Indiana RV manufacturer prevails in breach of warranty suit brought by frustrated customer

A peaceful retirement on the road wasn’t meant to be for a man whose experience with a recreational vehicle made by an Indiana company went flat following dozens of unresolved defects. But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the RV’s manufacturer, finding no issue with an instruction given to a jury in a suit against the RV maker.

After fighting with his then-newly built and purchased RV from Camping World RV Sales in North Carolina, Joseph Kuberski sued manufacturer REV Recreation Group, headquartered in Decatur, Indiana. Kuberski reported more than 40 defects ranging from leaks and unusable kitchen equipment to detached furniture and exterior concerns, including a broken alarm and dashboard.

As required by the warranty, which covered both the dealer and the manufacturer’s obligations, Camping World serviced the RV seven times in the next two years. But without progress, Kuberski got fed up and demanded that the dealer either buy back the RV or give him a new one.

Instead, the dealer offered to repair the RV for no charge at its facility and offered to pay for Kuberski’s expense of transporting the RV to Indiana, as long as Kuberski could pick it up at completion. Although he accepted the offer, Kuberski didn’t bring the RV in for repairs and instead sued REV in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana on a breach of warranty claim. His efforts were unsuccessful, however, when a jury ultimately ruled for REV.

On appeal in Joseph Kuberski v. REV Recreation Group, Inc., 20-3127, Kuberski argued that the district court imposed too high a burden on him and erred by telling the jury that only literal compliance — which he concededly did not satisfy by refusing to bring in the RV for repairs — would do.

But the 7th Circuit Court affirmed the district court, finding that even if the jury had been instructed on substantial compliance, it would not have “made any difference here.”

“Kuberski’s acknowledged failure to honor his appointment with REV in August 2015 was not a simple failure of literal compliance. It was enough also to defeat a finding of substantial compliance,” Circuit Judge Diane Wood wrote for the 7th Circuit, likening the circumstances in this case to those in the North Carolina case of Lyerly v. Malpass, 346 S.E.2d 254 (N.C. App. 1986).

“To be sure, Kuberski may have given the dealer, Camping World, ample notice and seven opportunities to cure. And he may have given REV, the manufacturer, more notice than it bargained for. Notice is not in dispute,” Wood wrote. “… Try as it may, REV cannot inspect the RV through written correspondence; there is simply no ‘close enough’ when REV could not get its hands on the vehicle at all.

“… The record is clear that Kuberski’s failure to deliver the vehicle to REV was intentional. Only those omissions that are the ‘result of mistake or inadvertence’ can support a substantial compliance defense under North Carolina law,” Wood continued.

Finally, the 7th Circuit noted that while Kuberski was accepting the “only option to resolve the matter” when he agreed to bring the RV in for repairs, that option was not “fundamentally unfair or coercive.”

“We do not mean to downplay the headaches that the Kuberskis experienced,” Wood concluded. “But Kuberski needed only to allow the transportation company to pick up the vehicle and then deliver it to REV’s facility. At that point, if REV had failed to fix the RV or otherwise make Kuberski whole, he would have been entitled to pursue his breach of warranty claim.”

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