Attorneys for Sun City Hilton Head residents who are suing the gated community's builder and developer over stucco say two recent developments signal that the years-long battle is gaining momentum.
Earlier this month, the S.C. Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit brought by a Sun City couple alleging construction flaws in their home's siding should be settled in arbitration.
In another development, a judge is expected to sign a notice this week to be sent to thousands of homeowners, allowing them to decide if they want to be part of a class-action lawsuit.
Plaintiffs' attorneys say both events mean their case against builder Pulte Homes Inc., developer Del Webb Communities Inc. and S.C. State Plastering LLC is shifting into high gear.
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"We are simply very glad that it's moving," said attorney Michael Seekings, who is part of a team of four lawyers representing Sun City stucco lawsuits.
The Court of Appeals decision this month settled a lawsuit filed by Roger and Mary Jo Carlson in 2008.
In arbitration, disputes are heard by a panel instead of a judge and jury.
Although the plaintiffs' lawyers initially fought Pulte's motion for arbitration in the Carlsons' case, Seekings said either venue -- the arbitration table or the courtroom -- is acceptable.
"We believe in either setting because we have the case that we have," Seekings said.
The ruling means the Carlsons' case will be on a different track from that of a class-action lawsuit that is already underway in Sun City.
Arbitration, in most cases, does not allow either party to appeal the decision -- a process that will be different from the class-action suit brought by Anthony and Barbara Grazia, which Pulte and Del Webb have sought to delay, Seekings said.
However, those delays may also be coming to an end, the attorneys say.
Another attorney on the plaintiffs' team, John Chakeris, said Judge J. Michael Baxley is expected to finalize the notice of class action in the Grazia case this week. The notices will then be sent to about 4,300 homes in which State Plastering applied stucco from late 1998 to July 2007. There are potential defects in each, the plaintiffs' lawyers say.
The homeowners will be part of the class action unless they decide to opt out in order to seek repairs, money or some other solution under the state's Right to Cure Act.
About 140 homeowners have already sued Del Webb, Pulte and S.C. State Plastering LLC individually. Last summer, Baxley approved a class action to avoid clogging the court system with identical cases.
Attempts Monday to reach the defendants' attorneys of the McNair Law Firm were unsuccessful. Attempts to reach James Zeumer, Pulte vice president of investor relations and corporate communications, also were unsuccessful.
- S.C. Court of Appeals decision in June granting arbitration in the case of Roger and Mary Jo Carlson vs. Pulte and Del Webb
- Hundreds of Sun City homeowners seek answers on class-action lawsuit, July 20, 2012
- Judge: Lawyers in stucco suit can talk to Sun City homeowners, July 15, 2012
- Sun City stucco gets class-action status; 4,000 homes could be included, Jan. 6, 2012