September  2004

Dear Shelter


From the Other Side of the Suit
Editor’s Note: The following letter was written to Mark Reasbeck, owner of Legend Windows for the West, in Las Vegas, in response to his column “If You Build Them…They Will Come,” which was published in the June 2004 issue of SHELTER on page 12. Reasbeck’s response is also printed below.

Dear Mr. Reasbeck,
Please don’t take this e-mail as a negative response to your column, because it’s not. I share the same pet peeve, but wanted to point out that some of this behavior is not limited to the 21st century ambulance-chasing construction-defect lawyers (CDLs). I am a homeowner in litigation involving construction defects. 

Although I’m sure the situation to which your article refers is much more common than mine, I couldn’t help but mention that those who appear to be some of the victims of these cases (window manufacturers, dealers and insurance carriers) are not always the victims. In my case they are acting similarly and pulling some of the same unethical games as the CDLs you refer to.

Your column sounds all too familiar, yet in my situation the mess is falling from the other side. A major window manufacturer and its insurance carrier are the ones abusing our legal system by using the same tactics as the CDLs, such as dragging every subcontractor they can into the mess and forcing unnecessary, destructive testing.
I’m not familiar with the “extrapolation” (loophole) clause, but there aren’t just a few window units involved in this case. We had nearly 50 window and door units installed in our new home and every one of them suffers from the same defect. The manufacturer sold me units that were defective and leaky from day one. 

After six months and several failed field fixes by the company’s service technicians, they ran out of ideas, short of ripping out the units, and gave up trying to fix them. When faced with a lawsuit, they began to perform all types of testing, some destructive, which again only proved the windows to be defective and leaky while showing that the flashing and installation methods were not defective. Then they realized they would someday face trial and would most likely lose a significant amount of money so, just like the CDLs you refer to, they dragged anyone they could into the lawsuit. 

They are even suing their own sales rep who sold me the windows. It’s the same old story; the more individuals they can drag into this, the more money they can get from innocent people to help them settle their own problem. It makes me sick how they can sue anyone involved in the construction regardless of their connection to the problem. 

These innocent people (or the insurance company) will help pay for something they are absolutely not responsible for because it will be cheaper than the cost of going to trial. This legal system is a horrible joke!
I know there is a big difference between CDLs running around soliciting lawsuits and a major company defending itself, but there is no excuse for the way this company is abusing the legal system in the same manner. These windows and doors were installed nearly three years ago and have been leaking ever since. 

My dream home sits unfinished and unoccupied. After all this time, enduring every delay tactic the window manufacturer could fabricate, we finally got a trial date set on the calendar. As you mentioned, you can imagine the time, attention, money and the sleepless nights. 

This was not caused by a slimy CDL, but a major window manufacturer who wouldn’t take responsibility for its own product. I am another victim of this abuse and am just pointing out that there’s more than one type of cancer in the construction industry. Like you, I am doing whatever I can to make things fair and right.
Gordon Smedt
Los Gatos, Calif. 

Reasbeck Responds
Dear Mr. Smedt, 
I may have read your letter four or five times before I realized our situations are so opposite, but parallel. Your letter is self-explanatory and is in no way taken as negative feedback. While I do not understand the position the window manufacturer involved has taken, I can comment on why it’s happening.

I am a proud member of the baby boomer generation and still trying to figure out what has happened to things since I was a kid. If everyone would just do what they said they would do, when they said they would do it, I would not know how to handle it. My dad’s word was a contract; you could take it to the bank. If he said we were going to the park, we went. 

I learned this lesson by observation and people who know me know this about me: being on time is respectful. Completing a job is your minimum expectation. Yet, today, doing it right the first time is a foreign concept. Somewhere we have lost the fact that the economy is totally based on selling something to somebody. If that experience is beneficial and mutually satisfying, guess what? There’s going to be lots more of them. What happens between the two transactions is where the attorneys take a hairline crack and recreate the Grand Canyon. I believe, Mr. Smedt, you have fallen into this abyss.

Last week, I was summoned by letter to inspect defective windows by a plaintiff’s attorneys. The project is now four years old, and I have never been called for a service call during that time. I found one lady with a clipboard and asked if she was with the attorneys. She informed me she was president of the HOA and I responded that I was the window supplier. 

When I asked where I could inspect the defective windows, she responded, “Didn’t you get a packet from the attorneys?” 

“No, ma’am,” I replied, “just this ‘invitation’ to inspect.” 

I asked her, since she was president of the HOA, could she point them out to me. She didn’t have a clue. 
So I responded, “Let me get this straight. You’re the president of the HOA, you have spent months working with attorneys to file this suit, and you don’t know where the defective windows are?” 

“You have to get with the attorneys,” she answered. 

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” I said. “Did you ever think of calling the subcontractor who did the work first? No, you didn’t, because they convinced you that you will have extra cash in your pocket when it’s all done.” 

I drove off from the site and I am sending a bill to the attorneys for my time.

Mr. Smedt, I don’t know the answer to your situation, but I do know this: none of the attorneys want this to go away. 

It has now become a good-cop, bad-cop situation. The “bad” lawyers bring in the cases, then the “good” lawyers who represent the subcontractors promote themselves as the white knights who’ve come to the rescue. They’re all in bed together and the construction defect suits have created a whole new cottage industry for all of them. One lawyer alone in Las Vegas has amassed $60,000,000 in settlements over the last few years.

In closing I would like to quote D.L. Moody, an evangelist in the early 1900s: “When people learn to live by the Ten Commandments, there will no longer be a use for attorneys and police officers.” Interesting, lawyers were mentioned first.
Mark Reasbeck
Legend Windows for the West
Las Vegas 


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