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Construction Defect Attorney
in Lafayette, Louisiana
You’ve just purchased a new home, and soon after – or maybe even a year later – a construction defect appears. Say it’s a problem like a foundation shift or even a more minor but annoying problem with the electrical or water supply system. Who’s responsible, and can you get the home builder to pay for repairs?
What if, on the other hand, you pay a contractor to add a legal room to your house, but the roof starts leaking a year later. Can you get it repaired at no cost or get compensated for the repair or replacement work?
There are several legal principles, including breach of contract, negligence, fraud, and misrepresentation, depending on the nature and cause of the construction defect. Louisiana also has a New Home Warranty Act on the books.
If you have purchased a home or just completed a renovation, and you discover a defect, you have rights under the Louisiana law to recover costs or to have the contractor repair it under warranty. A lawsuit may sometimes be necessary. If you’re in Lafayette, Louisiana, or neighboring Iberia, St. Martin, Jefferson Davis, St. Landry, or Acadia, contact our construction attorney at J. Clay LeJeune, Attorney at Law, LLC. Let us assess your situation and advise you of the best options.
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Common Construction Defects
Courts have generally broken down construction defects into four categories: design, material, construction, and subsurface.
Design defects stem from the work of architects and engineers. One example is a poorly designed roof that results in poor drainage, water intrusion, or inadequate structural support.
Material defects refer to the use of inferior building materials, such as windows that leak or concrete that cracks under pressure.
Construction defects derive from poor quality of work, which is either not done to building standards or is covered up. Examples include water intrusion, cracks in the foundation, electrical and mechanical problems, and plumbing leaks.
Subsurface deficiencies refer to not preparing the ground underneath the structure for proper support. Structure issues could happen on hills or where the soil is unstable.
Methods of Resolution in
a Construction Dispute
Should a defect appear in your home after construction, the typical routes to resolution begin with notifying the builder of the problem and attempting to negotiate a solution. If the two of you cannot agree between yourselves on a proper course of action, you can always enlist the help of a mediator, who will listen to both sides and attempt to reach a mutual agreement.
One step beyond that is arbitration, which is less costly than a lawsuit and has fewer restrictions on evidence, similar to a trial in which the arbitrator hands down a binding decision.
The final step is a lawsuit, which is launched under various legal principles and Louisiana law.
Possible Damages Available
Generally speaking, recoverable damages under a construction defect lawsuit centers on the cost of repair and or a replacement. Specific performance by the contractor – in other words, ordering the contractor to make good on the defect – is generally not acceptable to the owner, who will usually want to pursue another contractor to fix any defects.
Under the New Home Warranty Act, the homeowner must first allow the builder to fix the problem.
Your lawsuit can be based on strict liability, negligence, breach of contract, breach of warranty, or fraud or misrepresentation.
In the construction industry, builders have an implied warranty of safety and quality, and if their work fails to meet that standard, they can be liable for any damages or injuries caused to the owners.
For instance, a homeowner moves into a newly constructed single-family residence. One of the residents is injured because the stairway has a structural defect that causes the person to fall. So long as the action of the injured party is foreseeable, strict liability holds. In a strict liability lawsuit, you do not need to show negligence. It has a lower bar of proof.
The Louisiana Civil Code holds the contractor or architect, who is called the “undertaker” in legalese, liable to “bear the loss” if negligence in workmanship results in damage to the structure, in whole or in part. This negligence is referred to as “badness of the workmanship.” Liability extends for five years after construction for a wood-framed building and ten years for a stone/brick building. Damages available include the cost of repairs.
If the standards for a valid contract are satisfied, and one party fails to live up to their obligations, then a lawsuit can be based on a breach of contract. The breach lawsuit is either non-performance, defective performance, or a delay in performance. To win this type of lawsuit, you must prove:
- The plaintiff and defendant are in a contract
- The plaintiff performed as specified or is excused for non-performance
- The defendant failed to perform under the contract
- The plaintiff is harmed (suffered loss, damages, or injuries)
- The defendant’s breach of contract was a substantial factor in the plaintiff’s harm
The Louisiana New Home Warranty Act requires the builder to warrant that the home will remain free of defects caused by non-compliance with building standards. The home has to be free of defects in materials or workmanship not regulated by the building standards for one year.
Louisiana Revised Statute 14:202.1 states: “Residential contractor fraud is the misappropriation or intentional taking of anything of value which belongs to another, either without the consent of the other to the misappropriation or taking, or by means of fraudulent conduct, practices, or representations by a person who has contracted to perform any home improvement or residential construction, or who has subcontracted for the performance of any home improvement or residential construction.”
In other words, fraud under the law is a misrepresentation or suppression of the truth made with the intention of gaining an advantage for oneself. So if the builder of a home makes a claim designed to defraud the purchaser, and the result is a construction defect or other loss, a lawsuit can be undertaken.