Is Builder-Vendor Liable for Fire Caused by Negligent Fireplace Construction ?
In Humber v. Morton, 426 S.W.2d 554, 554 (Tex. 1968), the widow Humber brought suit against a builder-vendor, alleging that the new home she purchased was not suitable for human habitation because an improperly constructed fireplace and chimney caused the house to catch fire.
The lower courts held that the builder-vendor was not liable to Humber because the doctrine of caveat emptor applied to the sale of a new house by a builder-vendor, and consequently no implied warranty that the house was fit for human habitation arose from the sale. Id. at 555.
After reviewing the trend against the application of the doctrine of caveat emptor both in Texas and other state court decisions, the Texas Supreme Court asserted:
The caveat emptor rule as applied to new houses is an anachronism patently out of harmony with modern home buying practices.
It does a disservice not only to the ordinary prudent purchaser but to the industry itself by lending encouragement to the unscrupulous, fly-by-night operator and purveyor of shoddy work. Id. at 562.
The court held that a builder-vendor impliedly warrants that a new home that he builds and sells is constructed in a good workmanlike manner and is suitable for human habitation. Id.