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Construction Negligence and Fraud

Article posted on: 10/25/2007

In September 2007, attorneys Andrew Slutkin and Avery Strachan of the law firm of Silverman Thompson filed a construction fraud and construction negligence lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Harford County against home builders Altieri Homes, Inc., Altieri Enterprises, Inc., Frank Altieri and Daren Altieri, alleging that they developed and built a single-family house that they knew was not structurally safe and sound, sold that house to the Plaintiff, and then affirmatively represented to the Plaintiff after the sale that the house was structurally safe and sound, thereby defrauding the Plaintiff and endangering the lives of the Plaintiff and her two young children.

The suit alleges that the house that the Altieri Defendants built and sold to the Plaintiff is lacking necessary structural support, has a variety of construction defects, sways when someone walks up the stairs or in light wind and, according to a certified structural engineer, is so structurally unsound that it is in danger of collapsing. The suit also includes a claim of negligence against the engineering firm that allegedly designed the house, Consulting Engineers, Corp.

During depositions in the case, Altieri Homes President and construction manager Daren Altieri admittted that the house was not built according to the engineering drawings that Altieri had specifically obtained to built the house. Specifically, Daren Altieri admitted that Altieri Homes failed to install a steel portal frame and sheer walls in the house, which are required for lateral structural support. He also admitted that the house does not meet code. Trial was scheduled for the later part of 2008.

At trial in 2008, the Defendants once again admitted that the house had not been built according to the engineering drawings that had been obtained to build the house, namely that the steel portal frame that was require for lateral structural support had been replaced with a much cheaper replacement material. As a result, when the Plaintiffs moved into the house, they quickly found that the house swayed back and forth on windy days, which in turn, resulted in cracks in the foundation, walls and ceilings in the house, rendering it unsafe to live in. After a week of trial, the judge in the case found that the Defendants had negligently constructed the home and awarded the plaintiffs significant money damages.

The case itself was a technically difficult one for STSW attorneys given the need to review and understand multiple versions of construction plans, engineering drawings and materials manifests. Through the help of local construction and engineering experts, these documents essentially became the keys to the case and ultimately resulted in STSW attorneys being able to secure the concessions / admissions from the Defendants. These concessions proved to be extremely damaging to the credibility of the Defendants as they pulled back the curtain on what appeared to be a concerted effort to cut corners at critical stages of the construction process so as to save a few dollars.

If you have similarly been victimized by a building or engineer, call the lawyers at STSW for a free consultation.

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