On this Prefabricated Mini-Mansion, Homeowners Own the Home… and Most of its Mistakes





Guardian’s Construction Defect Group was recently asked by a leading carrier’s law firm to provide expert technical support on a case involving a prefabricated residence. Leveraging Guardian’s considerable experience with prefabricated construction, the attorneys, representing the contractor who assembled the structure, sought to bolster their defense with an immediate on-site assessment of the project and case. (While one may think of prefabrication techniques as being a lower market practice, on this case it was quite the opposite. This was intended to be a luxurious home of over 6000 square feet in a highly desirable neighborhood. Presumably, the homeowners chose this cost-saving method of construction to avoid markups and in order to afford other finishes and amenities.)


On this case, it is important to note that the contractor did not order or design the prefabricated wall and floor panels or any other part of this construction. It was the homeowner who had, in fact, placed the order for all of the building components. One alleged construction defect was the discrepancy in the floor to ceiling height as measured on the scene versus the homeowner’s expectations and the plans. Admittedly, they were considerably shorter than the “high ceilings” one would typically see in a home in this zip code. Another alleged construction defect involved the staircase risers. In addition to performing the on-site inspection, Guardian’s expert thoroughly reviewed the plans, specifications, and contract documents.


Both of the issues mentioned above and identified in the investigation pertained to changes initiated by the Homeowners when placing the order for the prefabricated components. For example, a change to the thickness of the flooring material caused the issue with the staircase riser. Responsibility for a number of claimed defects, Guardian’s expert opined, rested with the homeowners and their architect, not with the contractor who was expressly hired to only assemble. Regardless, there were, in fact, certain errors evidenced throughout construction that really were the fault of the contractor, so it was appropriate to take ownership of these mistakes and draw a clear line between those things that were within the contractor’s control and those that were not. One example was the cracking stucco, which simply was not applied correctly. Another example involved the roof membrane, which was alleged to be defective in the claim, but Guardian’s expert pointed out that the real issue was how the roof was terminated at the perimeter, an issue that could be resolved without a complete roof replacement. While the original claim was in excess of $3MM, it was ultimately resolved in mediation for less than 20% of that amount.


With specialists in virtually all of the construction defect niches, Guardian’s Construction Defect Group has become the go-to resource for attorneys, insurance carriers, developers and owners who appreciate not only technical construction and engineering expertise but rapid response, professionalism, and a track record of practical problem-solving success. Drawing upon over 30 years’ complex construction claims experience, Guardian’s expert forensic team helps you resolve your construction defect cases, claims, and issues quickly, fairly, and reliably. Kindly call on Guardian Group today.

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