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Abbs v. Georgie Boy Manufacturing Inc.

January 10, 1991

DALE ABBS, ET AL, RESPONDENTS,
v.
GEORGIE BOY MANUFACTURING, INC., APPELLANT



Green, C.j. Munson and Shields, JJ., concur.

Author: Green

Dale and Judy Abbs brought this action to recover damages for defects in a motor home manufactured by Georgie Boy Manufacturing, Inc., of Michigan. A summary judgment against Georgie Boy was entered for $53,050. It appeals contending the court erred in granting summary judgment because a material issue of fact existed as to whether the defect was compensable under RCW 19.118,*fn1 the "Lemon Law", or specifically excluded under Georgie Boy's express warranty.*fn2 We affirm.

On May 18, 1988, Mr. and Mrs. Abbs purchased their sixth motor home from Traveland RV Center in Spokane. The new 1988, 30-foot Cruise Master cost $51,426.95.

Shortly thereafter, they discovered the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) in the cab portion was defective and ultimately caused the engine to stall. Numerous unsuccessful attempts by Traveland were made to correct the problem.

On October 20, Mr. and Mrs. Abbs notified Georgie Boy they intended to seek damages under the "Lemon Law", RCW 19.118.*fn3 Georgie Boy denied responsibility. Mr. and Mrs. Abbs' request for arbitration through the Attorney General's Office under RCW 19.118.090 was rejected. On de novo appeal to the superior court, the court granted summary judgment for Mr. and Mrs. Abbs and awarded damages of $53,050, the cost of the vehicle, collateral and incidental charges, and $2,412 in attorney fees, and costs.

[1, 2] In reviewing a summary judgment order, this court engages in the same inquiry as the trial court. The court will review the facts and the inferences therefrom in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Del Guzzi Constr. Co. v. Global Northwest Ltd., 105 Wash. 2d 878, 882, 719 P.2d 120 (1986). The interpretation and application of a statute to a particular set of facts is a question of law. Nuttall v. Dowell, 31 Wash. App. 98, 107 n.1, 639 P.2d 832, review denied, 97 Wash. 2d 1015 (1982).

Georgie Boy contends the trial court erred in granting the summary judgment. It argues a material question of fact existed whether this particular HVAC system met the statutory definition of "new motor vehicle" found at former RCW 19.118.021(8).*fn4 Georgie Boy contends this system was

not part of the "self-propelled chassis" but was part of the mobile dwelling, thus excluding it from protection under RCW 19.118. We disagree.

[3] This particular HVAC system was installed in the cab of the motor home for the comfort of the driver and passenger, rather than for the occupants of the living unit. It was also used to defog the windows, a critical element to the safe mobility of the motor home. Furthermore, the defect caused the engine to stall, which directly impacted mobility. In contrast, the living area was separately heated and air-conditioned by a unit on the top of the motor home; any malfunction of that system would not affect the vehicle's mobility. Thus, only one legal conclusion can be drawn from these facts: the defective HVAC system is part of the self-propelled portion of the motor home and a remedy is available under former RCW 19.118.021(8).

[4] Georgie Boy also contends its liability was expressly limited under the warranty agreement.*fn5 We ...


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