Five years on, Kolter Signature Homes lawsuit continues

A judge in Palm Beach County denied a motion on Monday to sanction Kolter Signature Homes for producing a witness who was apparently unable to answer basic questions about construction defects at a Palm Beach Gardens condominium complex that is at the center of a $40 million lawsuit.

Monday’s ruling was the latest development in a five-year case that now involves more than 30 lawyers and scores of defendants who allegedly performed sub-standard architecture, engineering and construction work at San Matera at the Gardens, located just off PGA Boulevard.  The long-running saga has left many of the condo owners at the 676-unit complex unable to sell their homes.

The San Matera Condo Association says it has already spent about $1.5 million on repairs and is seeking millions of dollars in damages to repair structural damage that it says was largely hidden from view when the owners bought their units because much of it was behind exterior walls or in roof areas.

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Many owners like condo board president Jackie Durham bought at the height of the real estate boom. Durham paid about $375,000 for her two-bedroom unit that she says is now worth about $150,000. “We have people calling us every time it rains saying ‘my apartment is soaked.’  It’s an ongoing nightmare and we cannot get any satisfaction,” she told The Real Deal.  Durham says every major system in the condominium is broken and that all exterior walls need to be replaced, along with roofs, windows, doors and many balconies.

David Haber, of Haber Slade, the Miami-based firm that is representing the San Matera Condo Association, said his firm is seeking more than $40 million in damages from Kolter Signature Homes. He says the case is complicated because the company has reorganized itself behind what he calls a “shell company.”  Court documents list The Grand at Palm Beach Gardens, a Delaware-based corporation, as a defendant in the case, represented by Lori Gleim, a litigation attorney with the West Palm Beach office of Greenberg Traurig.  Gleim was unavailable to comment on the case Monday when contacted by TRD.

Last week, a different judge in Palm Beach County Circuit Court  hearing the case declined to set a trial date during a status hearing, saying he could not do so until a permanent judge was appointed.  Attorney Haber says Judge Jack Cox, who was hearing the case last year, intended to set a trial date, but was transferred out of the division in early January in a routine administrative decision.  Until a new judge is appointed, Haber says he will continue with the routine work of taking depositions from architects, engineers and contractors who he says were responsible for building a complex that he says was basically “a four-sided building with a roof, and no matter where you go you have problems.”