Discovering construction defects in your property or properties can be extremely frustrating for a homeowner or a homeowners’ association. Even more frustrating can be the process of attempting to get the problems and construction defect claims repaired satisfactorily by the builder. If you fail to remedy the situation with the builder, however, litigation may be your best and only option. But, how long do construction defect cases take? Keep reading to learn more.
How Long Do Construction Defect Cases Take?
According to the Los Angeles Superior Court guidelines, a typical construction defect claim or case filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court can take up to two years. More complex cases can take longer. This process does not take into account settlements, which can considerably shorten the time.
Initial Phase: Identifying the defects and filing the claim
In a typical custom home construction defect matter, where SB-800 does not apply, the homeowner should file a claim as soon as they become aware of serious defects. This may often require an investigation by an experienced construction defect attorney and forensic experts who are experienced in evaluating and identifying the defects that exist, and the scope of the repair, and thus the related damages. The investigation will also look into determining the persons responsible, such as the General Contractor or any subcontractors who will be named in the action.
After the Claim is Filed: Discovery Phase
Once the action is filed, and served on those known to be responsible for the defects, discovery is conducted to further evaluate the defects, and their extent and cost to repair, and the financial viability of the contractors and subcontractors. California law enables parties to a case to discover the existence and limits of policies of insurance that may apply. Many general contractors have insurance which may cover certain defects that have caused property damage, and likewise many subcontractors will have similar policies of insurance. This is valuable information that will guide the litigation process, as well as settlement negotiations.
Settlement & Mediation Phase
Once the scope of the defects and cost of repair has been determined, and a reasonable understanding of the damages is obtained, and the responsible contractors have been brought into the case, the settlement and mediation phase can begin. This phase often involves the use of mediators, many of whom specialize in mediating and settling construction defect claims. These mediators are familiar with the construction insurance policies, the types and nature of various defects, costs of repair and damages. New mediation related guidelines require attorneys to advise their clients of certain elements of mediation confidentiality. The settlement and mediation phase would necessarily be continued until the trial, and even during trial. The advantages of a negotiated settlement are many, including the resolution of certain claims, the payment of a settlement sum without further risk and the end of the litigation.
Construction Defect Trial
Most construction defect cases settle before trial. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, then the matter goes to trial. At trial, typically experts will testify on the defects, their nature and extent, the cost of repair and any other damages related issues, such as loss of use or diminution in value. The experts will often cover a range of disciplines, from general contractor to structural engineering, and any other specialty required, such as geotechnical engineering or appraisal. These are determined by the nature of the case, the strategy and other factors.
Statutes of Limitation
If you feel you are the victim of a construction defect in your property, you can file a construction defect claim. If you go this route, keep in mind that there are laws in California that impose a time limit on certain lawsuits. The length of time needed to bring a construction defect action against the builder is based on:
- The amount of time that has passed since the substantial completion of the property
- The nature of the defect
- When the property owner discovered the defect
Construction Defect Attorney
Construction defect laws can be difficult to understand, and a law firm that specializes in construction defect litigation can help you understand your rights as a property owner and the timing aspects of filing a lawsuit. Timothy Norton of Norton & Associates has more than 30 years of experience litigating construction defect cases. If you have questions about defects in your property do not hesitate to contact our firm today.