Charles Grogan was injured when he fell from a second story deck. Upon an inspection of the deck railing after the fall, it was determined the deck was not properly built and the deck did not meet building code standards. Also, a home inspector had recently inspected the deck for the purposes of the homeowner buying the home. The inspector did not note any problems with the railing in his inspection report. Grogan claimed the home inspector either knew or should have known of the dangerous deck.
Grogan sued (among others) the home inspector for negligent inspection leading to his injury.
On October 6, 2017, in Grogan v. Uggla, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed a grant of summary judgment and dismissed Grogan’s claim. Simply put, the home inspector didn’t owe any duty to third parties like Mr. Grogan. According to the Supreme Court, the home inspector is not liable for negligent misrepresentation because Mr. Grogan didn’t read or rely on the home inspection report. Also, the home inspector is not liable for the deck not meeting building codes because the home inspector did not perform a building codes inspection. The Supreme Court also held the home inspector did not assume a duty to Mr. Grogan because his contract states only the owner can rely on the inspection report.
Comment: The Plaintiff heavily relied upon a claim the deck did not meet building codes. The inspector defended on the basis that home inspections are not codes inspections – an important fact to remember when a home inspection is done. While this was an important fact. You wonder if it might have made any difference if there had been proof from an expert that any reasonable home inspection would have caught this defect. However, this does not escape the grips of the Court’s finding that the home inspector’s contract limited liability. This brings up the second point- to read carefully a home inspector’s contract- or any contract for that matter. Home inspector’s contracts exclude a lot and don’t give much.
Now, looking to the claim against the owner by Grogan- don’t you imagine the owner relied upon the home inspection to say the defect was something the owner didn’t know about and had no reasonable basis to know about – a latent defect- so no liability to the home owner.
James C. Wright
Attorney at Law
Butler, Vines & Babb
2701 Kingston Pike