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Laurens Electric Cooperative Inc. v. Altec Industries Inc.

decided: November 22, 1989.

LAURENS ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
ALTEC INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Greenville. Joe F. Anderson, Jr., District Judge. CA-87-1582-17.

Sprouse and Wilkinson, Circuit Judges, and Haynsworth, Senior Circuit Judge.

Author: Haynsworth

HAYNSWORTH, Senior Circuit Judge

In this action the plaintiff sought to recover the value of a utility truck that had been destroyed by fire and consequential damages for the loss of its use. The truck had been rebuilt by the defendant under a contract negotiated by the parties, and the complaint alleged counts in negligence and strict liability in tort as bases for the recovery it sought.

There was a limited warranty obligating the defendant to repair or replace any part found to be defective, but otherwise disclaiming all other warranties and all liability for consequential damages.

At the conclusion of the testimony, the judge granted the defendant's motion for a directed verdict and the plaintiff has appealed from the resulting judgment in the defendant's favor.

We affirm.

I.

The plaintiff, Laurens Electric, is a cooperative providing electrical service to its customers in several counties in South Carolina. For the setting up of utility poles, it uses specially designed trucks, each of which is equipped with a hydraulic derrick and associated augers for the drilling of postholes.

The defendant, Altec, is in the business of repairing and rebuilding such utility trucks. The two parties had an established relationship, for Altec had rebuilt several utility trucks for Laurens Electric.

In late 1984, one such utility truck, owned by Laurens Electric, was in need of repairing and rebuilding. As the result of negotiations, the parties entered into a contract pursuant to which Altec was to do extensive, but specified, work on the derrick and remount it upon a new Chevrolet truck chassis.

The new or rebuilt truck was delivered to Laurens Electric, and in the spring of 1985, while being used in the boring of a utility posthole, the vehicle caught fire and was substantially destroyed. The plaintiff theorized that a clamp securing a flexible hose in the vehicle's hydraulic system had been improperly crimped and that the hose became loose, spraying inflammable hydraulic fluid upon the truck's exhaust system. There was ignition and the truck was destroyed.

II.

On earlier occasions there had been a limited warranty obligating Altec to replace defective parts, but imposing no other obligation upon it. On this occasion, the parties dealt with each other on a rather informal basis. No new copy of the warranty was furnished by Altec, but there were references to the practice established between the parties, and an official of Laurens Electric testified that, while he had not memorized the exact terms of the ...


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