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Hagman v. Swenson

Supreme Court of New York, First Department

February 23, 2017

Karolina Hagman doing business as Karolina Hagman Interior Design, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Kristen Swenson, et al., Defendants-Respondents.

         Plaintiff appeals from the order of the Supreme Court, New York County (Eileen A. Rakower, J.), entered February 25, 2016, which granted defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint.

          The Law Office of Greg Curry, P.C., Hauppauge (Greg Curry of counsel), for appellant.

          Cohen & Gresser, LLP, New York (Nathaniel P.T. Read and Joanna K. Chan of counsel), for respondents.

          Rolando T. Acosta, J.P. Dianne T. Renwick Richard T. Andrias David B. Saxe Judith J. Gische, JJ.

          OPINION

          ACOSTA, J.P.

         Mixed transaction contracts, involving both goods and services, require a determination as to whether the transaction is predominantly one for goods or one for services, for statute of limitations purposes. In this case, the issue is raised in the context of a contract that provides for interior design services, including the procurement of furniture and other items required for achieving the desired design. Interestingly, notwithstanding that interior design services are apparently in much demand in New York, to our knowledge, there are no published opinions on this issue in this state. The action arises from an unpaid bill mostly for furniture and other items. The primary question on appeal is whether plaintiff's breach of contract claim is governed by the four-year statute of limitations set forth in UCC 2-725 for breach of a sale-of-goods contract or the six-year statute of limitations in CPLR 213 for breach of a services contract. We find that the transaction in this case is predominantly one for services (Levin v Hoffman Fuel Co., 94 A.D.2d 640 [1st Dept 1983], affd 60 N.Y.2d 665');">60 N.Y.2d 665');">60 N.Y.2d 665');">60 N.Y.2d 665 [1983]), and the sale of goods is merely incidental to the services provided. Accordingly, plaintiff's breach of contract claim is timely.

         Plaintiff, an expert in interior and exterior design, alleges that she and defendant Kristen Swenson entered into a contract in June 2007 for interior design services. The contract provided that Ms. Swenson would be liable for payment of plaintiff's creative design services as well as the cost of furniture and other tangible items needed to achieve plaintiff's vision. Plaintiff alleged in the complaint that the predominant feature of the contract was her creative design services, with the furniture and other tangible items being incidental to such services.

         Pursuant to the contract, from December 2007 through July 2010, plaintiff renovated and decorated numerous rooms in defendants' home in Tuxedo Park, New York. She also provided landscaping, exterior painting, and other exterior decorating services, which were billed separately. Plaintiff ultimately performed interior design services for three of defendants' houses. Defendants relied on plaintiff's creativity and vision as well as her choice, arrangement, and placement of each tangible item. Ms. Swenson allegedly accepted and approved plaintiff's designs and all furniture and items that plaintiff chose, placed, and arranged at the Tuxedo Park home.

         Plaintiff delivered bills to defendants on a regular basis. The bills included "list prices" for the various items. The "list prices" consisted of the price of furniture and other items that plaintiff paid her suppliers, i.e., the "net price, " and plaintiff's fee for creative design services. Plaintiff alleges that this fee arrangement is standard in the interior design industry. She billed defendants in the same manner for her work at each of the three houses.

         According to plaintiff, defendants paid the bills until June 2009. Thereafter, they made only partial payments, or no payments; their last payment was made on or about March 14, 2010. Plaintiff's final bill for services at the Tuxedo Park home was delivered to defendants in July 2010. As of July 2010, defendants had failed to pay $52, 859.04 under the contract.

         On or about May 11, 2015, plaintiff served a summons and complaint on defendants alleging breach of contract against Ms. Swenson, and unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and account stated against both defendants.

         Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint based upon documentary evidence, on statute of limitation grounds, and for failure to state a cause of action (CPLR 3211[a][1], [5], [7]). Of most relevance here, defendants argued that the contract was predominantly for the sale of goods and was therefore subject to the four-year statute of limitations provided in UCC 2-275. They argue that the undated contract between Ms. Swenson and plaintiff has a provision that states that a design fee of $1, 200 will be charged at the start of the job, but that provision had been crossed out. It also states that the products and materials were to be shown to Ms. Swenson, purchased by plaintiff, and "charged at List price, " that "[a]ll advice and design suggestions such as construction, cabinetry, painting and using clients [sic] existing items will be charged at $200/hour, " and that "[a]ll purchases including Tax and Delivery will be paid in full before delivery."

         There is also a handwritten contract signed by plaintiff and Ms. Swenson, dated June 10, 2009, which states:

"I Kristen Swenson will purchase all furniture and accessories shown in photos or in person by Karolina Hagman through Karolina Hagman ...

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