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A Blog about Real Estate, How it Can Be Damaged, and Disputes Over its Transfer

This blog is a personal blog written to discuss legal issues affecting Georgia property, and how it is damaged, transferred, and fought over. I write this partly to keep abreast of the law, and partly to offer a forum for my writing. In order to find content, I often analyze Georgia Supreme Court decisions. I try to update this blog as I can, but writing is a time consuming process.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Jury Awards Homeowners $2.5 Million for Drainage Problem

Jurors in Forsyth County, Georgia recently awarded homeowners $2.5 Million against Pulte Home Corporation for a drainage and erosion problem that Pulte allegedly caused on their properties. This award for a nuisance was on top of a separate attorneys' fees award of more than $400,000 assessed against Pulte for allegedly destroying evidence stored on hardrives and in email software.

The case involved a large subdivision in central Forsyth County built by Pulte during the boom in residential construction that preceded the recession. The plaintiffs contended that Pulte's failure to comply with Best Management Practices (BMP'S) and failure to maintain Pulte's property in a way needed to protect other property owners had caused the plaintiffs' properties to lose value. Among other things, these homeowners appear to have contended that the marketability of their homes and land had been affected by the builder's actions.

The case has been heralded as involving the largest award of damages in Georgia history in a case based erosion and sedimentation due to the responsible party's failure to account for the impact of its storm water runoff. It is uncertain whether this contention is accurate in that other multi-million dollar verdicts regarding erosion and storm water have issued from other juries.

The jury awarded the plaintiffs attorneys' fees and punitive damages in addition to their compensatory damages. The gross amount of the damages award exceeded the property damage claims by a large numerical factor. The case stands for the proposition that jurors value property rights in Georgia, and that even conservative jurors in Forsyth County are not hesitant to issue large verdicts against parties that allegedly fail to take care of their storm water and sediment. Pulte has announced that it will appeal the verdict.

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