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Blough v. Shea Homes, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 4, 2013

ROBERT T. BLOUGH and GWENDOLYN K. BLOUGH, husband and wife, and the marital community composed thereof, individually and as Trustees for the BLOUGH LIVING TRUST; WILLIAM L. FEHR and DIANE L. FEHR, husband and wife, and the marital community composed thereof; SOOK JUN JI, individually; JEFFREY L. OLIPHANT and SANDRA C. OLIPHANT, husband and wife, individually and as Trustees for the JEFFREY AND SANDRA OLIPHANT LIVING TRUST; on behalf of themselves, and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
SHEA HOMES, INC., a Delaware corporation, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING SUMMARY JUDGMENT

RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Shea Homes, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment (Dkt. # 29). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, a proposed class of homeowners, filed this claim against Defendant Shea Homes Inc. for allegedly misrepresenting the construction quality of their homes in violation of Washington's Consumer Protection Act ("CPA"). Dkt. # 4, Ex. A, p. 2. Shea manufactured and sold single-family homes to Plaintiffs in "Trilogy at Redmond Ridge" ("Trilogy"), an "affluent" housing development for persons age 55 and over. Id. at 3; Dkt. # 29, p. 10.

Prior to purchasing their homes, Plaintiffs received marketing materials assuring a high level of construction quality and quality checks. Dkt. # 4, Ex. A, pp. 3-5. Through these materials, Defendant claimed to "give [its] owners the best quality... as a means of building superior value into every aspect of [its] homes and communities, " to conduct "rigorous quality reviews, " and to provide "superior quality and craftsmanship." Id. at 4. Defendant's website also declared a commitment to building "high quality homes, " and its homeowners guide claimed to work with the "best materials" and partners providing high quality. Id. at 5.

Defendant began selling homes at Trilogy as early as 2001. Dkt. # 1, Ex. A, p. 3. Each Plaintiff signed a standard Residential Real Estate Purchase and Sale Agreement ("Sale Agreement") containing a disclaimer of warranties and representations. Dkt. # 29, pp. 6-7. Under the Sale Agreement's terms, "neither Seller nor any sales associate, employee, or agent of Seller has made or will make any representation or warranty, express or implied, not contained in this Agreement concerning... quality of construction." Dkt. # 32, Ex. A, p. 12.

Trilogy residents allegedly began to discover construction defects in their homes as early as 2004. Dkt. # 44, Ex. 2, pp. 4-6. Defendant's "Work Order Detail Reports" specify the date and nature of the complaints. See Dkt. # 44, Ex. 2. The methods of discovering and repairing the defects vary. Some residents experienced water intrusion, allegedly due to the lack of flashing around windows. See Dkt. # 35, p. 4. Others claim to have seen mold growing out of corbels (Dkt. # 38, p. 4) or were informed of the alleged defects during the course of regular home maintenance (Dkt. # 45, p. 4). Trilogy residents claim that the alleged defects have created dangerous conditions and caused them to incur expenses to cure the defects. Dkt. # 45, pp. 2, 5 (alleging that a rotting corbel fell from the home of a Trilogy resident).

Triology residents have filed CPA claims in King County Superior Court against Defendant on two occasions prior to the present litigation, including one class action. See Gaines v. Shea Homes, No. 10-2-09002-9 SEA; Snead v. Shea Homes, Inc., No. 10-2-12930-8 SEA. Both claims alleged misrepresentations as to the construction quality of exterior paint. Dkt. # 44, Ex. 5, p. 9; Ex. 6, p. 7. The named plaintiffs in the Gaines class are not listed among the named plaintiffs in the present litigation, but details regarding the Gaines class certification are unknown. The court denied Defendant's motions for summary judgment in both cases. Dkt. # 44, Ex. 5, p. 25; Ex. 6, p. 20. Defendant has since indicated that the Gaines class stipulated to dismissal pursuant to a settlement. Dkt. # 48, p. 2.

Defendant moves for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' CPA claim on the grounds that it is a "garden-variety construction defect claim[]" that falls outside the CPA's scope, and that claims by two named plaintiffs are time-barred. Dkt. # 29, pp. 2, 28. Defendant also moves to strike declarations submitted by Plaintiffs in response to the instant motion. Dkt. # 48, Ex. A. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion for class certification. Dkt. # 57, p. 24.

III. DISCUSSION

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material when it is relevant to an element of a claim or defense and might affect the outcome. T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. P. Elec. Contractor's Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). Summary judgment is appropriate where the nonmoving party fails to "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Rather than relying on mere allegations in the pleading, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts "showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." See T.W. Elec., 809 F.2d at 630. Applying this standard, the court draws reasonable inferences and views facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. Thus, summary judgment must be denied where a rational trier of fact might resolve an issue in favor of the non-moving party. Id.

Additional considerations emerge when a party moves for summary judgment prior to certification of a class action. The district court must rule on the issue of class certification "as soon as practicable after the commencement of an action brought as a class action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1). However, the court is not required to address certification before ruling on a defendant's motion for summary judgment. See Wright v. Schock, 742 ...


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