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May 2018

Gordon & Rees Charleston Team Defeats Class Certification in Billion Dollar Construction Defect Case

On April 26, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina denied class certification in Craft v. Del Webb, a 2,500+ house construction defect class action against Del Webb Communities, Inc. and Pulte Homes, Inc.  Del Webb and Pulte were represented by lead counsel A. Victor Rawl, Jr., partner Henry W. Frampton, IV, and a team of other attorneys from the Charleston office of Gordon Rees Scully Manuskhani.

The Craft case was initially filed in state court in 2008 but did not become a putative class action until late 2015. In December 2015, Pulte removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act.  The removal held up despite significant and sustained attempts to obtain a remand to state court. 

After a brief discovery period on classwide issues, the named plaintiffs moved for class certification on the grounds that the members of the class owned homes with three allegedly common “defects”: 1) the purported lack of control joints off the corners of windows and doors, 2) the purported lack of through-wall head flashing above windows, and 3) the purported lack an appropriate gap between the termination of the stucco exterior and the structure slab.  The plaintiffs alleged that the only acceptable remedy was the full removal and replacement of the stucco on every house.

In denying class certification, the District Court first expressed serious doubt as to whether the named plaintiffs could meet the Rule 23(a) requirements of commonality, typicality, and adequate representation.  The Court, however, went on to hold that it did not need to decide whether the Rule 23(a) elements were met because it was so clear that the named plaintiffs could not show that classwide issues predominate under Rule 23(b).  In a detailed opinion, the Court outlined multiple individual issues that clearly predominate, including individual statute of limitations issues and individual liability and damages issues, that would require a mini-trial on each and every house in the putative class.  Further, the Court held that individual litigation was superior to classwide litigation given the number and importance of individual issues.

The named plaintiffs had claimed in excess of $1 billion dollars in classwide damages. Because of this ruling, they will not be permitted to pursue this classwide relief.

This ruling is particularly significant because it was the last of several cases in which plaintiffs’ counsel had brought class allegations against Pulte related to purported stucco-related defects in Sun City Hilton Head.  Pulte, represented by Rawl, has now prevailed on all such attempts, and there are no remaining putative class actions against Pulte concerning stucco at Sun City Hilton Head.

Henry W. Frampton IV
A. Victor Rawl