HOMEOWNERS DEALT A BLOW BY SUPREME COURT JUSTICES! Builders are no longer obligated, nor will feel any repercussions for ignoring safety building codes in California!
State's high court limits suits
over construction defects
Tuesday, December 05, 2000
Inman News Features
California homebuilders have won an important legal victory in their fight against construction defect litigation.
The state California Supreme Court ruled 5 to 2 Monday in Aas vs. William Lyon Co. that homeowners can't sue builders for negligence unless construction defects have caused economic or personal injury.
Previously, homeowners could sue within 10 years of construction without having sustained economic or personal injury. Now, the time-span of lawsuits has been fixed to a home warranty, which could be one to 10 years.
Builders' attorneys told the Los Angeles Times that owners can still recover defect repair costs while a warranty is in effect on a new home.
Builders have claimed for years that negligence lawsuits were playing a major role in the slowdown of condo construction.
"Spending millions of dollars to correct technical defects...is something of an economic waste," attorney Gregory L. Dillion, who defended the William Lyon Co., a major homebuilder, in the case, told the paper.
Lyon was sued by owners in a San Diego condo and single-family housing development.
The majority opinion held that lawsuits over any building code violation could be a force in higher housing costs. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote that codes regulating quake-safer walls, for instance, didn't mean that "any given defect is sufficiently grave to pose a realistic risk of structural failure."
But Chief Justice Ronald M. George disagreed with some of the court's decision, and wanted the state Legislature to mandate that dangerous construction inadequacies be repaired at the builders' expense, the paper reported.
"California is prone to earthquakes, and, tragically, the negligent construction of residential housing almost surely will result in the deaths and injury of numerous current and future residents of this state," he wrote.
Duane E. Shinnick, an attorney for the plaintiff, believed the ruling could create a negative environment for disclosure to future buyers because reimbursement won't be possible for them. Home defects will then linger.
"Under this ruling, there also is not as great an incentive for developers or contractors to build the home according to code because they can hope that no damage occurs within the first 10 years, and then they are off the hook," Shinnick, told the newspaper.