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Firm Wins Significant Dismissal in Construction Defect Case, by Alexander D. Fisher, Esq.

In a recent New Jersey decision, this Firm succeeded in obtaining partial summary judgment in a construction defect case, dismissing multiple causes of action and claims against our client.  With this decision, the Court dismissed over 98% of the Plaintiff’s claimed damages of $6.1 million asserted against our client. The case is Views at Hudson Pointe Condominium Association v. K. Hovnanian at Hudson Pointe, LLC, et al., venued in Superior Court, Hudson County.
  
In the Views at Hudson Pointe case, Plaintiff condominium association claims significant construction defects in a large residential condominium complex located on the shores of the Hudson River in North Bergen, New Jersey.  Our client, a concrete subcontractor, is alleged to have been responsible for concrete cracking and piping deficiencies in the two on-site garages.  As part of a plan to repair the alleged cracking, Plaintiff’s expert opined that an expensive traffic coating would be needed in each garage, at an approximate cost of $5.8 million dollars.

Through discovery, the following was determined: (1) the garage plans provided to our client did not include a traffic coating; (2) our client was not contracted to put down such a coating; (3) our client was not retained to design the garages, only to construct them; (4) no one ever requested our client to install a traffic coating; (5) Plaintiff’s expert stated that the inclusion of a traffic coating would have been a “better design” for the garages; and (6) multiple parties acknowledged that our client had no role in the installation of piping, and that the claimed deficiencies were the responsibility of the piping contractor.

Accordingly, we moved for summary judgment at the close of discovery, on the grounds that the installation of a traffic coating was an obligation not found in the contract and for which Plaintiff could not recover.  In granting this portion of the motion, the Court found it clear that the traffic coating had not been part of the original plans for the garages.  Furthermore, the Court found that our client had no role in the design of the garages, and therefore, could not be held responsible for the proposed cost of installing such a coating.  Therefore, the Court limited the Plaintiff’s recoverable damages against our client to the cost of repairing the cracks in the garages with concrete filler, which Plaintiff’s own expert estimated at approximately $100,000.00 dollars.  

The Court also dismissed the claims relating to piping in the garages, stating that the evidence clearly showed that our client played no role in this work.

This decision highlights that a Plaintiff in a construction defect matter may only recover damages that provide them with the benefit of the bargain – in this case, two garages without a traffic coating.  A Plaintiff in this type of action is not entitled to receive a better building than was envisioned by the plans.  

It is common for condominium association experts in construction defect cases to inflate the cost to repair the alleged defects by inserting items that substantially improve upon the design of a particular building.  With this decision, the Court affirmed that a plaintiff will not be permitted to inflate its damages estimates in order to improve a building with upgraded designs and/or materials.  


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