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Number of houses 'crumbling' in west Casper subdivision rises to 16, attorney claims
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Number of houses 'crumbling' in west Casper subdivision rises to 16, attorney claims

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Mesa Del Sol

Signs advertising new homes line the entrance to the Mesa Del Sol development in Casper. Several owners in the neighborhood have filed a lawsuit claiming improperly constructed foundations have caused damage to their homes.

There are now 16 houses in disrepair in a west Casper subdivision because of alleged poor construction and disregard for official soil reports, claims an attorney suing a number of people and companies involved in the homes’ construction.

A first lawsuit was filed last year by at least eight groups of plaintiffs against more than a dozen real estate agents and construction companies. Among other things, the suit alleged that the defendants were given a report that stated the soil upon which the homes in the Mesa Del Sol subdivision would be built required a special kind of foundation. But, the suit claims, the defendants ignored those reports and built the homes using an ill-suited foundation that has now rendered the houses uninhabitable.

Furthermore, the suit alleges that the defendants did not “inform any of the (homeowners), at any time prior to the signing of the Purchase Contracts ... of the finding and recommendations of the geotechnical engineers or that they had constructed the subject residences without the recommended drilled pier foundation systems.”

Additionally, the suit claims that the houses were built shoddily: The homes are “missing foundation walls, components, and hardware,” have experienced “window well failure, inadequate fire protection, uninhabitable basements,” and other deficiencies, the suit alleges.

Several of the defendants have denied any wrongdoing.

Since the filing of the lawsuit, the original complaint was amended, adding a handful of new residents and defendants. Secondly, a separate suit was filed by Geno Munoz, who moved into a house in the subdivision after the original suit.

In the second suit, Munoz — and Jason Ochs, who represents both him and the plaintiffs in the larger suit — restates much of what was alleged in the first. But Munoz alleges that he asked Broker One agent Gary Bryan if the home Munoz was buying “was part of the litigation that was ongoing, and Defendant Bryan specifically told (Munoz) that the home was ‘not within the problem zone’ and that regardless the home (came) with a ‘5-year structural warranty,’” the lawsuit claims.

Ochs told the Star-Tribune that the warranty was never promised in writing.

“It’s our position that they totally and fraudulently induced him to purchase that (house),” Ochs said.

The lawsuit claims Bryan’s alleged statements were “knowingly false” and that the home Munoz purchased is a neighbor to the principal plaintiff in the main lawsuit.

Randall Hall, a defendant in the original, broader lawsuit, said Wednesday that Munoz’s claims “are baseless.”

“We have a letter signed by Mr. Munoz — we gave him the reports and advised him to seek expert advise, which he declined to do,” Hall alleged. “I’m really surprised he’s bringing an action.”

Ochs said Munoz would testify under oath that he was told his home was not within that “problem zone.”

Defendants in the original suit include Hall, Michele Trost-Hall, Broker One Real Estate, Coupens Construction and ESC Engineers. Messages sent to Coupens and ESC were not returned Wednesday. David Kelley, the owner of Ashby Construction, said he “vigorously denies any claims of wrongdoing” and referred all other questions to his attorney. Both he and Ashby are named defendants.

Randall Hall said he denied the allegations raised in the first lawsuit and that he looked forward to resolving the issue this summer. He said the two parties would engage in mediation and arbitration in November.

Ochs said the home of principal plaintiff Kramer Hirz was in such disrepair that his family could only leave via their garage. The home’s driveway has a significant crack and depression near its center, which Ochs said was caused by the foundation issues.

On Wednesday afternoon, there were five empty lots in the subdivision with Broker One for-sale signs in front of them. Hall said that was likely how many plots were still available for sale.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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