs and Appellants,
Ray MEDLIN d/b/a Ultimate Construction, Defendant and Respondent

No. 01-885.

Supreme Court of Montana.

Submitted on Briefs May 9, 2002.

Decided November 22, 2002.

59 P.3d 34
Edward A. Murphy, Datsopoulos, MacDonald & Lind, P.C., Missoula, Montana, for Appellants

John E. Bohyer, Fred Simpson, Phillips & Bohyer, P.C., Missoula, Montana, for Respondent.

Justice JIM REGNIER delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Appellants Todd and Susan Satterfield ("Satterfields") filed a complaint against Respondent Ray Medlin ("Medlin"), doing business as Ultimate Construction, in the Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County, to recover damages as a result of Medlin's construction of a small log home. The Satterfields brought claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied warranty of habitability, and negligence. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict for Medlin. The Satterfields filed a motion for a new trial based on the District Court's refusal to instruct the jury on their claim for breach of implied warranty of habitability and further claim there was not substantial credible evidence to support the jury's verdict. The District Court denied the motion and Satterfields appeal. We affirm the District Court.

¶ 2 We address the following issues on appeal:

¶ 3 1. Did the District Court abuse its discretion when it refused to instruct the jury on the implied warranty of habitability?

¶ 4 2. Did substantial credible evidence exist to support the jury's verdict?


¶ 5 In December of 1996, Todd and Susan Satterfield entered into a written agreement with Medlin to construct a log home. The Satterfields already owned the land on which the house was to be built. Medlin and the Satterfields agreed to a purchase price of $78,055. The contract between Medlin and the Satterfields states, in part:

All material is guaranteed to be as specified, and the above work to be performed in accordance with the drawings and specifications submitted for above work and
59 P.3d 35
completed in a substantial workmanlike manner....

¶ 6 On June 5, 1998, the Satterfields filed a complaint against Medlin in the District Court alleging a multitude of problems with the house. While the Satterfields allege many other errors and omissions by Medlin, central to the dispute is the absence of a six-by-six support column which was called for in the house plans. The support column was to run from a crawl space to the ridge beam, but was never installed. The parties agree that the house is not sound without the support column.

¶ 7 Most other facts are sharply disputed by the parties. Medlin testified that Todd Satterfield directed him not to install the column because it would block the view of the living room from the loft. According to Medlin, Medlin advised Todd to consult an engineer about the support column, but Todd refused because it would cost additional money. At trial, Medlin testified that several days later, Todd instructed Medlin to eliminate the support column from the plans. The jury heard evidence that by that point Medlin had already constructed a 3' x 12" concrete pad on which the column would have been installed. Todd denies ever having discussed the support column with Medlin, much less having ordered Medlin not to install it.

¶ 8 The parties agree that the structure is not sound without the support column. However, expert witnesses for both the Satterfields and Medlin testified that the home was safe to live in once a temporary support column was installed at a cost of approximately $500.

¶ 9 The Satterfields moved into the home in June of 1997 while construction was still underway. They continued to live in the home until summer of 1999. A friend of the Satterfields then moved into the home and lived there until April 2000.

¶ 10 We note that the Satterfields complained of other problems, in addition to the absent support column, including inadequate fasteners on the north gable wall.

¶ 11 The jury returned a verdict in favor of Medlin. Satterfields appeal the District Court's refusal to grant their motion for a new trial. They argue that the District Court wrongfully refused to instruct the jury...

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    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • June 26, 2007
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