An attorney representing an embattled contractor accused of faulty stucco installation that affected thousands of homes in a Lowcountry gated community says a years-long, class-action lawsuit has been "resolved."
"The actual terms (of the settlement) are being put on paper," Charleston lawyer Mike Ethridge said Monday morning, adding that those terms still had to be presented to and approved by a judge.
Ethridge represents S.C. State Plastering, LLC (SCSP), the company more than 4,000 residents of Sun City Hilton Head blame for shoddy stucco work — which they say caused mold problems and varying degrees of structural damage, including some homes that needed new walls.
News of the resolution comes days after Sun City residents forwarded to The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette an email stating "a tentative settlement has been reached" in the suit, Anthony Grazia vs. S.C. State Plastering. The case became a class-action affair in 2012 but was first filed in 2007.
The case was originally supposed to go to trial Monday, but it was continued and a motion hearing was scheduled in its place. That hearing, though, was canceled, according to a representative of the Beaufort County Clerk of Court's office, who said Monday morning the case had been "settled."
Del Webb Communities Inc. (Sun City is a Del Webb property ), Pulte Homes Inc. and Kephart Architects Inc. are third-party defendants in the suit, since SCSP alleged it installed the stucco under the direction and design of those companies.
"As a result of an extended period of mediation, both parties have reached a tentative settlement which now must be reviewed and approved by the court," PulteGroup, Inc., spokesperson Macey Kessler wrote in an email Monday afternoon. "At this time, we are unable to make specific comments while the settlement is pending. We are glad to see a resolution for our homeowners."
Pulte Homes and Del Webb are brands of PulteGroup, the Atlanta-based company that reported home-sale revenues totaling $1.9 billion for the first quarter of 2018.
Ethridge said he did not know details about forthcoming settlement terms or when they will be presented to judge. He said the plaintiffs' lawyers might have more information.
A representative from attorney Michael Seekings' Charleston firm, Leath, Bouch & Seekings, LLP — which is representing the homeowners — said Monday that he and his colleagues would not comment on the case.
Court documents show that 187 people opted out of the class-action suit and took individual settlements from SCSP ranging from $1,500 to $50,000. The combined payout totaled more than $2.6 million.
According to court documents, defense attorneys said, as of August 2017, their clients had spent "approximately $23 million ... to date in attempted corrections as part of the Right to Cure Process."
The S.C. Right to Cure Act 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.
However, plaintiffs in the Grazia suit "allege that the only appropriate repair of the damaged homes is to de-clad and then re-clad the houses with an appropriate stucco system, at a cost of approximately $75,000.00 per structure," according to court documents.
"The case has been resolved," Ethridge said Monday. "This case has been going on for a long time," he continued. "And I think everyone is ready to resolve it."