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Hydronic Energy, Inc. v. Rentzel Pump Manufacturing, LP

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Date: 
Thursday, September 12, 2013

A-12-0828, Hydronic Energy, Inc. v. Rentzel Pump Manufacturing, LP (Appellant)

Douglas County, District Court Judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf

Attorney for Appellant:  James B. Luers, Krista M. Carlson (Wolfe, Snowden, Hurd, Luers & Ahl, LLP)

Attorney for Appellee:  Patrick T. Vint, E.J. Kelly (Hopkins & Huebner, P.C.)

Civil Action:  Breach of Warranty

Action Taken by Trial Court:  After a bench trial, the district court found in favor of Hydronic Energy and entered a judgment against Rentzel Pump Manufacturing in the amount of $17,818.39.

Assignments of Error on Appeal:  Rentzel Pump Manufacturing assigns that the district court erred in (1) finding that Hydronic Energy gave timely and sufficient notice of a warranty claim; (2) finding that Rentzel Pump Manufacturing breached the limited warranty; (3) finding that the limited warranty failed in its essential purpose; (4) calculating the amount of damages to which Hydronic Energy was entitled; and (5) failing to grant Rentzel Pump Manufacturing a new trial.

Extended Case Summary (for Educational Purposes): 

A-12-0828, Hydronic Energy, Inc. v. Rentzel Pump Manufacturing, LP (Appellant)

Douglas County, District Court Judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf

Attorney for Appellant: James B. Luers, Krista M. Carlson (Wolfe, Snowden, Hurd, Luers & Ahl, LLP)

Attorney for Appellee: Patrick T. Vint, E.J. Kelly (Hopkins & Huebner, P.C.)

Civil Action: Breach of Warranty

Action Taken by Trial Court: After a bench trial, the district court found in favor of Hydronic Energy and entered a judgment against Rentzel Pump Manufacturing in the amount of $17,818.39.

Assignments of Error on Appeal: Rentzel Pump Manufacturing assigns that the district court erred in (1) finding that Hydronic Energy gave timely and sufficient notice of a warranty claim; (2) finding that Rentzel Pump Manufacturing breached the limited warranty; (3) finding that the limited warranty failed in its essential purpose; (4) calculating the amount of damages to which Hydronic Energy was entitled; and (5) failing to grant Rentzel Pump Manufacturing a new trial.

Facts: Hydronic Energy purchased two vertical turbine pump assemblies from Rentzel to be used in a construction project in Omaha. The pumps were sold subject to a limited warranty, which guaranteed that the products would be free of defects, but if a defect was found, the remedy was limited to repairing or replacing the defective part.

The pumps were shipped and had to be assembled on site. After assembly, they were put into place, attached to electricity, and turned on. Hydronic Energy then discovered that the pumps were “running hot” and “over amping.” Hydronic Energy notified Rentzel of these issues and the parties communicated for the next several months in an attempt to diagnose the cause of the problem.

After several months, Hydronic Energy obtained an estimate from a company in Omaha to disassemble the pumps, inspect them to try to find the cause of the problem, and reassemble them. Hydronic Energy submitted the estimate to Rentzel, and Rentzel’s responded that it believed the warranty period had expired so it was not responsible for the cost of repairing any problems with the pumps. Rentzel offered, however, to inspect and repair any defects at its plant if Hydronic Energy would ship the pumps to Rentzel. Ultimately, Hydronic Energy had the pumps repaired locally and submitted the final invoice to Rentzel. When Rentzel refused to pay, Hydronic Energy filed suit.

At trial, the issues addressed were when the warranty expired, whether Hydronic Energy provided timely and sufficient notice of a defect to Rentzel, whether the limited warranty failed of its essential purpose so that Hydronic Energy was entitled to damages beyond the cost of repairing or replacing the defective part, and the amount of damages to which Hydronic Energy was entitled. The trial court ruled in favor of Hydronic Energy on all of the issues and awarded a judgment in the amount of $17,818.39.

On appeal, Rentzel claims that the court erred in its determination of when the warranty period expired and in finding that notice of a warranty claim was timely and sufficient. Rentzel argues that the warranty required that Hydronic Energy provide notice of a defect and sufficient proof thereof, and when Hydronic Energy first contacted Rentzel about the pumps “running hot” and “over amping,” it did not yet know there was a defect. Thus, Rentzel claims, Hydronic Energy failed to provide sufficient proof of a defect within the warranty period.

Rentzel also argues that the court erred in concluding that the limited warranty failed of its essential purpose because the fact that Rentzel did not repair the defect was not because it was unable or unwilling to do so, but rather because Hydronic refused to ship the pumps to Rentzel so the repairs could be performed at Rentzel’s facility. Based on this argument, Rentzel also claims the court erred in allowing Hydronic Energy to recover damages beyond the cost of repairing or replacing the defective part. Rentzel claims that even if the limited warranty failed of its essential purpose, the warranty specifically excluded consequential or incidental damages, and that provision of the warranty should independently be upheld.

Finally, Rentzel claims that the court awarded damages that were unsupported by the evidence because no witnesses could explain or account for all of the charges in the invoice upon which Hydronic Energy and the court relied in its calculation of damages.

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