Ironwood homeowners fed up with flooding, file suit

July 19, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — A state appellate court recently certified a lawsuit for class-action status against a local developer for alleged construction defects on 115 homes in the Ironwood Acres Estates west of here.

Local developer Martin Coyne and Coyne Development are named in a lawsuit by Ironwood homeowners who claim the homes they bought have defective sewage disposal systems, according to the homeowners' San Diego-based attorney, Paul K. Fine.

The plaintiffs were denied class-action status in Imperial County Superior Court but the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal reversed that ruling and granted class-action status last week.

Fine said the appellate court's ruling must yet be finalized as Coyne might choose to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court. Short of that, Fine said the next step is to provide notice to the homeowners of the pending class action, something he expects to do within 60-90 days.


"The court ruling only requires it to move along as a class action," Fine said Wednesday.

According to background information in the appellate ruling, the plaintiffs argue the composition of the soils beneath their homes does not allow for the proper operation of septic-type sewage systems. As a result there is frequent flooding and a clogging of drains in homes.

Coyne did not return calls seeking comment.

Several homeowners named in court documents could not be reached or did not return calls seeking comment, although one woman declined to comment, saying the case is pending.

Court documents say the first phase of Ironwood was built in 1990, the second phase in 1991, the third in 1992 and the fourth and final in 1993. Sewage problems began in the western-most homes in 1992, with a pattern of failures beginning anywhere from 12 to 18 months after construction at residences "that had prolonged periods of higher than average use," the plaintiffs argued.

A geologist/hydrologist retained by the plaintiffs stated in court documents that the reason for poor drainage was shallow ground water and that the shallow water table is exacerbated by septic effluent "from the improperly designed septic systems on the subject properties, thus bringing the water table closer to the soils surface."

"It is my opinion that a replacement sewer system is necessary for the entire project," the geologist wrote.

A Coyne-retained engineering report was submitted to the court by the plaintiffs. The report acknowledges about 20 percent of the occupied homes have various degrees of problems.

"It is apparent that it is only a matter of time before more residents report problems with their wastewater systems." the report says.

According to court papers, the plaintiffs also submitted a Jan. 22, 1999, letter by Coyne to Ironwood homeowners in which he allegedly stated that he would continue "to work hard for you and look for a solution as long as there are no attorneys and lawsuits involved."

Meanwhile, plaintiffs attorney Fine said the homeowners are seeking recovery of enough monetary damages to pay for the installation of a sewer line to the homes, damages for any fraud that might have been committed by Coyne and damages for any other expenses related to the sewer systems.

He said it's estimated to cost $3 million to connect the homes to the city of Imperial's sewer system.

Ironwood Acres lies west of the city of Imperial, north of Worthington Road, east of Austin Road, south of Neckel Road and west of Nance Road.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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