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Kite Bros. LLC v. Alexander

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

December 18, 2019



          Jack L. Simms, Jr. Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Kite Bros. LLC

          Michael A. Smith, Jr., Alvin C. Dowden, Jr. Dowden & Smith, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: Timothy Alexander Lisa Alexander

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Shannon J. Gremillion, and John E. Conery, Judges.


         Kite Bros., LLC, appeals the judgment in favor of defendants, Timothy and Lisa Alexander, rejecting Kite Bros.' demands against defendants resulting from damage to a recreational vehicle (RV) that defendants traded in when they purchased a new RV. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


         The Alexanders previously purchased two RVs from Kite Bros. prior to October 15, 2013, when they purchased a 2014 Torque RV (the Torque) from Kite Bros. and traded in their 2006 Fleetwood Gearbox fifth wheel "toy-hauler" RV (the Gearbox). The manner in which this deal was perfected is disputed by the parties. The Alexanders claim that the deal was discussed and perfected during a meeting in the office of Kite Bros.' manager, Mr. Robert Kite, on October 15, 2013. Mr. Kite, on the other hand, testified that he and Mr. Alexander discussed the purchase price of the Torque and the trade allowance on the Gearbox in a phone call on October 13, 2013. Kite Bros. allowed the Alexanders $25, 495.00 for the trade-in. No one at Kite Bros. inspected the interior of the Gearbox prior to perfecting the transaction, according to Mr. Kite.

         Robert Kite testified that he relied upon his prior dealings with the Alexanders and, thus, did not inspect the interior of the trailer. Mrs. Alexander testified that during their October 15 meeting, Mr. Kite and his son, Jeff, left her and her husband in his office while they inspected the trailer, and Mr. Alexander confirmed this in his testimony. Mrs. Alexander denied seeing either Robert or Jeff Kite enter the trailer; however, when he returned to his office, Robert Kite complimented her on how "new" looking she kept the interior. Mr. Alexander also confirmed this.

         The Gearbox was not without flaws when the Alexanders traded it in. The awning had been torn off in a storm and there was damage around the fender wells. Robert Kite requested that they file a claim with their insurer for replacement of the awning. The Alexanders agreed to do that, and their insurer, USAA, paid the claim.

         The sale of the Torque was finalized by the execution of a "Retail Installment Sale Contract" between the Alexanders and Kite Bros. This contract provides that the Torque was sold "AS IS," with only the manufacturer's warranty. The contract requires the Alexanders to maintain property damage insurance on the Torque for the term of the contract, ten years. It obligates the Alexanders to pay the entire amount under the contract even if the Torque is damaged, destroyed, or missing. It provides for various remedies available to Kite Bros. should the Alexanders be delinquent in their payments or in outright default. The contract is silent on any warranties on the Gearbox.

         After completing the paperwork, Kite Bros. personnel readied the Torque and the Alexanders moved their personal effects from the Gearbox into the Torque. Robert Kite entrusted the Alexanders with his credit card so they could fill the tank of the Torque's generator. They then returned the credit card and drove home, the Torque in tow.

         In November 2013, Kite Bros. contacted Mrs. Alexander and advised her that the roof of the Gearbox had been damaged. The Alexanders went to the dealership and were shown an area where the membrane roof material had been peeled back a corner over the garage section of the trailer, beneath which was a "hole" in the roof deck. Mrs. Alexander testified that she did not think the damage she was shown could have developed during the month Kite Bros. had owned the Gearbox.

         The manufacturer of the Gearbox, Fleetwood, had declared bankruptcy, according to Robert Kite. It took some months for Kite Bros. to obtain the parts needed to repair the awning. After those parts arrived in February 2014, the Gearbox was moved into a garage to be repaired, and deterioration inside the Gearbox was discovered. Robert Kite contacted the Alexanders, who agreed to file a second claim with USAA. Mr. Kite testified that the Gearbox has been stored indoors since.

         USAA paid a portion of the damages but denied others as resulting from lack of maintenance or wear and tear. The Alexanders denied any responsibility for the damage.

         In July 2014, Kite Bros. filed their "Petition for Breach of Contract" against the Alexanders. The petition alleged that the Alexanders traded the Gearbox and that Kite Bros. fixed the trade-in value "solely on the defendants [sic] . . .description of the trade-in as having no leaks, rotten wood, water damage, and in good condition, never having a leak or being damaged in any manner." The petition further alleged that Kite Bros. inspected the Gearbox on two separate occasions and, despite that, did not discover that the Gearbox had been "leaking for a long time, had sustained water damage, and had deteriorated to the extent that is was a total loss[.]" The leaking was such, according to the petition, that it could not be detected by reasonable and simple inspection. It concluded with a prayer for adequate compensation, costs, and attorney fees.

         The matter proceeded to trial in August 2018. The testimonies of the Alexanders and Robert Kite have already been discussed. The trial court also heard from Eyoul Slaydon. Mr. Slaydon is a friend of the Alexanders and went hunting with Mr. Alexander in Colorado on several occasions in the Gearbox. After the Alexanders traded the Gearbox, Mr. Slaydon considered purchasing it from Kite Bros. with full knowledge of the deterioration, which he thought he could repair. When Mr. Slaydon examined the trailer, it was sitting ...

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