Our client, a 52 year-old single woman, purchased a home in a beautiful rural area on a lake north of Los Angeles. The home was in a gated community of many houses that share a lake. When the client purchased the home, the Real Estate Broker and Sales Agent assured the client that the home was in good condition and did not need any major maintenance or repairs.
Shortly after close of escrow the client moved in and started to improve the property by installing a new deck from which to view sunsets over the lake with her toddler granddaughter.
Within a few weeks the toilet started to back up, the sink and shower would not drain and the client called plumbers to fix the problem. At that point, she discovered that this drainage problem had been an issue at the house for many years and no one had disclosed it.
Specifically, the drainage problem was the house did not have a modern sewage system at all. It did not have a sewer. It did not have a septic tank. There was only a dirt pit into which the raw sewage would dump from the drains in the house. When that pit was full, sewage overflowed into the house.
The client then stopped using the toilet and showers while she attempted to find a way to fix it. She did not have any money left to fix it after purchasing the house. For almost a year she communicated with the Real Estate Sales Agent, who assured her that this problem would be fixed. Then, the Real Estate Sales Agent abruptly stopped taking her calls.
During this entire time the client had to go to great lengths to do routine things anyone should be able to do in their home; she either used her neighbor’s bathroom or drove 2.5 miles to the nearest gas station to use their facilities. She showered at the gym each morning.
When her 3 year-old granddaughter visited, she was forced to either use the lawn outside or depend on the neighbor’s good graces for bathroom privileges.
Finally after about a year, the client was able to connect the property up to the municipal sewage system.
Stephen Allen Jamieson and R. Bruce Evans represented the client when she took her case before the Los Angeles Superior Court. At trial, the Real Estate Broker and Sales Agent argued that she did not know about the sewage pit and potential overflow problems. However, the jury disbelieved the Agent.
They found against the Real Estate Broker company and the Sales Agent for professional negligence and in favor of Jamieson’s and Evan’s client for a substantial amount of money. This sum represented the difference in the value of land as sold versus the value of the land as the Agent had represented, along with compensation for the emotional distress our client suffered. The case was thereafter settled for a confidential dollar amount.