A jury has decided that two Billings companies must pay almost $1.75 million to a local woman after a drainage system they installed caused damage to the foundation of her home.
After almost seven years in litigation, Oakland Home Builders Corporation, Gary Oakland, chairman and CEO of The Oakland Companies, and Treasure State Plumbing and Heating Corporation must pay Carla Ova a little under $240,000 in damages for breach of contract, negligence and personal injury. In addition, the jury awarded Ova $1.5 million in punitive damages.
The civil trial, which began Monday and concluded Friday, was in front of District Court Judge Gregory Todd.
Ova said she was relieved that the trial was over. David Legare, who represented Ova, said if there is an appeal, he believes the Montana Supreme Court will affirm the jury's verdict.
Oakland and his attorneys were not available for comment on Friday afternoon.
The complaint, filed in 2008, states Ova bought a home at 69 Shamrock Court from Oakland sometime before 2005. In July 2005, Ova noticed there was water seeping into her house from a shallow aquifer under the home.
Oakland and Treasure State worked to fix the problem, installing a sump pump and drain system that was supposed to pump water out from under the house and prevent water from seeping in.
About two years later, Ova noticed the home's foundation and basement were "settling, moving or collapsing" toward the west side of her home, where the drain and sump were installed.
The system that was supposed to be pumping the water from under her house also was causing erosion, causing the foundation to sink.
The lawsuit said "planning, design, construction, management and supervision" of the drain and sump system were negligent, infringing on her right as a property owner to have land physically supporting the area around and underneath her property.
Ova asked for equitable relief, compensatory damages and punitive damages, in addition to attorney fees and costs.
The house on Shamrock Court is for sale by its current owners, who bought the home from Ova. Ova provided them with an engineer's statement regarding the problems with the home. The listing agent, Breanna Seymour with Century 21, said the owners haven't experienced any sinking in the home's foundation and repairs were made after the basement flooded once while they lived there.
Ova was awarded $113,887.40 in damages for breach of contract with Oakland. For negligence in the installation of the drainage system, the jury attributed 60 percent of the blame to Oakland and 40 percent to Treasure State Plumbing, splitting the $100,000 awarded for damages between the two defendants based on these percentages. Finally, $20,000 was awarded to Ova for injuries to her person or property.
The jury also agreed to award Ova punitive damages and, in an 8-4 decision, designated the amount at $1.5 million.