WALPOLE WOODWORKERS, INC. v. SID MANNING A/K/A SIDNEY F. MANNING, SC 18778
Judicial District of Hartford
Home Improvement Act; Bad Faith Exception; Whether a Contractor who Violates the Home Improvement Act may Recover the Balance Owed Under the Contract Pursuant to the Bad Faith Exception. The parties entered into a written contract under which the plaintiff agreed to install a fence on the defendant’s property in exchange for $22,318. After the plaintiff completed the work, the defendant refused to pay the balance owed under the contact, claiming that the work had not been properly performed. Thereafter, the plaintiff initiated this breach of contract action, seeking payment for services rendered under the contract. An attorney fact finder determined that, although the contract did not comply with General Statutes (Rev. to 2003) § 20-429 (a) (7) of the Home Improvement Act (act), the defendant had invoked the act in bad faith and that under the bad faith exception to the act, the plaintiff was entitled to all of the relief that was provided for in the contract, namely, the balance due as well as attorney’s fees, costs and interest. After the trial court rendered a judgment that was essentially in accordance with the fact finder’s report, the defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that the legislature eliminated the bad faith exception by enacting General Statutes § 20-429 (f), which permits a court to award damages to a contractor under a theory of unjust enrichment where some, but not all, of the requirements of the act are met. The Appellate Court (126 Conn. App. 94) disagreed, finding that § 20-429 (f) does not eliminate the defense of bad faith but that it merely provides an additional restitutionary remedy to a contractor who performs work under a partially defective home improvement contract. It further determined, however, that because the parties’ contract was unenforceable in light of the plaintiff’s failure to fully comply with the act, the bad faith exception only permitted the plaintiff to recover the value of the work that it had performed and that the plaintiff could not take advantage of the contract provisions that provided for other forms of relief. Accordingly, it concluded that although the plaintiff was entitled to the balance due for the work it had performed, there was no basis, other than the contract provisions, to support the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees, costs and interest. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the plaintiff was entitled to the balance owed under the contract pursuant to the bad faith exception.