In this matter, Eric represented clients who were the first owners of a custom-built house in Calaveras County. Plaintiffs, the subsequent owners of the property, discovered multiple alleged defects in the house, many of which were attributed to a shifting foundation.
The plaintiffs sued the contractor who originally constructed the house. That contractor then filed a cross-complaint against Eric’s clients, alleging that they made modifications during their ownership of the house which actually caused all of the plaintiff’s complaints.
Eric filed a motion for summary judgment against the cross-complaint on the grounds that his clients would not be liable for any of the plaintiff’s damages even if they had undertaken such modifications. In California, a contractor who is part of the original construction and/or design of a structure is statutorily liable for any damages caused by defects in that construction or design within ten years. However, a mere homeowner is not so liable. The builder opposed Eric’s motion by arguing that, regardless of the statutory law, the clients should be jointly and severally liable to the plaintiffs for any damages that they caused or contributed to.
The Court agreed with Eric’s argument and reasoning, and issued its ruling, granting the motion and holding that absent any duty or statutory liability, Eric’s clients could not be jointly and severally liable to the plaintiffs for any damages caused by improvements they made to the property. Absent joint and several liability, there was no basis for the builders requests for indemnity, apportionment, or declaratory relief. The Court furthermore held that the cross-complainant’s independent cause of action against the Eric’s clients could not be maintained under the “tort of another” theory.
Through the successful motion Eric was able to secure judgment for his clients and was awarded costs.