Washington County Superior Court
Maurice J. Cusick, Esq. For Plaintiff:
Giovanni La Terra Bellina, Esq.; Catherine A. Shaghalian, Esq.; Theodore Orson, Esq. For Defendant:
This matter was heard by the Court in the nature of binding arbitration agreed to by the parties.
The hearing began on February 4, 2016 and continued to and concluded on February 8, 2016.
The Plaintiff Jack Scott Weedon, d/b/a Eagle Marine Service (Plaintiff) has sued Defendant Stephen Burchett (Defendant) for breach of contract and for substantial performance of certain work done on the Defendant's vessel, the "Caroline."
The Defendant counterclaimed for breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraud (false representation of qualifications to perform the task in a competent manner), and negligent misrepresentation of the Plaintiff's qualifications.
The case arises from a desire of the Defendant to make upgrades to his vessel, the "Caroline, " to outfit it for year-round on board living by Defendant.
The "Caroline" is a 35' trawler or lobster-type boat built in 1998 which the Defendant purchased in March 2012 for $49, 000. The Defendant is a retired firefighter with twenty-two years of service and has for eight years operated a dive service business, serving divers and the hulls of vessels as a scuba diver. The Defendant had previously lived on a sailboat year-round for eight years and was familiar with life on board a vessel.
To prepare the vessel for year-round living, the Defendant needed to install a generator, an air-conditioning system and a heating system, and other items such as more electrical outlets and lights in various locations.
The Plaintiff lived in Florida from the late 1970's to 2000 where he was employed in marine installations, i.e., engines, was a boat builder, rigger, and worked on race boats. Coming to Rhode Island in 2000, the Plaintiff continued to work in the marine industry in various positions with Rhode Island marine businesses. In these capacities, he installed HVAC equipment and refrigerators on various types of vessels.
In 2007, the Plaintiff started Eagle Marine Service and has performed these services for various marinas in the East and West Bays of Rhode Island. He is certified by Cruise Air for air-conditioning installation and in 2002 and 2003, was certified by the Mass. Maritime Academy in marine AC and refrigeration.
He at one time was also certified by American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), but that had not been renewed at the time of this hearing.
The parties first met aboard the "Caroline" in October 2012, having been introduced by one Anthony Porcino who was present at the meeting.
Mr. Porcino had with him some brochures from a recent boat show relating to a Wallace Heater which he recommended be installed on board as part of the project.
The parties discussed the scope of the proposed work consisting of rewiring the boat, the installation of a heater, air-conditioning and a generator. The Plaintiff outlined an oral contract for time and materials, billing his time at $75 per hour and his assistant at $45 per hour.
The Defendant avers he asked Plaintiff for an estimate for the work to be done and was told by the Plaintiff it would cost about $10, 000 to $15, 000.
The Plaintiff denies telling the Defendant any estimate of cost, indicating he always works on time and materials and never gives an estimate for a job because of "add-ons" or the vagaries in working on boats and dealing with boat owners.
The parties apparently came to an agreement. The Plaintiff surveyed the boat, took measurements and planned where the new installations would go aboard the "Caroline." The new components had to be fitted in the relatively small vessel.
The Plaintiff presented the Defendant with an estimate of what the air-conditioning system, heater and generator would cost to purchase from various suppliers. The amount needed was $7, 728.33 (Ex. 4). The Defendant gave the Plaintiff a check for $6000 so Plaintiff could purchase the items.
Work commenced on or about November 12, 2012, and continued to February 13, 2013 by Plaintiff and his assistant. Because the Defendant was living on the boat during this period, he was ...