On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Gloucester County, Docket No. L-379-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Carchman and Sabatino.
Plaintiffs, Blaine and Leslie Mills, husband and wife, appeal the Law Division's order granting summary judgment to defendant, Deluxe Building Systems, Inc. ("Deluxe"), the manufacturer of their modular home. The husband was injured when a deck attached to the second story of his house collapsed, nearly eighteen years after it was built. The order dismissed plaintiffs' various claims for damages against Deluxe, based upon the court's determination that those claims were barred by the ten-year Statute of Repose, N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1.1. We affirm.
The record contains the following facts germane to our analysis of the legal issues.
Deluxe*fn1 designs and manufactures prefabricated modular, single-family homes. The modular homes have several variations of standardized floor plans. Deluxe also offers "special personalized features," in which a buyer can "modify existing designs or... create personal floor plans from scratch." The modular homes are built in a factory and then shipped to the customer's building site, generally in about eighty-five to ninety percent complete condition. The homes are then finished by independent builders and contractors. According to Deluxe's marketing brochures, each modular home is inspected by "full-time" quality control engineers, "inspected and approved by an independent state licensed agency," and is "constructed to [comply with] state, county, and local codes[.]"
At some point in the mid 1980s, plaintiffs contacted Deluxe, expressing an interest in purchasing a modular home. Deluxe's representative informed plaintiffs that they could not order a house directly from the company, but instead had to purchase it through a "certified" builder who was part of a network associated with the company. According to plaintiffs, the only approved builder available in their area was co-defendant, Antonini Brothers Construction Company ("Antonini").*fn2
Subsequently, plaintiffs contracted with Antonini to build the modular home. Plaintiffs allege that Blaine Miles, Antonini, and Deluxe's representatives had several conference calls discussing the specifications of the modular home.
Plaintiffs chose a split-level design, Model No. 1704-SL. Although plaintiffs recall that they signed a contract with Deluxe, neither they nor Deluxe have been able to locate a copy of such a written agreement.*fn3
The modular home arrived at plaintiffs' property in Williamstown on September 25, 1986, in four segments. The segments were then assembled and constructed on site by Antonini in approximately forty-five days.
In or about the fall of 1986, the deck was attached to plaintiffs' modular home. Plaintiffs state that they specifically contracted with Deluxe to have the deck added to their home. According to Blaine Miles, he had discussed the design options with Antonini. Plaintiffs chose French doors, one of the options shown on the floor plan, for the second-floor master bedroom, so as to accommodate a deck attached to those doors. Blaine Miles recalled that, consistent with those specifications, Deluxe built the home "in the factory with the intentions of having his deck installed" adjacent to the French doors.
The deck was not pre-fabricated. As Blaine Miles recalls it, Antonini "brought [the deck] in pieces" and then built and ...