Launch Slideshow

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Judgment Day

Judgment Day

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    Joe Ferrentino, attorney with Newmeyer & Dillon

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    Michael Turner, attorney with Kasdan Simonds

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    Judge David C. Velasquez

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    William Ingalsbe, attorney with Monteleone and McCrory

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    Concrete has deteriorated due to sulfate attack.

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    Left: Batchman Richard Bowman (left) talks with Tim Toland, president of National Ready Mixed Concrete Co., at its plant in Van Nuys, Calif.

“We were appalled at the quality of the work,” says Vaughan. He declares emphatically that he would far prefer to live in a 65-year-old, individually built pre-war house than a modern tract home.

The Castron complaint lists eight areas of defects, including windows, roofs, waterproofing, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems, and concrete foundations and flatwork. The final element of the complaint states, “The concrete violates provisions of the Uniform Building Code with regard to the type of concrete used and the water-cement ratio of the concrete, resulting in excessive porosity, which permits sulfate attack.”

Kasdan Simonds conducted testing at the houses and determined that there were extreme sulfate levels present at some place on every lot in question, says Turner.

“There wasn't any damage,” Ferrentino states flatly.

The suit was filed Jan. 15, 2002. In addition to the developers, the suit eventually named 49 defendants or cross-defendants, including concrete suppliers and installers. Many defendants also became cross-complainants as everyone counter-sued each other in self-defense. Forty-one law firms became involved.

The number of homes grew to 25 as two other suits were filed. The cases were consolidated and, in May 2003, assigned to Superior Court Judge David C. Velasquez.

The original concrete supplier for 19 of the 25 houses, United Ready Mix, had been bought by National Ready Mixed Concrete, of Encino, Calif., during the intervening eight years, so National inherited the suit. Standard Concrete Products Inc., of Santa Ana, supplied concrete for the other six houses.

The only defendants who didn't settle out of court were the concrete producers. “Fieldstone had been sued on a number of claims by the Kasdan firm, and by the time we got to Castron, we were pretty fed up with bogus concrete allegations,” says Ferrentino. “The company wanted to fight all the concrete claims through trials, but the insurance company decided to resolve its claims.” Asked how much Fieldstone paid, Ferrentino replies, “Too much.”

Not enough defendants stand up to the Kasdan suits, says Tim Toland, president of National Ready Mixed. “People settle, and that's why they're still doing this stuff. People don't want to take the time and spend the money.”

“I think even in the settlement cases, those slabs have not been removed,” adds Don Unmacht, president of National Cement, parent company of National Ready Mixed. “Sulfate attack hasn't appeared to be the major problem in residential construction, which the proponents of such suits claim.”