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Damages - Negligent misrepresentation - Breach of contract.

Byline: Mass. Lawyers Weekly Staff

Where plaintiff was awarded damages for negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract following the purchase of an 18th century settee that turned out to be a fake, the award was upheld even though the trial judge did not set forth an explicit calculation of the damages.

"This case was tried before a judge who awarded the plaintiff damages for negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract. The defendants claim error in the amount of damages awarded or negligent misrepresentation as well as in the denial of their consequent motion to amend the judgment. We affirm.

"The defendants, Ali Roozbehani and Diningroom Showcase, Inc. (collectively, 'Roozbehani'), are in the business of buying, selling, and restoring antique furniture and rugs. Roozbehani told the plaintiff, Denise Petersen, that the settee in which she expressed an interest was an 18th century French museum piece whose provenance included a Christie's auction house sale to its previous owner. As it turned out, the settee was not an 18th century French museum piece that had previously been, sold by Christie's auction house, but an American machine-made turn-of-the-last-century piece.

"The trial judge found that Petersen relied upon Roozbehani's negligent misrepresentations Roozbehani agreed to restore the settee for Petersen, and they agreed on a price of $4,500.00 for the settee, including that restoration. Petersen purchased fabric and gimp separately for use in the restoration at a cost of $300.00. Petersen paid a total of $4,800.00 for the settee, including materials and restoration. The restoration was time consuming, and Roozbehani spent $600.00 for gold leaf that he applied to the settee. Once Roozbehani finished the restoration, he delivered it to Petersen sometime in September 2014.

The judge found that the plaintiff's insurance appraiser assessed the settee's replacement value 'as restored' in November of 2014 at $2,500.00. The judge found that '[p]rior to the restoration, the value of the settee in its original condition on the open market was approximately $200.00.'

"The trial judge's award of $4,600.00 appears to be based on the difference between what Petersen paid ($4,800.00) and $200.00, which may be the value of the settee in its original condition or it may be what the judge believed its value to be after restoration (see below). The breach of contract damages, which are not a part of this appeal, appear to be based on the trial judge's finding that the cost to repair the poor restoration would be, albeit 'approximately,' $600.00.

"The contract damages were awarded to make Petersen whole for the unworkmanlike restoration. Said another way, by the award of contract damages, Petersen received the monetary equivalent of a restored settee, although not the 18th century French museum piece she thought she was getting. Petersen urges a method of calculation that assumes that the trial judge found that the value of the settee, even after restoration, was $2500.00, which is also not explicitly stated in the judge's findings. Indeed, the judge 's findings are not explicit with respect to what she found the value of the settee to be after the poor restoration.

"The trial judge did not write her calculation of the damages explicitly, but she gave some indications of how she came to the amount awarded. In addition to the deference we must give to those findings of fact, we ' may consider any ground apparent on the record that supports the result reached in the lower court.' Gabbidon v. King, 414 Mass. 685, 686 (1993). Thus, an inexplicit basis for a result, so long as it is apparent, may be considered.

"While no calculus was made explicit by the trial judge, there is a rational, apparent basis on the record before us for us to conclude that the trial judge valued the settee at $200.00, even after the poor restoration and after the award for the cost of repairing the restoration. She could have credited the settee's value before restoration as being $200.00 and discredited the evidence that its replacement value after restoration was $2,500.00. It is apparent that she believed that even with $600.00 worth of repairs to the restoration, the settee's value remained at $200.00. Because there is an apparent basis for the damages award set forth in her written findings, we see no reason to disturb the judgment."

Petersen v. Diningroom Showcase Inc. (Lawyers Weekly No. 13-041-18) (7 pages) (Karstetter, J.) Appealed from a decision by Caulo, J., in Waltham District Court. Catherine L. Oatway and Andrew C. Oatway for the plaintiff; Sylvia Katsenes for the defendants (No. 18-ADCV-44NO) (Oct. 12, 2018).

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Title Annotation:Petersen v. Diningroom Showcase Inc., Massachusetts District Court
Publication:Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
Date:Nov 8, 2018
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