John Hicks, successfully represented a home inspector in a professional negligence case. The trial began on April 28, 2014 in Clay County, Missouri and resulted in a directed verdict in favor of the home inspector.
In August 2011, the plaintiff purchased the home from the co-defendants who allegedly failed to disclose water intrusion through a crack in their foundation wall. In June 2011, the home inspector conducted a “limited visual inspection” of the home and noted no signs of water intrusion in the basement. On August 7, 2011, the day the plaintiff took possession of the home, plaintiff discovered water coming through a 6 foot crack in the foundation wall.
The homeowners claimed that they were not aware of the crack at the time they sold the home. Plaintiff made a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation against the homeowner as well as an MMPA claim for intentionally concealing the crack by covering it with furnishing, boxes and clothes. Plaintiff also made a claim for professional negligence against the home inspector for failing to discover the crack in the foundation and including it in his report. Finally, plaintiff also claimed that the home inspector was negligent in reporting that the grading was serviceable when it was actually flat and did not allow for proper run-off.
The defendant home inspector argued that the crack was either not present at the time of the home inspection in June 2011 or was not significant enough to note in the report. The home inspector further argued that the grading was appropriate and was not the cause of the water intrusion on August 7, 2011. The true cause was a clogged drain in the window well that caused the well to fill up with water. Once this occurred the water spilled through the bottom of the window and through a portion of the crack near the corner of the well. The home inspector presented evidence that once this issue was resolved that the plaintiff no longer had any problem with water intrusion.
The plaintiff’s expert, Frank Comer, PE, testified that he saw evidence of water intrusion in the basement that had occurred on at least three prior occasions. Mr. Comer also testified that the grading was not adequate and was causing hydrostatic pressure on the foundation causing the foundation walls to lean in approximately ½ inch. On cross examination, Mr. Comer agreed that not all home inspectors were engineers and that it would be unfair to hold the defendant who is not an engineer to the same standard that applied to him. Mr. Comer, while obviously critical of the home inspection, never testified that the home inspection fell below the standard of care as it applied to this defendant.
After two days of evidence the court granted the home inspector’s motion for directed verdict.