A lawsuit brought by a number of homeowners who purchased new homes in Pooler, Georgia and Savannah, Georgia, alleges that bad concrete used in the construction of their homes has caused problems. The concrete was poured and utilized in the foundations, slabs, footings, garages, driveways and patios, which are cracking and pitting, and giving off a very fine silicate dust.
One of the problems identified in the concrete mixture was an excessive percentage of fly ash, which is a material that is mixed with cement to form concrete. Fly ash is a bi-product of burning coal. Fly ash contains calcium, and its calcium content is an indicator of how well fly ash will perform when mixed into concrete. Fly ash with higher calcium content, produced from burning lignite or sub-bituminous coal, is generally known as Class C fly ash. However, excessive amounts of fly ash can cause the concrete to crumble and disintegrate. This, in turn, can lead to a very fine silicate-like dust that can spread and pose a potential threat to the homeowners’ respiratory health.
A properly proportioned fly ash concrete mix can improve workability and increase the cohesiveness of concrete. On the other hand, a badly proportioned concrete mix, such as one with too much fly ash or the wrong class fly ash, will not set and harden properly. This can result in premature breakdown of a home’s foundations, footings, garages, driveways and patios. The most troubling of these problems is when the home’s concrete foundation begins cracking and crumbling, because a foundation with a house built on top of it cannot be easily repaired or replaced.
Purchasers paid amounts ranging from $175,000 to $200,000 for their homes. In some cases, the homeowners have notified their builders and demanded remediation (repairs) of the damage to their property caused by the bad concrete. In the case of a driveway whose concrete is failing, the driveway can be dug up and re-poured. However, a concrete foundation that has a newly constructed house sitting on top of it is a different matter. How can a builder repair the foundation without tearing down the house? A homeowner whose house is built upon a foundation that is cracking and deteriorating is left with a home that is practically impossible to sell or refinance. Ultimately, it may prove to be unsafe to reside in the home. These homeowners risk losing their biggest investment, their home.
Typically, homebuyers are not interested in how or where the individual components of a new house, such as concrete, are obtained. The homebuyers are relying upon the builders to construct the finished product, i.e. the house. The builders are typically the ones who contract with the concrete manufacturers to mix and pour the concrete into the foundations, footings, garages, driveways and patios of the home. Some of the builders whose houses have been affected are among the largest home construction companies in the United States. These homebuilders, in turn, contracted with some of the largest concrete producers in the United States. One of the companies named in the lawsuit is a subsidiary of the fourth largest concrete producer in the United States and owns concrete manufacturing plants in Savannah, Richmond Hill, Pooler, Hinesville and Rincon, Georgia. In a lawsuit filed against one of the cement manufacturers, it is alleged that the defendant cement manufacturer designed, formulated, manufactured, mixed, blended and supplied the concrete used in the construction of homes in Pooler and Savannah, Georgia.
The question becomes, what redress does the homeowner have in this unfortunate situation? The homeowner’s insurance may not cover such claims. The homeowner could file an action against the homebuilder. Such an action arises when the builder fails to perform work in accordance with industry standards. In the pending lawsuit, it was alleged that the percentage of fly ash in the concrete used in the subject homes in Pooler and Savannah did not meet industry standards. The builder may, in turn, choose to sue and bring into the lawsuit the concrete provider, alleging that if the builder is responsible to the homeowner, the concrete provider should be held responsible to the builder. Be aware that the purchase agreement between the homebuyer and the builder may impact the remedies that the homebuyer has in such a case. Likewise, the contractual agreement between the homebuilder and the concrete provider may govern their remedies.
Homeowners who find themselves in these unfortunate situations need lawyers who have the requisite experience and the resources to represent them. These cases involve complex laws and issues. There is strength in numbers. A builder would likely have a more difficult time defending a case brought by many homeowners from the same neighborhood whose homes were negatively impacted by bad concrete. Suthers & Harper is investigating cases on behalf of homeowners in Georgia and South Carolina whose homes have been impacted by bad concrete used in the construction of their homes. For more information, you may contact the firm toll free at 1-800-320-2384, or go to the firm’s website at www.sutherslaw.com.