Is it Being Undermined by Plaintiff Attorneys?

An HB Staff Report

California’s “right to repair” statute – SB800 – was a compromise between plaintiff attorneys and the building industry to control docket-choking litigation against homebuilders and general contractors. However, according to attorney Richard Glucksman, who defends builders and contractors, plaintiff attorneys are attempting to circumvent the law, filing lawsuits suits for damages, not repairs, without first complying with the notice provisions of the law.

“The efforts of some of the plaintiff’s bar frustrates the intent and spirit of the legislation,” Glucksman said.

Glucksman said the topic is among those that will be explored at HB’s Construction Litigation Leaders’ Forum, set for March 3-4, 2011, in Marina del Rey, Calif. Glucksman, a partner with Chapman, Glucksman, Dean, Roeb & Barger, is chairing the conference along with Jeffrey Masters of Cox, Castle & Nicholson; and Rose Madruga, Vice President with Zurich North America.

SB800 took effect Jan. 1, 2003, meaning that for any new homes sold after that date, homeowners have to afford builders and contractors the right to inspect and repair any alleged defects before initiating litigation. Glucksman said this “noble effort” by the Legislature is really in its formative years, since homebuilders provide a one-year warranty and California has a 10-year statute of limitations for latent defects.

SB800 also has provisions intended to speed up communications between builders and homeowners. If a homeowner contacts a homebuilder under SB800 the homebuilder can talk directly to the homeowner, Glucksman explained. But, if there is an attorney involved for the homeowner, the builder has to communicate with the attorney, not the homeowner.

“We’re seeing plaintiff attorneys sending mass mailings and canvassing communities signing up a number of homes, making it much more difficult for the homebuilder to have an opportunity to follow through with its obligations to the homeowner because they are being blocked either by the plaintiff’s attorney or by the sheer numbers of homeowners that are being represented by counsel.”

“The purpose of SB800 being frustrated,” Glucksman told HB. “The plaintiffs’ bar is making it very difficult for the home builders to comply with SB800 because the homeowners’ counsel is trying to undermine it.” He conceded that in some cases the plaintiff attorneys are being sincere in their efforts, while others are simply employing gamesmanship.

For more information and the latest details on HB’s Construction Leaders’ Forum, visit the program landing page.

Richard H. Glucksman, an AV rated attorney, is a partner at Chapman, Glucksman, Dean, Roeb & Barger which has offices in Southern and Northern California. For several years, including 2011, Mr. Glucksman has been named to the Southern California “Super Lawyers”. Mr. Glucksman is well known in the construction legal community for his representation of builder and business clients. He specializes in complex multi-party litigation, including construction defect claims, environmental, commercial and business litigation.