I have posted before regarding the intersection between the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (VCPA) and construction contracting in regard to residential construction projects. A case out of the Eastern District of Virginia District Court further discusses this intersection as it relates to design contracts that also include the procurement and installation of certain design elements post-design. The basic facts of Marcus v Dennis are as follows:
In October of 2018, Defendant Marlene Dennis, the owner of Marlene Dennis Design, LLC (“MDD”), operating out of Virginia, entered into a contract to provide design services and the procurement and installation of certain design elements for the Plaintiffs, Gregory and Jamie Marcus, at their Maryland home. The Marcuses agreed to $175 per hour to Dennis with a cap of a total of $100,000.00 for design consultation and furniture selection and procurement. The Marcuses also agreed that they would pay no more than $250,000.00 for furnishings, rugs, artwork, decorative lighting, and accessories. In November 2020, Dennis sent an invoice for $68,000.00 and informed the Plaintiffs that the total contract fees would be more than the $100,000.00 cap. After paying $124,722.41 in design fees, the Plaintiffs received an invoice for $255,5560.72 in January of 2021. Despite the cap of $250,000.00, the Plaintiffs wired $255,000.00 to Dennis while requesting the backup invoices for the material charges. After much effort and a threat of litigation, the Plaintiffs received documents from Dennis showing that Dennis inflated the costs of the materials prior to passing the costs along to the Marcuses. The Plaintiffs’ home was unfurnished and empty as of April 10, 2021, and the Marcuses had to hire and pay another design team over $85,000.00 to finish Dennis’ work. Needless to say, the Marcuses sued both Dennis and her firm for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and for violation of the VCPA. Dennis moved to dismiss the Complaint.