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COA: Manufactured home subject to law

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The Indiana Court of Appeals determined that manufactured mobile homes are subject to Indiana's common law warranty of habitability, so it reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of a manufacturer in a homeowner's property damage and personal injury complaint.

In Sandra Dinsmore, et al. v. Fleetwood Homes of Tennessee, Inc., No. 49A02-0807-CV-615, Sandra filed a complaint against Fleetwood Homes that the home she purchased in 1999 wasn't a safe place to live because it had latent defects that caused toxic mold throughout the home, leaving it uninhabitable. After Dinsmore moved into the home, the bathroom vent leaked water and caused mold to grow. The company who sold her the home attempted to repair the problem twice. Less than a year later, Sandra and her family moved out and Sandra's son, fiancee, and baby moved into the mobile home and paid rent. There were no more complaints about the home until July 2002 when she called Fleetwood to report mold growing throughout the home; Brian and his family moved out.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Fleetwood and denied Dinsmore and her family's motion to amend by interlineation Sandra's response to Fleetwood's motion for summary judgment.

The Court of Appeals granted Fleetwood's motion to strike evidentiary assertions in the appellants' brief that depend on evidence that wasn't specifically designated to the trial court.

The only issue on appeal is the application of the common law implied warranty of habitability, which Fleetwood suggested isn't applicable to manufactured mobile homes. And even if it were applicable, Fleetwood's warranty is only applicable during the time frame the initial homebuyer occupies the unit as a resident, the company argued.

Citing Barnes v. MacBrown & Co., Inc., 264 Ind. 277, 342 N.E.2d 619 (Ind. 1976), the Court of Appeals noted the use by the Indiana Supreme Court of the term "manufacturer" supports the reasonable inference there is no distinction between a site-built home and a manufactured home, wrote Judge Carr Darden.

Fleetwood could have disclaimed the implied warranty of habitability to someone who lives in the home yet didn't initially purchase it; however, it had to follow the steps in Indiana Code Section 32-27-2-9. Fleetwood didn't argue or show it properly disclaimed "all implied warranties" as provided by the statute.

"The undisputed facts do not establish that Fleetwood is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the plaintiffs' claims under Indiana's common law warranty of habitability, and Fleetwood's express warranties do not supersede Indiana's implied warranty of habitability because Fleetwood did not follow the builder's statutory disclaimer procedure," wrote Judge Darden.

In addition, numerous issues of material fact remain, so the trial court erred in granting Fleetwood summary judgment.

The Court of Appeals also found the issue of the intervening plaintiffs' response to the summary judgment is moot because summary judgment to Fleetwood is precluded.

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