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Busque v. Heck

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

November 4, 2019

TODD BUSQUE, Plaintiff-Respondent,
HALSTON HECK, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PHELPS COUNTY Honorable Ronald D. White, Associate Circuit Judge.

          JEFFREY W. BATES, J.

         A mechanic, Todd Busque (Mechanic), obtained a judgment in small claims court against a truck owner, Halston Heck (Owner), in the amount of $4, 044.45 for repairs Mechanic made to Owner's truck. Owner requested a trial de novo and also filed a counterclaim based on, inter alia, the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act (MMWA). The trial court found in favor of Mechanic on his claim for breach of contract, against Owner on his counterclaim, and entered judgment in Mechanic's favor for the cost of repairs.

         Owner presents two points for decision. He contends the trial court erred in entering judgment against Owner: (1) on his "MMWA counterclaim because an implied warranty attached by operation of law"; and (2) on the "breach of contract claim because the statute of frauds rendered the oral agreement unenforceable, in that it was not made in writing and was for the sale of goods" for more than $500. Finding no merit in either contention, we affirm.

         The judgment is presumed correct, and the party challenging the judgment bears the burden of proving it erroneous. Denny v. Regions Bank, 527 S.W.3d 920, 924-25 (Mo. App. 2017). In this court-tried case, our review is governed by Rule 84.13(d) and Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30 (Mo. banc 1976), which requires this Court to affirm the trial court's judgment unless it is not supported by substantial evidence, is against the weight of the evidence, or erroneously declares or applies the law. Murphy, 536 S.W.2d at 32. "We review issues of law de novo." Denny, 527 S.W.3d at 925. We defer to the trial court's credibility determinations. Metzger v. Franklin, 496 S.W.3d 547, 549 (Mo. App. 2016). "The trial court is free to believe all, none, or part of the testimony of any witness." Id.; see Archdekin v. Archdekin, 562 S.W.3d 298, 310 (Mo. banc 2018). All evidence and reasonable inferences therefrom are viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court's judgment, and all evidence and inferences to the contrary are disregarded. Landewee v. Landewee, 515 S.W.3d 691, 694 (Mo. banc 2017). So viewed, the following facts were adduced at trial.

         On May 28, 2015, Owner contacted Mechanic about repairing Owner's 2002 Ford F-350 truck (Truck), with over 300, 000 miles on it. After Owner delivered his Truck to Mechanic's shop, Mechanic determined the Truck had a transmission problem. The parties entered into an oral agreement for Mechanic to: (1) repair the Truck's transmission; and (2) upgrade the transmission by installing a performance shift kit. Mechanic then removed the transmission and sent it to be rebuilt by another mechanic who specialized in transmission rebuilds. Mechanic also obtained a shift kit from the same mechanic.

         When Mechanic installed the rebuilt transmission and shift kit, he discovered that the starter, batteries and air filter also were in need of repair. Owner authorized the repair of these items, and Mechanic did so. Prior to completing these repairs, no mention was made of any necessary repairs to the Truck's rear end. After all of the authorized repairs were made, Mechanic contacted Owner and told him to pick up the Truck.

         Owner came to Mechanic's shop to retrieve the Truck and was informed that the total bill was $4, 044.45. Owner attempted to pay with a credit card, but Mechanic did not have the capability to process credit cards. Owner informed Mechanic that he would have to go to the bank and return with money to pay the bill. Owner then test drove the Truck with Mechanic. After the test drive, Owner said he would meet Mechanic with a check for the repairs and left the shop with the Truck. Owner drove the Truck to town. Owner never returned or paid Mechanic.

         At some point after Owner took the Truck, the "rear end seized up" and the rear wheels stopping rolling. Mechanic testified that: (1) the rear-end problems were unrelated to the transmission repair; and (2) a vehicle's rear end could fail any time, especially after lots of wear on a truck with over 300, 000 miles on it.[1] Mechanic also testified that he provides a warranty for his own work and "would do whatever it takes" to fix any issue related to his repairs. Because he repaired the transmission, his warranty extended only to the transmission repairs and not to the issues with the rear end.

         After hearing all the evidence, the trial court found in favor of Mechanic. The court found the rear-end issues were unrelated to the transmission repairs performed by Mechanic. Therefore, the court decided that Mechanic was entitled to recover his fee for repairing the transmission. The court also found that "[w]ith regard to the contested factual issues, the Court finds the testimony of [Mechanic] credible and, to the extent [Owner] disagreed with [Mechanic], the Court finds [Owner's] testimony to not be credible." The court explained its credibility determinations in the judgment:

[Owner] did not request [Mechanic] perform any work on the rear end of the truck and [Mechanic] did no work to the rear end. None of the work performed by [Mechanic] involved the rear end of [the Truck] nor did it have any effect on the rear end of [the Truck]. There was no credible evidence that any action by [Mechanic] caused damage to the rear end of [the Truck]. [Owner] has failed and refused to pay [Mechanic] for work completed on [the Truck].
There was a valid contract between the parties for the work performed by [Mechanic] on [the Truck]. [Mechanic] performed all of his obligations under the verbal contract and performed no work not authorized by [Owner]. [Mechanic] fully performed his obligations under the oral contract….
The cost of repairs were comparable to the quote that [Owner] received from the Ford dealer. [Owner] received multiple quotes from dealers to fix the transmission and at least one dealer looked the truck over and said that the transmission was the issue. The prices charged by [Mechanic] were reasonable. …
The work performed by [Mechanic] was performed in accordance with the authorization he received from [Owner] and was performed in a workmanlike manner…. There was no credible evidence presented that any of the work performed by ...

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