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RE: Bad news for homeowners, good news for builders - Is it good news for Engineers?

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OPINION

I believe this is bad news for engineers as well as architects, as it seems
to undermine the code.  You home can be constructed without code required
detailing as long as there is no damage from an earthquake, fire, etc within
the first ten years it's okay!...no negligence.  Now if after that time, one
of these events is responsible for a fatality, then that is a different
issue.  

Duane E. Shinnick and the attorneys who fought for the homeowners aren't
going to give up without a fight.

Sharon Robertson Bonds, PE
Salerno/Livingston Architects
363 Fifth Avenue, Third Floor
San Diego, California  92101
(619) 234-7471

	-----Original Message-----
	From:	Structuralist [SMTP:dennis.wish(--nospam--at)gte.net]
	Sent:	Wednesday, December 06, 2000 8:20 PM
	To:	SEAINT Listservice; aec-residential(--nospam--at)polhemus.cc
	Cc:	Sandy Skipper-Lopez
	Subject:	Bad news for homeowners, good news for builders  -
Is it good news for Engineers?

	The following news article was found on the Inman Real Estate News
website
	at the following link:
	http://www.inman.com/hstory.asp?ID=22128&CatType=R

	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."
	Copyright 2000 Inman News Features

	While this is a big win for builders and developers in California,
it is
	also a reprieve for engineers as lawsuits may not be able to be
filed for
	discoveries of errors and omissions until the damage has been done.
Although
	I don't know how far reaching the courts decision is, I discussed it
with a
	friend who is a long time Expert Witness. He was in agreement with
the
	conclusions I had drawn and felt that the wrong nail had been driven
in
	place by the state supreme court.

	The bad news is that owners of homes with deficiencies, caused by
lack of
	compliance to either the construction documents or to the building
code,
	have no legal recourse to force builders to repair the deficiencies
or to
	pay for remedial work that must be done to protect the home.
Essentially,
	the owner must invest out-of-pocket for the repairs, or wait until
damage
	occurs.

	In my opinion, this gives the builder an incentive to ignore efforts
to
	promote continuing education, training and special certification for
those
	constructing structural systems. We are not moving in a direction
that will
	help improve the quality of construction that we admittedly have
seen
	deteriorate over the years.

	Does this also provide protection for engineers and architects who
decide
	not to comply with the provisions of the 97 UBC? Can we simply thumb
our
	noses at the Seismology Committee and ignore all of the issues which
we
	object because we can no longer be held responsible for any damage
that does
	not take a life? Again, in my opinion, this is not the way to
improve sick
	building codes!

	I received an e-mail from Sandy Skipper-Lopez, who is the California
Chapter
	Director for HADD - Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings
	(http://distressed-homeowner.tripod.com/constructiondefects/). She
wanted to
	remind me that California Law still requires full disclosure of the
defects
	upon listing the home for sale. Not only will this prevent
homeowners from
	getting the builder to correct the errors, it will reduce the homes
value on
	the market and make it difficult for the homeowner to sell.

	Regards,
	Dennis S. Wish, PE
	The Structuralist Administrator for:
	http://www.structuralist.net
	AEC-Residential Listservice
	admin(--nospam--at)structuralist.net
	(208) 361-5447 E-Fax
	ICQ # 95561393