DEFENSE JUDGMENT AFFIRMED IN HOMEBUYER BREACH OF CONTRACT CASE STEMMING FROM WATER WELL ISSUES
Wyoming Supreme Court: This lawsuit concerned Plaintiffs Dustin and Lonnie Schell (“buyers”) alleging breach of contract against Defendants Dustin and Lance Scallon (“sellers”), who sold them residential property. The purchase contract for the property required: “Seller to complete a fully functional water well prior to closing.” Buyers brought suit, alleging that the sellers failed to comply with that requirement.
Prior to listing their property, the sellers had obtained water by hauling it from a cistern on the property, but theyunderstood that potential buyers may not be able to obtain financing to purchase a property that lacked its own water supply. Sellers thus drilled a water well, and listed the property for saleabout a month after entering into a contract with a contractor to drill the well. The well contractor finished the well and installed a pump a couple weeks before closing on the purchase occurred. Sellers used the well prior to closing and did not have any issue with it.
Buyers did not inspect the well prior to closing, other than obtaining a water sample that passed their lender’s required test. Around the time of closing, sellers requested that the contractor install a deeper, more powerful pump, as no charge to buyers, to help the well function better during drought conditions. Buyers agreed, and the new pump was installed after closing.
Buyers then began experiencing problems with the well over the next several months, including discolored water, algae, and silt issues. Eventually the well stopped working, and buyers had to drill a new one.
Upon a trial to the bench, the district court entered judgment in favor of the seller-defendants. The court determined that the plaintiff-buyers did not meet their burden of proof, and concluded that sellers had completed a fully functional well prior to closing.
Plaintiff-buyers appealed. They argued that a “full functioning” well meant a well that produces a suitable quantity and quality of water for domestic use for the reasonable life of the well. Defendants argued that the clause should be read in conjunction with the “as is” clause and the clause allowing the buyers to inspect the property prior to closing.
The Wyoming Supreme Court found that, although they were sympathetic to the buyers, the language of the contract clause was unambiguous. It did not further define “fully functional,” such as in the way that buyers interpreted it. Thus, the plain meaning of the contract clause was affirmed to find the well needed to be functioning only at the time of closing. The evidence established that the well was completed and able to produce water for the residence at that time. Moreover, the “as is” and “right to inspect” clauses were enforceable. As such, the district court’s ruling was affirmed.
Schell v. Scallon, 2019 WY 11. 433 P.3d 879 (Wyoming Supreme Court, decided January 25, 2019).