Legal Question in Business Law in California

Expiration of labor warranty

My store installed carpet in a customer's home three years ago. Right away, the customer was not happy with our installation. We offer a one year labor warranty on our work. Over the course of the first year, we replaced this customer's carpet several times. Each time we replaced it, she found something else wrong with it. Finally, she told me that if I gave her $1,700.00, she would go away forever. I told her that I would give her the money if she would sign a waiver saying that she waives all rights against me under the labor warranty. She agreed, came to my store to get the money, but backed out of the agreement when presented with the waiver. She then disappeared for 13 months. Now, suddenly, 13 months later, she's back and she wants the money again. She's saying she's going to take me to Small Claims. I know that the original labor warranty was tolled because she reported her dissatisfaction before the first year had expired, but my question is now, did she sit on her rights? Does tolling a labor warranty once mean it is tolled forever, or does a one-year warranty expire any time one year elapses without complaint?

Asked on 9/23/02, 11:18 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: Expiration of labor warranty

It seems to me based on the totality of facts given, that you are more likely than not to prevail in small claims court. This would be less because of any specific law applying to tolling of, or expiration, of warranties, but rather because you have addressed the complaint reasonably and adequately. Or, so it would seem without hearing the customer's story.

Sitting on your rights and not seeking a remedy is called 'laches' and is a defense in some matters, but not pure breach of contract cases. Nevertheless, small-claims judges tend to apply concepts of equity and fairness to deciding matters before them more often than strict legal theories, and the customer's lack of timely pursuit of the matter, and your prior efforts to settle, should weigh in your favor.

It also appears that the warranty has expired through the passage of time, despite some intervening matters that could have revived it or tolled the one-year period.

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Answered on 9/23/02, 2:22 pm

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