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Building contracts generally fall within the objective class of contracts wherein one party agrees to perform to the satisfaction of the other. In regard to them, it is plain to be seen that giving the word "satisfactory" an entirely subjective meaning might produce unconscionable results. The ends of justice are obviously better served by the application of the objective standard, which only requires the work to be completed in a reasonably skillful and workmanlike manner in accordance with the accepted standards in the locality. If, in the light of such standards, it would meet the approval of reasonable and prudent persons, that should be sufficient.
Plaintiff Arnold Haymore, a contractor and builder, was constructing the house of the Levinsons at Holladay in Salt Lake County. In November of 1955, when it was well along toward completion, Levinsons contracted to purchase it for $ 36,000 on terms described therein. The provision pertinent here was that $ 3,000 of the purchase price was to be placed in escrow to be held until "satisfactory completion of the work" which referred to a list of items attached to the contract. The Levinsons moved in and Haymore proceeded with the work, and when he finished, requested the release of the $ 3,000. The Levinsons stated that they were not "satisfied" with certain of the items and refused to release the money. After some discussion, Haymore agreed to take careof another list of items which the Levinsons insisted must be completed. When he and his workman came to do this work, the Levinsons indicated dissatisfaction with this second list they had agreed upon and demanded still further work, to which Haymore would not agree. The Levinsons thereupon told him that unless he would agree to and do all the work they then requested and in a manner they required, he could do none; and when he refused, ordering him off the property, taking the position that they would not release the money until he fully satisfied their demands. Haymore was able to recover judgment for $2,739 for the money payable under the contract.
Did Haymore satisfactorily complete the work as meant in the contract?
A clause in a contract for the furnishing of heat was to be within the lessor's "sole judgment," could not be arbitrarily applied to justify the furnishing of entirely inadequate heat, but was subject to a sensible interpretation in relation to the reasonable needs of the lessees under the circumstances. The trial court correctly adopted and applied the standard mentioned. In doing so it found that the Haymore had completed the original list of items attached to the contract in a satisfactory manner, (except some minor deficiencies of a total value of $ 261 for which an offset in favor of the Levinsons was allowed) and that there were no structural defects.
On the question of structural defects the Levinsons stressed particularly the provision of the contract that there was a "one-year guarantee on the house structurally." Under it they sought redress for some cracking in the cement roof of the garage which also serves as a patio, which they averred causes some leakage through into the garage below. The answer to this was found in the fact that the lower court's finding that there were no structural defects was supported by the testimony of two qualified experts who had inspected the home and explicitly said they found no "structural defects" therein. The Levinsons’ own expert was uncertain as to whether such cracking as had occurred could properly be classified as a structural defect because they were nothing other than is to be expected in connection with such construction. The trial court could believe and rely on such testimony.