Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

Plumbing problems not disclosed

We bought our house Nov. 1st 2003. The inspector gave it an OK and we moved in. Two months later we had our first small leak. We had our next major leak a month later in a bathroom which caused extensive damage to the ceiling and walls...the entire bathroom needs to be gutted. Not to mention a complete copper repipe ASAP. We're looking at $10,000+! There were no plumbing problems disclosed to us. We have since contacted the former owners and their agent. The former owners state no prior knowledge of problems.

The catch isI have talked to my next door neighbors. They say this man is lying and has had many plumbing problems over the last year. In fact the neighbor and former owner talked about the plumbing problems before they moved out. The former owner stated to my neighbor that he was not disclosing the plumbing problems on purpose. Now I know I have a case here, but my neighbor has stated repeatedly that he will not get in the middle of this. What can I do to prove my case if he will not testify?

Asked on 2/03/04, 12:36 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Michael Olden Law Offices of Michael A. Olden
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Re: Plumbing problems not disclosed

Why waste your time on the Internet. You recognize you have a problem and it looks like it is significant. Why haven't you sought out an attorney who is expert in real estate/litigation. This is not a hard problem but it needs to be rectified immediately. Take all of your paperwork into attorney and tell him or her or your story. They will oblige you. If you haven't done this already you're wasting your time. Even though the person will not testify their alternatives.i have been practicing law in this speciality for over 30 years in the san francisco bay area and if you wish to consult with me you can contact me at 925-945-6000.

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2/03/04, 11:50 am
Donald Holben Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC
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Re: Plumbing problems not disclosed

Since any amount claimed over $5,000.00 cannot be filed in small claims court, sue and ask for subpoena for appearance of witness. Based on facts noted, my not need witness, but don't take that chance.

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2/04/04, 4:23 pm
Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law
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Re: Plumbing problems not disclosed

"$10,000-plus" lies in that grey area where you lose too much if you submit to the small claims court $5,000 ceiling, but your time frame and legal expenses may be excessive if you go into the "limited jurisdiction" side of superior court where cases up to $25,000 are heard.

In superior court, you would have a broader range of legal tools to compel testimony from a reluctant witness, including deposition and trial subpoenas.

Keep in mind that reluctant witnesses are much more likely to say, "I don't know" or "I don't remember" when asked key questions.

If you sue, be sure to include the seller's agent as well as the seller.

Your lawsuit probably wouldn't proceed to trial. A very high percentage of cases like this are settled before trial.

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2/03/04, 12:54 am

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