State Won't Sue Companies Over Crumbling Foundations

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have learned the state does not plan to pursue legal action against the companies at the center of the crumbling foundation issue.

In a letter from Attorney General George Jepsen to Governor Dannel Malloy and Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris, the AG lays out several reasons why his office does not plan to pursue any claims under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act against the Joseph J. Mottes Company or Becker's Construction.

Over the past several months, the state has issued several investigative demands of those companies and others that have knowledge of the concrete issues in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties.

In the letter, the Attorney General writes "we do not anticipate that our investigation is likely to provide a sufficient basis to support viable and worthwhile claims for violations of Connecticut consumer protection laws. As a result, CUTPA claims should not be relied upon as a source of significant financial relief for the homeowners afflicted by crumbling foundations."

The Troubleshooters investigation brought the crumbling foundations problem to light last July and was the catalyst for the state to launch its own multi-agency investigation into the issue.

In June, NBC Connecticut broke the news that the state has negotiated with several large insurance companies to create a $52.5 million pool of money to provide homeowners with up to 90-percent of the cost of replacing their concrete foundations. To date, only four companies have agreed to take part, and the state says several more need to agree to join the program for it to become viable.

Construction experts say the concrete is slowly deteriorating and must be replaced at a cost of $100,000 and up.

"While my office's investigation is not yet complete, these unusual circumstances require that I make this interim report available to the public and to policymakers so that their attention can be focused most productively and important decisions made with all available knowledge. In all instances - and particularly when so many families have so much at stake - it is my responsibility to give an honest and transparent assessment of the law. In this case, I do not anticipate that evidence developed through our investigation would support a viable legal claim by the state against any party under the consumer protection authority available to me - the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, or CUTPA," Jepsen said in a statement to NBC Connecticut.

"Nevertheless, I remain committed to bringing some relief to the situation by working towards implementing an insurance program to provide affected homeowners some financial assistance. Many have expressed frustration about insurance companies’ conduct in denying claims, including by filing lawsuits against them. My investigation did not encompass insurers’ actions relating to crumbling concrete - the authority to conduct such an insurance investigation does not rest in my office - but we will continue our attempts to engage insurance companies in discussions to explain why their participation in this voluntary assistance program is in their interests and the interests of their policyholders and our affected communities," Jepsen said in the statement.

NBC Connecticut reached out to the companies at the center of the investigation. John Patton, spokesman for the J.J. Mottes Company, told the Troubleshooters in a statement:

“As we have stated for months now, we support an unbiased and thorough investigation of all of these foundation issues so homeowners can get the answers they deserve. The extensive media and governmental scrutiny has led to another issue arising – in addition to the homes affected by damage, there are now large numbers of homeowners and potential home buyers who do not have problems but are being conditioned to believe they could. Certainly those homes with damage need to be remedied, but a comprehensive solution is called for - one that will assist those who are not financially capable of helping themselves, one that guards against predators of all kinds and one that helps to ease the burden that has been placed on the real estate market. We believe that effective low cost preventive remedial actions exist, that appropriate independent authorities can and should identify these techniques, and that this information needs to be widely shared and adopted."

To date, 235 Connecticut homeowners have filed complaints regarding crumbling concrete with the Department of Consumer Protection.

Ed. Note: As the Troubleshooters have reported on this issue over the past year and a half, the Joseph J. Mottes Company (JJ Mottes) has evolved its response.  Click on this link to see the company’s most recent full statement to NBC Connecticut and its response to the State of Connecticut.

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