If You End Up In Court, Is Being Right Enough?

Eleanor Lewis owned an island near the cranberry capital of Ontario, Bala Ontario. Eleanor and her husband decided they wanted to build a cottage on the island. The year was 1997. Eleanor and her husband hired homebuilder Scott Doran as contractor for the project.

During the planning phase of the project Eleanor learned that she could cover her roof with pine roof shingles. The pine roof shingles were distributed by Pine Roof Canada, whose marketing materials advertised that the product carried a 50 year warranty. Eleanor decided to go with the pine roof shingles and purchased them from the local Tim-Br Mart in Bala.

Traditional Roofworks Inc. and Pine Roof Canada Inc. supplied the shingles with a 50 year warranty. How could anything go wrong?

On June 14, 2005, the pine shingle roof was damaged by hail that swept through the area. Examination of the roof by a roofing company produced a report that said in part:

"This is the poorest grade of shake shingle I have ever seen. A roof this age should not show the signs of this kind of breakdown so early. My recommendation is to replace the entire roof."

On November 15, 2005 Eleanor's husband asked for a quote to replace the entire roof from the roofing company who had provided the damning report. That date, November 15, 2005, played a pivotal role in the outcome of this case.

Over the next few years Eleanor Lewis attempted to have the cost of the roof replaced by the contractor, Scott Doran, or the retailer from whom she bought the shingles, Tim-Br Mart, as well as Traditional Roofworks Inc. and Pine Roof Canada Inc., who had, after all, guaranteed the pine shingles for 50 years.

A lot of talk and lawyer's letters got Eleanor nowhere and finally on March 3rd, 2008, Eleanor Lewis started a court action.

There should have been no problem....right?

At the very least there was a 50 year warranty on the roof that had lasted far less than 50 years.

You probably have a feeling where this is going. It is not going to go well for Eleanor...which brings us to those pesky rules we mentioned at the top.

Rule Number 1:

A warranty/guarantee is only as good as the company making the guarantee. The prospects of collecting on the guarantee were less than encouraging in that Traditional Roofworks Inc. and Pine Roof Canada Inc. appeared to be insolvent.

Rule Number 2:

If you have a claim for damages it must be started within a certain time period. In this case the time limit set out in the Limitations Act was 2 years from the time Eleanor knew the pine shingles needed to be replaced. Eleanor knew as early as November 15, 2005 that the roof needed replacing. That meant Eleanor needed to start her court action by November 15, 2007. In fact she commenced her action on March 3rd, 2008. Whoops! Too little...too late.

Lessons to be learned:

1) Anyone can give a warranty or guarantee. Not everyone can honour it. Be wary of offers that include the famous 'lifetime guarantee', or any other guarantee.

2) You can have the best legal case in the world. If you do not commence your court case in the proscribed time period, you stand a good chance of failing with your claim. And beware; different types of claims have different time limitations.

3) When things start to go sideways for you, it is a good practice to consult a law firm who deals with the type of problem facing you as soon as you become aware of the problem.

If you have experienced similar problems...we'd like to hear from you. Sharing your experience with others might help save someone else from an unfortunate situation.

You can reach us at: DoIHaveACase@rossfirm.com

At The Ross Firm, we have lawyers whose practice focus is civil Torts, and Contractual matters.

Give us a call.

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