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Shafer Electric & Construction v. Raymond Mantia & Donna Mantia

May 10, 2013

SHAFER ELECTRIC & CONSTRUCTION
APPELLANT
v.
RAYMOND MANTIA & DONNA MANTIA, HUSBAND & WIFE APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order Entered July 10, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County Civil Division at No(s): 2011-2775

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mundy, J.

BEFORE: BOWES, J., DONOHUE, J., and MUNDY, J.

OPINION BY MUNDY, J.:

Appellant, Shafer Electric and Construction, appeals from the July 10, 2012 order granting the preliminary objections filed by Appellees, Raymond and Donna Mantia, dismissing Appellant's complaint with prejudice, and striking its mechanics' lien. Upon careful review, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

This case involved an alleged breach of a written home improvement contract between the parties for the construction of a 34' x 24' addition to Appellees' garage. The record establishes that Appellant is a licensed contractor with its principal place of business located in New Cumberland, West Virginia. At all relevant times hereto, however, Appellant was not registered as a contractor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA).*fn1

Appellees are husband and wife and reside in Avella, Pennsylvania. The trial court summarized the relevant facts and procedural history of this case as follows.

[Appellant] filed a mechanics['] lien on April 29, 2011 to begin the action. Thereafter, on December 6, 2011 [Appellant] filed a Complaint with an alleged contract between the parties attached thereto. [Appellant] characterized the contract as one for home improvement in the form of a 34' x 24' addition to the [Appellees'] garage. [Appellant] alleged that it completed $37,874.26 worth of home improvement work and that [Appellees] have not paid that amount. [Appellant] claimed that amount as damages under breach of contract, or alternatively, a theory of quantum meruit.*fn2 [On February 1, 2012,] [Appellees] filed preliminary objections in the form of a demurrer claiming that the Complaint was legally insufficient because the contract is unenforceable under the [HICPA].

Trial Court Opinion, 8/17/12, at 1 (footnote omitted; emphasis added).*fn3 On February 21, 2012, Appellant filed a reply to Appellees' preliminary objections. On July 6, 2012, the trial court heard oral argument on Appellees' preliminary objections. Thereafter, on July 10, 2012, the trial court entered an order granting Appellees' preliminary objections, dismissing Appellant's complaint with prejudice, and striking its mechanics' lien. In support of this decision, the trial court concluded that the parties' written home improvement contract was invalid and unenforceable under the HICPA, and Appellant was barred from seeking recovery based upon a theory of quantum meruit because said contract did not comply with section 517.7(a) of the HICPA. Id. at 2-4. On August 9, 2012, Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal.*fn4

On appeal, Appellant raises the following issues for our review.

1. Whether the trial court erred in the ignoring in Quantum Meruit recovery pursuant to the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act ("HICPA" or the "Act"), when the Act contemplates in Quantum Meruit recovery?

2. Whether the Act applies to a contract where the consumer, who is also a contractor, solicited the services and hires another contractor for a portion of an improvement project on his own home?

3. Whether the trial court erred in ignoring the theory of mutual mistake, where neither party knew about the requirement to register under the Act when the contract was formed, and then one party seeks to invalidate the contract, after performance by the other, based on the Act?

4. Whether the trial court erred in ignoring the theory of equitable estoppel, where the Appellee, being a Pennsylvania contractor either knew or should have known about the HICPA registration requirement, and kept silent about the requirement when he hired the Appellant, an out of state contractor, when the contract was formed, then pled the requirements of the Act to invalidate the same contract to his benefit?

Appellant's Brief at 4.

Our standard of review of a trial court's order granting preliminary objections is well settled.

[O]ur standard of review of an order of the trial court overruling or granting preliminary objections is to determine whether the trial court committed an error of law. When considering the appropriateness of a ruling on preliminary objections, the ...


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