Koeller, Nebeker, Carlson & Haluck, LLP is pleased to announce that two of its partners, Robert C. Carlson and Megan K. Dorsey, obtained a victory after a seven month trial on behalf of The Communities of Del Webb. On September 10, 2008, a Clark County Nevada District Court jury presented what arguably could be the most lopsided defense verdict in construction defect history.
The case that was filed in 2003 sought class action status for nearly 8,000 homes in Del Webb's Sun City Summerlin community in Las Vegas, Nevada. Based upon an aggressive defense by Mr. Carlson and Ms. Dorsey, the case was never certified as a class. Plaintiffs' attorneys then recruited approximately 1,000 homeowners to join the case individually. It was this case that was brought to trial starting in January of 2008. Del Webb had sued on a cross-complaint the subcontractors who were involved in the claims raised by the Plaintiffs' complaint. The subcontractors named in the cross action are Nevada State Plastering, Dean Roofing and Pratte Framing Contractors. The jury was presented with 3 separate closing arguments and rendered 3 separate verdicts. Given the massive size of the lawsuit these unique procedures were undertaken by the trial court as a matter of manageability.
Some of the homes involved in this case were nearly 20 years old. Based upon artful pleadings the claim of willful misconduct was utilized to keep hundreds of Plaintiffs in the case who were barred by the 10-year statute of limitation. The jury saw through these hollow allegations and concluded that there was no willful misconduct, thereby securing to the Communities of Del Webb defense verdicts on 376 Plaintiffs' complaints.
The final verdict that was issued on September 10, 2008 concerned liability and damages for the remaining 567 plaintiffs. Of these only 70 were awarded any monetary damages. The rest were awarded nothing, i.e., an additional 467 defense verdicts in favor of the Communities of Del Webb. The total amount awarded in the verdict was approximately $4,000,000.00, when evaluations for contributory negligence on behalf of the plaintiff homeowners are factored into the decision. Offers of judgment on behalf of Del Webb had been made to each of the homeowners. Therefore, 897 homeowners will now be facing the prospect of actually owing Del Webb attorneys' fees and costs.
Koeller, Nebeker, Carlson & Haluck joins other defense counsel in hoping that this verdict heralds a return to balance in the construction defect arena where plaintiffs' attorneys have had held an unfair advantage by virtue of the broad relief allowed under NRS 40.600, et seq. This decision may give homeowners pause to think twice before joining up for lawsuits regarding their homes and not working with their builders to try and reach a reasonable and equitable solution to legitimate claims.
If you have any questions regarding this result, please feel free to contact Koeller, Nebeker, Carlson & Haluck. Robert C. Carlson can be reached at either the Las Vegas office or the San Diego, California office, (619) 233-1600. Megan K. Dorsey can be reached at the Las Vegas office, (702) 853-5500.