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Cropper v. Yescavage

Supreme Court of Alaska

July 2, 2014

DEBORAH CROPPER, Appellant,
v.
BERNARD YESCAVAGE and SUN CHA YESCAVAGE, a Married Couple, and in their capacities as trustees of the Bernard and Sun Cha Yescavage Living Trust, Appellees.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska Superior Court No. 3AN-11-12588 CI, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Erin B. Marston, Judge.

Steven D. Smith, Law Offices of Steven D. Smith, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellant.

Melinda D. Miles, Palmer, for Appellees.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT [*]

I. INTRODUCTION

After learning that her house had a foundation problem, the homeowner sued the previous owners for non-disclosure of the defect, negligent misrepresentation of the condition of the house, and negligent repair of the foundation. The superior court ruled in favor of the previous owners on all claims, and the homeowner appeals two specific decisions by the superior court. We affirm the superior court's judgment.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

In early 2009 Bernard and Sun Cha Yescavage listed their house for sale. A potential buyer made an offer and had the house inspected by a professional home inspector, Donna Ranson. Ranson discovered that ground movement was putting pressure on the house's foundation skirting, causing warping and bowing of the walls. Ranson wrote a home inspection report and gave that report to the Yescavages. The report listed specific necessary repairs, including installing "diagonal supports on all bowing walls to brace against the pressure of the ground."

The Yescavages had a telephone conversation with a contractor about Ranson's report. The contractor's opinion was that the repair would include excavating around the house's foundation and replacing the dirt with gravel around the house's perimeter, and that it would cost "several thousand dollars."

The Yescavages asked Ranson whether such an extensive repair was necessary. Ranson told the Yescavages that more bracing was necessary on parts of the foundation, similar to what already existed on other walls of the house. The Yescavages made the repairs themselves by constructing a wooden bracing for the foundation. Ranson conducted a second inspection of the house and notified the Yescavages that the bracing angle was wrong. The Yescavages reconstructed the bracing. Ranson inspected again and concluded that all required repairs had been made. Despite the approved home inspection, the potential buyer withdrew from the sale because of failed financing.

Later that year Deborah Cropper purchased the Yescavages' house. Cropper and the Yescavages signed an earnest money agreement describing the terms and conditions of the sale, including Cropper's right to have a professional inspection of the house. The Yescavages included a copy of Ranson's inspection reports with the agreement, and Cropper initialed a page on the agreement acknowledging receipt of the inspection reports. Before closing, Bernard Yescavage showed Cropper the crawl space where he had made the repairs to the house's foundation. Cropper did not hire her own inspector to inspect the house, and the Yescavages did not tell Cropper about the telephone conversation with the contractor regarding repairing the foundation.

After owning the house for little more than one year, Cropper heard "loud popping noises and cracking" coming from the floors and walls of the house. Cropper hired a friend to install new braces and supports for the foundation. Cropper also hired a contractor, who estimated that repairing the foundation would cost nearly $50, 000, including excavating the perimeter of the house and replacing the dirt with fill gravel. Cropper filed suit against the Yescavages, alleging willful misrepresentation of the condition of the property and negligent construction of the braces. Cropper later amended her complaint to specify three causes of action: (1) non-disclosure of defects in ...


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