What is Stucco?
Stucco is a plaster-like substance that is commonly used on the exterior of homes. When applied correctly, it:
- looks good; and
- protects a home from fire, water, and other damage.
When it is not applied or mixed properly, it can:
- fall; or
- develop leaks.
This can even lead to major mold-related health problems.
What can I do about it?
If the stucco fails, it is likely the fault of the builder or contractor who applied it. A lawsuit for money damages can be filed against the responsible party.
If a person was injured from falling stucco or health problems, a personal injury lawsuit can compensate him or her for the injuries suffered.
Our California personal injury attorneys discuss the following frequently asked questions about stucco lawsuits:
- 1. What is stucco?
- 2. Why does stucco sometimes fail?
- 3. What problems can this failure cause?
- 4. How often does stucco fail?
- 5. Who is responsible for the issues with my home?
- 6. What damages can I be awarded from my personal injury lawsuit?
Stucco is a plaster-like substance that is typically applied to exterior block or wood surfaces of a home or office building.1
It used to be made from lime, sand, and water. However, the recipe has been updated and is actually made from cement, sand, and water. It is now similar to concrete.
When properly applied, stucco is very useful in protecting from hazards such as:
- hurricanes; and
When applied correctly, the stucco hardens and binds to the building’s exterior. This creates a dense “shell” around that house that looks nice and is great protection for the building.
It can fail for a variety of reasons. As it dries, it shrinks, allowing micro-cracks to happen. Control joints are supposed to be installed to prevent the worst of this, but this is often overlooked.
Other reasons for failure include but are not limited to:
- Improper attachment to windows: The material is typically bound to windows through lattices and corner beads. When these are missing or improperly installed, significant damage can occur.
- Faulty Mix: When it is improperly mixed, it will not harden correctly. When this occurs, it will not attach to the outer portion of the home the way it is meant to. This will cause cracking and pieces falling off.
- Failure to Use Builder’s Paper: Builder’s paper helps create a bond and barrier between the wood and stucco. Failure to include it or use of a defective product can result in substantial damage to the home or building.
- Failures of Water Resistant Barriers: Water-resistant barriers help to protect stucco and the home from water permeation. Water can destroy a home and create significant health problems.2
Several different things can happen as a result of stucco failure. Each can cost thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars to remedy.
When stucco crumbles, it can look incredibly unsightly, damaging the value of your home to a great extent. It can also allow moisture in, which can cause your home to rot from the inside out.
The cost of fixing these issues can easily reach $100,000 or more. Replacement of an entire side of a home or the entire home’s exterior may be the only way to truly fix the issue. When this occurs, a lawsuit against the responsible party is appropriate.
Stucco failure can lead to problems with the residents’ health. Water intrusion is directly related to these problems.
When water intrudes into the walls of a home, mold grows. Mold, especially black mold, is a dangerous toxin. A person inhales the mold spores, which then settle in the lungs and cause major illnesses and death. When a person’s health is impacted, a personal injury lawsuit can compensate the person for his or her damages.
When the product crumbles, especially from the upper stories of a building, it can fall and hit people. Stucco is like concrete, and large chunks of it are heavy. A person struck by falling debris is likely to be severely injured or even killed by the impact.
When a person is killed as a result of debris, the decedent’s family can bring a wrongful death lawsuit for money damages.
While rates vary significantly around the country, stucco failure is extremely common. Up to 41 percent of all stucco homes in Woodbury, Minnesota failed and required repair in a single year.3
Another study in Florida showed that the extreme moisture of the environment wreaked havoc on improperly applied material.4 Water intrusion was considered one of the most prevalent issues facing property owners of stucco homes or buildings.
$43 Million Settlement
Owners of around 4,300 homes, who have been in litigation for many years, are about to receive a $43 million settlement from failures in their homes. Moisture caused significant damage to the homes.
Florida Homeowners Face Problems with their Homes
A builder of homes that uses stucco is said to have faultily repaired over 154 homes. KB Home refused to pay a multi-million dollar state settlement.
Toll Brothers Faces Lawsuit Over Faulty Stucco
Toll Brothers, a company that builds high-end homes and consistently uses stucco in its construction, has faced many lawsuits over the years for creating homes that crack, leak, and crumble.
When stucco fails, a number of different people or entities may be responsible for the damages caused as a result.
Homebuilders are typically the responsible party. These are the companies and individuals that built the home and initially applied the defective product. Because of their failures, they caused damage to the home or business exterior and can be held responsible for any damages that result.
Builders that have faced lawsuits for stucco problems include but are not limited to:
- Toll Brothers;
- Pulte Homes;
- KB Homes; and
- D.R. Horton.
These are just a few examples of the building contractors who have been held responsible for defective stucco.
In a premises liability lawsuit, to prove the claim requires the plaintiff to prove that he or she was harmed because of the way the defendant managed the property.
Specifically, the plaintiff must prove:
- The defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property;
- The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
- The plaintiff was harmed; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.4
Example: Madison is staying at a local hotel, which is covered in stucco. She is sitting in the courtyard by the pool when a large piece of stucco falls from the third story, striking and severely injuring her. She later dies from her injuries. The hotel knew of issues with the exterior of the building but did not want to cordon off the pool area. Madison’s family can sue the hotel under premises liability law and can sue whoever else may be responsible.
If you are injured on someone else’s property, you can generally sue the individual or company who
- occupies; or
- controls the property.
The party responsible does not need to be someone who owns, possesses, and controls the property. Control alone is sufficient for liability.5
Compensatory damages include both economic and non-economic damages. Both can be awarded after a person has successfully proven a personal injury claim resulting from a stucco failure.
A person’s “economic damages” are those to which a dollar amount can easily be attached. They are intended to cover out-of-pocket amounts the injured person has actually spent or will be required to spend in the future.
Economic losses often include (but are not limited to):
- Medical bills;
- Property damage (related to problems with the home);
- Lost wages; and
- Lost earning capacity.
In most stucco lawsuits where an injury did not occur to the person, the property damage compensation is the main remedy sought. However, those affected by these issues may have all kinds of damage, including health issues.
Non-economic damages are those that do not necessarily involve out-of-pocket expenses. They include more subjective losses, such as:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Physical impairment (such as loss of the use of a limb or organ);
- Loss of consortium;
- Inconvenience; and
- Loss of life enjoyment.
Call us for help…
For questions about the stucco lawsuits or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled California personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at the Shouse Law Group.
We have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
- JDT Construction: What is Stucco?
- Buildingscience.com: BSI-029: Stucco Woes–The Perfect Storm.
- Structuretech1.com: Stucco in New Residential Construction (Stucco homes built in the critical time period continue to fail. To date, 276 of the 670 stucco homes in Woodbury in 1999 have failed and been repaired, a rate of 41 percent. The average time from new construction to repair is 8.7 years. Thirteen of the repaired homes have been repaired more than once. As moisture problems are something that take time to develop and present themselves, the number of failures continue to increase.)
- Brickbase.com (Stucco failures and remediation).
- Alcaraz v. Vece (1997) 14 Cal.4th 1149, 1162 (“‘Property owners are liable for injuries on land they own, possess, or control.’ But . . . the phrase ‘own, possess, or control’ is stated in the alternative. A defendant need not own, possess and control property in order to be held liable; control alone is sufficient.”)