For years, hundreds of Trilogy at Redmond Ridge residents say they have been pleading with California-based Shea Homes, the 55-plus resort community’s developer, to fix and better waterproof more than 1,500 homes.
They say the things every other homebuilder in the Pacific Northwest does to waterproof houses — put flashing around windows, use the right paint at the right time to prevent mold, and installing moisture barriers on garages — were not done on Trilogy homes. And by the time many of the original homeowners say they discovered the problems, possessions in their garages had been ruined and extensive wood rot needed massive repairs.
Dale Stirn, 67, just replaced two rotting porch columns on the $400,000 house his wife bought about 10 years ago. He says it’s the latest repair in a series of wood-rot and piping problems that’s cost the couple at least $20,000.
“We love it here, love the people, everything else is perfect — but the houses really should have been built better,” said Stirn. “I want them to pull the exteriors off of every house here and replace them.”
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Stirn is among more than 950 Trilogy residents hoping to win a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle against Shea Homes. Lead lawyer on the case, Steve Berman of Seattle, says he’s seeking $30 million in damages, and is seeking class-action status for the case.
“Shea intentionally omitted nearly all industry-standard methods for building homes to withstand our wet weather,” according to the lawsuit. “And, even after its first homes suffered from various forms of water intrusion due to the substandard construction, Shea refused to tell its customers of the problems and continued building new homes with the same defects.”
Stirn said Shea representatives came by his home to inspect damage this week, as well as other homes.
The company already settled one class-action lawsuit in 2012 regarding mold issues with 850 Trilogy homeowners for $2.4 million. Attempts at a second class-action lawsuit for other damages has met several roadblocks from judges who say homeowners need to sue individually.
“We are prepared to defend this latest attempt to expand the litigation,” said a Shea Homes statement Friday. “And we continue to work directly with our homeowners to resolve any issues they may have with their homes.”
But Berman says newly acquired emails and internal memos show that Shea Homes knew about problems with the construction before homes were sold more than a decade ago. He’s hoping those company communications increase the chances a judge will consider class-action status for the lawsuit.
If class-action is denied, Berman says, the lawyers from firms fighting the case — Hagens Berman as well as Levy von Beck & Associates — are prepared to try a few individual cases first, then apply the findings from those cases in other court proceedings.
Stirn said that if Shea Homes offers a settlement to him to circumvent legal proceedings, he’ll likely decline because of investigative work lawyers have gone through to push Shea Homes to this point.
“I don’t know what they’re willing to do, but I know they’re only here talking to us now because of the lawsuit,” Stirn said of Shea Homes. “It’s unfortunate it took this to get them to sit up and listen.”