Law360 reported that a California appeals panel revived proposed class claims in a suit against developer D.R. Horton over homes with copper piping. The three-judge panel said while there are class actions that flat-out fail to allege the existence of a valid class, this complaint was not one of them, and the court owed it to the plaintiffs to let them conduct discovery and present their class claims in an evidentiary motion.
Richard Bridgford, lead counsel for the homeowners who also represents others in similar actions against about a dozen developers in the Orange County area, told Law360 the plaintiffs are “overjoyed the appellate court set this right.”
Lily Chiang and four other homeowners sued the developer in 2013, alleging that copper piping used in their new homes in Ladera Ranch, California, was defective as it was not suited to the water conditions in the area. The developer knew about the water conditions before it started building, the plaintiffs alleged.
The plaintiffs sought to represent all the owners of houses in the area that D.R. Horton constructed using copper pipes and plumbing. The developer moved to strike class allegations in August 2013, and the court granted that motion in January 2014.
On appeal, the panel said D.R. Horton’s arguments had gone “well beyond the scope of the complaint” to attempt to show that the plaintiffs did not have common claims, highlighting the need for discovery before the court decides the fate of the class claims.
The appeals court said that while the defendant had tried to “dance around the issue,” the differences the developer alleged between class members mostly had to do with damages. Those differences are not enough to defeat class claims at the pleadings stage, the panel said.
Bridgford also told Law360 the court recently approved of a more than $1.3 million settlement with MBK Builders Inc. and a tentative $7.1 million deal with William Lyon Homes in faulty copper pipe cases where he represented the plaintiffs.