Lawsuit for Structural Damage and Design Defects of An Apartment Building

In Huang v. Garner (1984) 157 Cal. App. 3d 404 203 Cal. Rptr. 800 Huang was a suit by subsequent purchasers of a Menlo Park apartment building for damages caused by alleged faulty design and construction of the building. The building had been constructed in 1965 by the original owner, sold to others in 1970, resold again a few years later, and purchased by the plaintiffs (who thus became its fourth owners) in 1974. The record in that case did not indicate any interim defects or problems with the building. However, after their 1974 purchase, the plaintiffs hired an engineer "to conduct an engineering study to determine what actions would need to be taken prior to converting the apartments to condominiums. He discovered extensive structural damage in the garage area of the apartments. This led to the discovery of other purported structural and design defects in the property." (Huang, supra, 157 Cal. App. 3d at p. 411.) The plaintiffs sued a whole host of defendants on a variety of theories. Many of those defendants settled, but the case went to trial against the original owner and developer of the property, his wholly owned construction company (which had constructed the building), and the project's building designer and civil engineer. The trial court granted a motion for a nonsuit as to the building designer and civil engineer at the close of the plaintiffs' case. The jury returned a verdict against the original owner/developer and his construction company, but the trial court also granted a partial nonsuit as to them. More specifically, the trial court ruled that, on their negligence and negligence per se causes of action, the plaintiffs could recover for physical damage only, i.e., not for economic damage. And it allowed no recovery for breach of warranty, ruling that the lack of privity of contract precluded such. (Id. at pp. 409-411.)