No MMPA violation in damage-waiver provision of Home Depot’s rental contract

She needed a tiller. So she went to Home Depot and rented one.

The rental contract had a damage-waiver provision, which stated:

If I pay the damage waiver charge for any Equipment, this agreement shall be modified to relieve me of liability for accidental damage to it, but not for any losses or damage due to theft, burglary, misuse or abuse, theft by conversion, intentional damages, disappearances or any loss due to my failure to care properly for such Equipment in a prudent manner (including without limitation by using proper fuel, oil and lubricants and not exceeding such Equipment’s rated capacity, if applicable).

She signed the contract. She initialed the “I have read and agree” box.

On the way home, she read the contract more carefully and noticed the $2.50 charge for the damage waiver. The next day, she returned the tiller and paid the bill without asking that the damage-waiver fee be removed.

Six years later, she filed a class action, alleging that the damage-fee waiver violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act because it was (1) automatically imposed; and (2) worthless.

The trial court granted Home Depot’s motion for summary judgment. The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed, finding that “the damage waiver in the rental contract was clearly optional and provided a benefit of value to Ms. Chochorowski.” Chochorowski v. Home Depot USA, 404 S.W.3d 220 (Mo. 2013).