Can a Manufacturer of Material Also Be a Supplier, Thus Triggering Condominium Warranties Pursuant to Section 718.203?

If you have construction defect involving a manufacturer, consider the most recent case on whether manufacturers owe statutory warranties to condominium associations pursuant to Section 718.203. The court in Port Marina Condo Ass’n v. Roof Servs., 119 So.3d 1288 (4th DCA 2013), broadly defined the term “Supplier”in addressing a condominium association’s statutory warranty action against a roofing manufacturer pursuant to Section 718.203(2), Florida Statutes. The condominium association identified leaks emanating from the roof of the boat storage building and contacted the roofing subcontractor to correct the defects. The roofing subcontractor attempted to make repairs, but was unsuccessful at correcting the leaks and advised the association that the roofing product was defective.

The association then contacted the roofing manufacturer and was notified by the manufacturer that the installation was defective, not the product. Seeing no relief, the association filed suit against a roofing subcontractor and against the roofing manufacturer for breach of Section 718.203. The roofing manufacturer filed a motion to dismiss arguing that Section 718.203 did not apply to product manufacturers. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice, relying on the holding set forth in Harbor Landing Condominium Owners Ass’n v. Harbor Landing, LLC, 78 So.3d 120 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012). The association appealed the trial court’s decision on the basis that it sufficiently alleged that the roofing manufacturer was a supplier within Section 718.203, and that the trial court should have allowed an amendment to the complaint. In reviewing the trial court’s ruling, the appellate court recited the elements necessary for bringing an action against a manufacturer for breach of Section 718.203, as follows: “(1) the defendant is a supplier of materials to a condominium; (2) the materials failed to conform to the generally accepted standards of merchantability applicable to goods of that kind, or materials failed to conform to the requirements specified in the contract; and (3) the failure of the goods to conform was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages.” The court then focused on the term supplier and manufacturer within the purview of Section 718.203. The court noted that neither supplier nor manufacturer were defined in Chapter 718 and therefore, referenced Black’s Law Dictionary which defines a supplier as “‘a person engaged, directly or indirectly, in the business of making a product available to consumers,'” and “‘a manufacturer as a person or entity engaged in producing or assembling new products.'” The appellate court also addressed Harbor Landing and deduced that it did not establish a rule automatically exempting a manufacturer from Section 718.203(2) warranties.

The court then reviewed the sufficiency of the complaint and agreed with the lower court that merely alleging that the manufacturer entered into a contract with the roofing subcontractor was not enough, and that pleading that the manufacturer “owes a duty to exercise reasonable care in “‘supplying”” the material was insufficient to establish that the manufacturer was a supplier pursuant to Section 718.203(2). Although the appellate court agreed with the trial court that the complaint was deficient, it concluded that the association should have been given leave to amend the complaint and thus, reversed the trial court’s ruling. Accordingly, the association was given another opportunity to properly assert its action for statutory warranties pursuant to Section 718.203(2) against the roofing manufacturer.