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Re: WOOD: Lateral Design / Link to Testing the Waters Thread

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Here?s an item of interest from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat of January 22nd
"Santa Rosa homeowners get $2.1 million".  The article is poorly written, by an
author with little construction background quoting the homeowner?s attorney.  So
to a certain extent, my post will be based on my knowledge of similar cases in
Northern California.  If and when I get more detailed information I will share

An 82-unit condominium Project was poorly constructed and probably leaked
water.  The homeowners were unsatisfied with the contractors' repair attempts
and hired an attorney, who in turn hired forensic experts to examine the Project
in detail.  The investigation encompassed all aspects of the Project and a
lawsuit was filed naming everyone who made a significant mistake.  The claim
(and insurance coverage) was for property damage, not contractual breach (which
would not be covered by liability policies).  The forensic investigation
uncovered multiple defects: code violations, substandard building practices,
structural inadequacies in design and construction, and some water damage.  The
cost to repair the actual damage might have been less than a million dollars but
the cost to bring everything up to full code compliance would have been several
million.  The insurance companies chose to settle rather than defend their
clients in a lawsuit, and the case settled in arbitration for a million and a

However the insurance company for the structural engineer refused to settle.
The engineering work (by a local firm with a good reputation) was a mixture of
conventional framing and engineered construction.  The case went to trial and
the homeowner's experts succeeded in convincing a jury that the Project was not
properly engineered.  The jury awarded the homeowners an additional half-million
dollars to repair the deficiencies in the lateral force resisting system.

Please note that, at the moment, this case is more relevant to current
litigations than the Aase case  (because Aase is still under appeal).  There was
no actual damage at issue in the trial, other than the possibility of lost
property value in some future sale.  The engineering work could well have been
code compliant, since the code appears to allow this kind of mixture of
conventional framing and engineered construction.  However, the homeowners'
engineers were able to convince the jury that the homes could not withstand the
Seismic loads required by the code and the engineers were at fault.

There is much food for thought here, but I will only offer a couple of
comments.  First and foremost, if you ever get involved in multi-family
construction projects be very, very, careful.  Aase may or may not be upheld in
appeal, and may or may not result in further legislation--however, it would seem
to be a very poor basis for public policy.  It would create an incentive for
developers, builders, and engineers to perform the worst possible work and leave
the homeowner with no realistic recourse--except to hope that a fire or
earthquake will wreck their home before the statute of limitations expires.  And
finally, malpractice is whatever a judge or jury says it is.
Chuck Utzman