United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Jack Brooks and Ellen Brooks, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
GAF Materials Corporation, Defendant
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For Jack Brooks, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Ellen Brooks, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs: Algernon Gibson Solomons, III, Daniel Alvah Speights, Speights & Runyan, Hampton, SC; Thomas H Pope, III, Pope and Hudgens, Newberry, SC.
For GAF Materials Corporation, Defendant: Esterina Giuliani, Sara Miro, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, Sullivan and Cromwell, New York, NY; Anna H Fee, David Tulchin, Kathleen S McArthur, PRO HAC VICE, Sullivan and Cromwell, New York, NY; Frances Groberg Zacher, Gallivan White and Boyd, Greenville, SC; Gray Thomas Culbreath, Gallivan White and Boyd, Columbia, SC.
ORDER AND OPINION
J. Michelle Childs, United States District Judge.
In this class action lawsuit, Jack Brooks and Ellen Brooks (together the " Named Plaintiffs" ), on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, (collectively " Plaintiffs" ) allege that Defendant GAF Materials Corporation (" GAF" ) manufactured and sold defective roofing shingles. (See ECF No. 1-1.)
This matter is now before the court on GAF's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (the " Rule 56 motion" ) as to Plaintiffs' claims for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranties, fraud, unjust enrichment, and violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act (" SCUTPA" ), S.C. Code Ann. § § 39-5-10 to 560 (2013). (ECF No. 198.) For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART GAF's motion for summary judgment.
I. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND TO THE PENDING MOTION
GAF manufactures roofing materials, including roofing shingles marketed under the Timberline® brand name. GAF provides a limited warranty for its Timberline® shingles, which warranty is printed on the packaging of every bundle of shingles. (ECF No. 198-11 at 2 ¶ 4.) In or around September 2000, Named Plaintiffs replaced the roof on their home with Timberline® shingles manufactured by GAF. (ECF No. 199-2 at 5:2-25.) At the time he installed the shingles, contractor Thadd Mays (" Mays" ) indicated to Named Plaintiffs that the Timberline® shingles installed on their roof were " thirty-year" shingles.(Id. at 5:20-25.)
In 2003, Named Plaintiffs learned that the Timberline® shingles on their roof were cracking. (ECF No. 199-3 at 4:4-17.) In March 2006, Mays submitted warranty claims to GAF for Timberline® shingles on behalf of Named Plaintiffs and several other property owners. (ECF No. 199-3 at 14:4-12; ECF 198-11 at 4 ¶ 9.) After a failed attempt to resolve their roofing issue through a warranty claim, Named Plaintiffs filed suit against GAF in April 2006 alleging, among other things, that GAF knowingly manufactured and sold defective shingles that cracked.(See, e.g., ECF No. 1-1.) In the pleading that forms the basis for this action, Named Plaintiffs assert class claims against GAF for negligence (Count 1), breach of express and implied warranties (Counts 3 and 4, respectively) and unjust enrichment (Count 7); and individual claims against GAF for negligent misrepresentation (Count 2), fraud (Count 5) and violation of SCUTPA (Count 6). (ECF No. 1-1 at 7-11.)
On October 19, 2012, the court entered an order (the " October Order" ) certifying Plaintiffs as a class defined as follows:
All persons or entities who own any South Carolina property with GAF Timberline® shingles manufactured at GAF's Mobile, Alabama manufacturing facility between 1999 through 2007 which have cracked, split, or torn. The class is not intended to include any structure owned by the Defendant or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates.
ECF No. 90 at 16-17.)
On May 20, 2014, GAF filed the instant Rule 56 motion. (ECF No. 198.) Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition to the Rule 56 motion on June 16, 2014, to which GAF filed a reply in support of its Rule 56 motion on June 26, 2014. (ECF Nos. 231, 241.)
II. LEGAL STANDARD AND ANALYSIS
A. Summary Judgment Generally
Summary judgment should be granted " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact
is " material" if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A genuine question of material fact exists where, after reviewing the record as a whole, the court finds that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Newport News Holdings Corp. v. Virtual City Vision, 650 F.3d 423, 434 (4th Cir. 2011).
In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123-24 (4th Cir. 1990). The non-moving party may not oppose a motion for summary judgment with mere allegations or denials of the movant's pleading, but instead must " set forth specific facts" demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1012 (4th Cir. 1991). All that is required is that " sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. " Mere unsupported speculation . . . is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion." Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995).
B. Plaintiffs' Causes of Action
1. Class Claims-Breach of Express Warranty and Breach of Implied Warranties
i. The Parties' Arguments
GAF argues that it is entitled to summary judgment as to Plaintiffs' warranty claims because it provided a limited warranty with its shingles that expressly, unambiguously, and conspicuously disclaimed all other warranties under South Carolina law. (ECF No. 198-1 at26-27 (citing S.C. Code Ann. § 36-2-719 (2013)).) As support for this argument, GAF asserts that its limited warranty was part of the bargain with the purchase of Timberline® shingles and Plaintiffs are therefore bound to the disclaimers in the limited warranty as third-party beneficiaries to the bargain. (Id. at 32-35.) GAF further asserts that there is no evidence of any other warranty or representation by it regarding how long Timberline® shingles are supposed to last. (Id. at 29.) In this regard, GAF asserts that " if a limited warranty contains no representation that the product will last for a certain period, then the purchaser has no cause of action merely because the product allegedly fails to last as long as the purchaser ...