LASSONDE v. STANTON
956 A.2d 332 (2008)
Harold LASSONDE, III d/b/a Mountain View Construction
Charles STANTON and another.
Supreme Court of New Hampshire.
Argued: April 30, 2008.
Opinion Issued: August 15, 2008.
Bouchard, Kleinman & Wright, P.A., of Manchester (Nicholas D. Wright on the brief and orally), and John L. Riff, IV, of Colebrook, on the brief and orally, for the plaintiff.
Law Office of Joshua L. Gordon, of Concord (Joshua L. Gordon on the brief and orally), for the defendants.
The defendants, Charles and Susan Stanton, appeal a judgment of the Superior Court (Vaughan, J.) finding them liable for breach of contract and defamation. The plaintiff, Harold Lassonde, III, doing business as Mountain View Construction, cross-appeals, challenging the amount of damages awarded on his defamation claim, and the trial court's failure to include attorney's fees and interest in his breach of contract award. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand.I
After a bench trial, the trial court found the following facts. In May 2005, the Stantons entered into a contract with Lassonde for the construction of a log home on their land in Pittsburg for the sum of $192,350.79. The contract obligated Lassonde
to install a foundation, septic system and well, to assemble the log home, and to complete interior finish work. It called for construction to start by June 1, and for "substantial completion" by December 1. Notably, the contract did not include a "time is of the essence" provision. The Stantons were obligated to pay Lassonde in installments as the work progressed. Final payment was due "5 days after substantial completion of the work provided the work be then fully completed and the contract fully performed."
The start of construction was delayed until late June because the Stantons did not promptly obtain the financing needed to purchase their log home kit. Thereafter, Lassonde's work "progressed consistently" through the end of December. The home was weather-tight by the third week of September, although prior to that, the lumber was exposed to periods of seasonal rain. The Stantons caused further construction delays during the fall by requesting changes to a special sound system as it was being installed by a subcontractor; the home's interior partitions could not be closed in until the wiring for the sound system was in place. According to Lassonde, the home was ready for occupancy on December 30. The Stantons moved into their home during the second week of January 2006.
In late December, just before moving in, the Stantons sent Lassonde a series of emails with an "aggressive and unpleasant [tone], alleging various acts of misfeasance by the contractors during the course of construction." On January 16, the Stantons also sent a "punch list" of twelve items that, in their view, required further work. Lassonde promptly returned to the Stantons' property with the intention of addressing those items, but did not complete all of the requested tasks, as he apparently considered some unnecessary or outside the scope of the parties' contract.
After moving in, the Stantons experienced a mold problem in their home that required repair work, including the sanding and refinishing of walls, ceilings and floors. They attributed the mold to excess moisture in the home's logs due to their exposure to rain over the course of the summer. The trial court, however, made these findings: