Earlier this month, Scott Calkins and Anthony Gaeta of Collinsworth, Specht, Calkins & Giampaoli, LLP obtained a defense verdict in a breach of fiduciary duty action involving a high-rise condominium in downtown San Diego, California. The Association asked for excess of over $3 million, however, the jury returned with a 10-2 defense verdict in favor of K. Hovnanian.
Cortez Blu Community Association, Inc. v. K. Hovnanian at Cortez Hill, LLC, et al. initially involved construction defect claims against the developer, K. Hovnanian, and the general contractor, Turner Construction, as well as a claim of breach of fiduciary duty. However, the construction defect claims settled prior to trial leaving only the breach of fiduciary claim.
“While it is now becoming ever more common for attorneys representing homeowners associations to allege a breach of fiduciary duty by the developer, there has been little actual litigation of the issues surrounding those claims which test the viability of the allegations or the defenses to them,” defense attorney Anthony Gaeta stated. “A breach of a fiduciary duty by a developer, which is demonstrated to damage the viability of an HOA either to perform regularly scheduled maintenance, or replace building components from its reserves, has the potential in economic terms to surpass the damages from purported construction defects.
The Plaintiff argued that K. Hovnanian breached its fiduciary duty to the Association by failing to set adequate reserves within the initial Department of Real Estate budget (“DRE”) for painting, caulking, and power washing the exterior of the building, referencing Raven’s Cove Townhomes, Inc. v. Knuppe Development Co., Inc. (1981) 114 Cal. App. 3d 783. In response, K. Hovnanian stated that in part, the initial reserves as set forth in the DRE budget were adequate, good faith estimates and, therefore, there was no liability for breach of fiduciary duty.
“Our case was exclusively concerned with the duties of the developer when forming the initial HOA, preliminary budgets, and reserves,” Gaeta said. “We litigated the duties and responsibilities of the initial board and whether a developer may rely on reports prepared by third-parties during the formation of a common interest development. The jury found our client’s actions and reliance on third-parties was reasonable and, thus, no breach of fiduciary duty occurred.”
Collinsworth, Specht, Calkins & Giampaoli is a general civil litigation firm representing clients throughout California and Arizona. You may learn more about the firm at www.cslawoffices.com