What trial attorneys once billed as the largest construction-defect lawsuit in Nevada’s history posted less-impressive results after a jury delivered its verdict Wednesday.
A $70 million case filed against Del Webb Communities in 2003 yielded just $4 million in damages, with a jury in Clark County District Court deciding that only 70 of nearly 1,000 homeowners named in the lawsuit merited compensation.
When Wolf Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin filed the case five years ago, the lawsuit involved more than 1,400 homes in Sun City Summerlin. The plaintiffs alleged that Del Webb failed to install metal screeds that would protect homes from water damage, and that cracked stucco, mold and weakened walls resulted. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said each home would require $50,000 in repairs; they also sought class action status involving all 7,800 homes in Sun City Summerlin, a move that could have led to damages of “several hundred million dollars,” they said.
But they didn’t win class action status. So nearly 1,000 homeowners sued individually, and most of them received no damages.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys didn’t return calls Thursday seeking comment.
Pulte Homes, which bought Del Webb in 2001, released a statement Thursday saying the small number of homeowners benefiting from the verdict “confirms that there were few issues with the homes and illustrates the unfortunate risk homeowners sometimes take in responding to solicitations from trial lawyers instead of working with their home builder.”
Still, the company believes damages should have been even smaller.
“We disagree with the conclusion that there are issues with even the small number of homes listed in the verdict,” said Michael Laramie, associate general counsel for Michigan-based Pulte. “We had virtually no complaints of stucco issues in the community prior to this lawsuit being filed.”
The verdict came down on the same day that consumer-research company J.D. Power & Associates gave Pulte top honors for customer satisfaction in 11 markets nationwide. In Las Vegas, Pulte ranked No. 3 in overall buyer satisfaction.
Pulte, along with other area builders, remains embroiled in another construction-defect lawsuit involving plumbing inside as many as 50,000 homes across Las Vegas. The lawsuit alleges that Kitec pipe fittings fail when exposed to water.
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4512.