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September 20, 2014

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Del Webb, Coventry settle plumbing lawsuit

Faulty Plumbing

This IPEX water pipe fitting was taken from a Pulte home in Anthem. The corroded fittings can cause declining water pressure and leaks. Launch slideshow »

A judge on Friday sanctioned a $27.2 million settlement from Del Webb Communities and its Coventry Homes subsidiary in a class-action lawsuit regarding faulty plumbing.

District Court Judge Timothy Williams' approval finalizes the preliminary settlement the two builders agreed to in November and provides partial compensation to replace Kitec plumbing systems in 6,617 homes in the valley built by Del Webb or Coventry.

The settlement would cover about 75 percent of the total costs, said Bill Coulthard, whose firm Harrison, Kemp, Jones and Coulthard represents the thousands of valley owners whose houses were built with the Kitec system since 1995.

The difference would be made up from Del Webb's portion of the already approved $90 million settlement from Kitec-maker IPEX.

The settlement also provides at least partial reimbursements to homeowners who paid out-of-pocket to replumb rather than waiting for the court action to be resolved, Coulthard said.

The suit continues to seek damages from about 30 other builders and about 10 plumbers who installed Kitec as subcontractors. Coulthard said his firm is in talks with several of the builders in an attempt to avoid going to trial in May.

"We're hopeful that we can reach resolutions with other homebuilders who want to do the right thing," he said. "And for those who don't, we'll see them in trial."

The focus of the lawsuit is on the brass fittings in the plumbing system. The fittings corrode, causing the zinc in the brass to build up in the pipes. The buildup could restrict water flow and eventually cause breaks.

IPEX issued a recall on the brass fittings in 2005. The company denies liability and has claimed that Southern Nevada's mineral-rich water is to blame for failures because the fixtures don't have the same problem elsewhere.

Del Webb's parent company Pulte already paid $21 million to compensate about 2,700 of its Sun City Anthem owners, said Pulte spokeswoman Jacque Petroulakis.

The company offered the owners $7,800 to replumb their homes and required them to sign a form releasing the company from any future plumbing problems. Residents who signed the form also assigned their rights in the class action suit to the company.

"Pulte was the first and only homebuilder to make an offer of compensation directly to its homeowners. A majority of homeowners have already made the repairs and received their money," she said.

There's still a chance the IPEX settlement could be appealed, which would delay the replumbing work for Del Webb and Coventry owners, Coulthard said. The best-case scenario is work starting in six months. In the event of an appeal, work could be delayed two years, he said.

"The timing of the commencement of the replumb is tied to the IPEX settlement," Coulthard said. "If that IPEX settlement is appealed and the IPEX money is tied up, then we'll likely hold off on replumbing."

The money collected in the class-action suit will compensate contractors who perform the replumbs. Homeowners won't receive the money directly, unlike those who took Pulte's early offer.

Del Webb and Coventry are the second and third builders to settle after Richmond American Homes. Pulte and its PNII subsidiary remain in the suit.

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