Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Recently, a class action suit was filed against corporations supplying builders with defective fire sprinkler systems. The suit alleges evidence of a national cover-up of defects, exposing condo and townhouse owners in Florida and other states to risk of personal injury and loss of life.
Here’s the news release:
Colson Hicks Eidson & Siegfried Rivera File Construction Defect Class Action Lawsuit Alleging National Cover-up of Pipe Defects in Condo Fire Sprinkler Systems
From the News Release:
“Each condominium building may have to spend in excess of $50 million to repair their systems. And many homeowners will have to find alternative living arrangements while their condominiums are being repaired,” added Gonzalez. “This mammoth problem exists nationwide, but is heavily concentrated in Florida.”
The named defendants are Allied Tube & Conduit Corp., Tyco International PLC, Tyco Fire Products LP, all of Delaware; Lubrizol Advanced Materials of Ohio, The Viking Corp. of Michigan, Victaulic Company of New Jersey, Georg Fischel Harvel of Pennsylvania, Nibco Inc. of Indiana, Spears Manufacturing Co. of California, Atkore International Inc. of Delaware, HD Supply Watermarks Group of Delaware and HD Supply Watermarks Ltd. of Florida.
The suit additionally alleges a “massive cover-up over a significant life safety issue in multi-unit condominiums in Florida and across the country. …The most egregious part of this case is that some or all of the defendants had knowledge of the defects since 2007 from their own testing, yet deliberately did not disclose it to the class representatives or class members leading to potential loss of lives, injury and property damages.”
Now that we have yet another huge mess caused by defective products and shoddy construction – one that will take many years and millions of dollars to resolve – perhaps it is time to think about how to prevent defective construction in the first place.
First, why not stop putting entire community associations under the control of developers? After all, if a developer controls the board of an Association-Governed Residential Community, how can home and condo owners convince their Association Board to conduct full and timely investigations when defects become apparent?
Second, how about fully funding a robust and highly ethical building code inspection process? Let’s stop expecting local civil servants to conduct dozens of building inspections in a single day. Let’s not allow builders to hire their own engineers to sign off on their construction projects, simply because the local government has failed to fund an adequately trained construction inspection staff.
Third, how about rethinking the planning process? Start by limiting new construction of multifamily Association-Governed Communities, where the bulk of these problems seem to occur. Before new projects are approved, make sure that construction plans are thoroughly reviewed by trained engineers from the municipal or county government, and not merely rubber-stamped. Perhaps some building codes need to be made more explicit, and to higher standards.
Fourth, it’s time to employ only fully trained and accountable construction trades workers and supporting laborers, with an emphasis on consistent high quality work. We should encourage workers to blow the whistle when they observe use of poor materials or construction techniques. Just as importantly, all construction companies must be able to track the work that is done by its employees, so that the individuals can be held responsible in the event of a future defect or insurance claim.
As the system currently exists, it is home and condo owners that are ultimately paying the price for substandard construction and inadequate preventive oversight.