Hundreds of Sun City Hilton Head homeowners crowded the Bluffton High School auditorium Thursday for an update on a class-action lawsuit claiming rampant defective stucco work in the retirement community.
Lawyers who hope to represent them said they expect the five-year-old case to move forward in the courts soon.
Judge J. Michael Baxley allowed the lawsuit, originally filed by Sun City couple Anthony and Barbara Grazia, to become a class-action suit in December. It could ultimately affect more than 4,300 homes.
South Carolina State Plastering LLC, the lead defendant, along with developer Del Webb Communities Inc., builder Pulte Homes Inc. and others named in the suit quickly appealed the judge's ruling.
Attorney Michael Seekings of Leath, Bouch & Seekings law firm in Charleston told the crowd that the appeal should soon be resolved and there were "signs of hope that this is going to end."
"That's their strategy: Delay, delay, delay," Seekings said. "We are prepared to move forward."
If the pending appeal is rejected, plaintiffs' lawyers said the next step is a notice of the class action that will be sent out to eligible homeowners. The homeowners could choose to opt out of it; if not, they will automatically be included in the class, Seekings explained.
Once the number of plaintiffs is finalized, Pulte has a timeframe to respond to each individual claim of defective stucco under South Carolina's "Right to Cure Act."
That law requires a homeowner to give 90 days notice of the intent to file a lawsuit over construction and lays out a timeline for a contractor or subcontractor to assess the situation and offer repairs, money or some another solution.
Sun City residents may see people taking pictures of their homes soon if they haven't already noticed them, Seekings said. That's because lawyers are already preparing to send 4,317 "Right to Cure" notices to Pulte, he said.
A Sun City resident of Astor Fields who requested to remain anonymous said he has no choice but to join the suit: Pulte denied his claim requesting repairs to the stucco on his home even though an inspector he hired pointed out problems, he said.
Defective stucco can cause water intrusion in walls, which leads to mold. The resident said his college-aged son has trouble with his asthma when he sleeps in the home.
"I'm not going to get my house fixed any other way, other than doing it myself," he said.