Shake Roof Cases, J.C.C.P. 4208, Superior Court of the State of California, County of Contra Costa
 

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Cal-Shake Roofing Faces Class-Action Suit

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Another class-action lawsuit is in the works concerning cement-based shingles intended as replacements for wood
shingles.

A class-action lawsuit in Contra Costa County Superior Court seeks damages, alleging that Cal-Shake roofing shingles, made with cement and intended as a wood shingles replacement, were sold with a baseless warranty and that Cal-Shake Inc. inaccurately claimed the product was more durable, longer-lasting and better-performing than wood shake shingles.

Although the company is defunct, “they have insurance,” said Jeff Cereghino, an attorney with the Alamo law firm of Berding Weil, specialists in construction-defect lawsuits and lead counsel in the Cal-Shake class-action lawsuit.

Alma Arthur, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Grupe in Stockton, said some north Stockton clients selling their home had to cover the cost of a new roof because they couldn’t get the necessary certification that their 9-year-old Cal-Shake roof was solid.

“It’s fireproof, but it’s brittle,” she said. “If the coating comes off, it’s worthless.”

They have joined the class-action suit, she said.

According to the lawsuit, Cal-Shake was marketed and sold between 1981 and 1985 with a 50-year performance warranty and between 1985 and 1995 with a 25-year warranty.

The lawsuit alleges that homeowners noticed that the shingles, within a few years of installation, were rapidly deteriorating.

The shingles cracked, split, buckled, cupped, warped and disintegrated, and that deterioration led to roof leaks and other damage, the suit charges.

Cal-Shake shingles sold extensively throughout California and were popular in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and the Bay Area, Cereghino said.

Cal-Shake refused to accept responsibility for product problems and blamed roofing contractors who had installed the product, or “arbitrarily” denied claims by people who didn’t register with Cal-Shake Inc. or offered an inadequate amount of money to repair the roofs, he said.

Cal-Shake Inc., a private company based in Engelwood, ceased to operate in 1995 and subsequently dissolved, said Andrew Stearns, a lawyer with the San Jose law firm of Bustamente O’Hara, which is the lead counsel for former Cal-Shake owners.

He declined to talk about who the former owners of that corporation are.

“We are working with the plaintiffs,” he said, adding: “We’re certainly not admitting that it’s a defective product, but we are doing the best we can to investigate the allegations being made.”

Stearns also said the class-action-suit Web site contained some inaccuracies, but he declined to specify what those inaccuracies were.

The firm also is seeking indemnity, charging that faulty installation by some roofers breached any warranty, Stearns said.

Cereghino said the case is still in pretrial stages, with depositions and inspections of randomly selected homes still to be done.

Trial wouldn’t begin until spring, he said.

Cereghino said his firm has talked with hundreds of consumers. He couldn’t say how much the lawsuit will seek in damages, only that claims are “substantial.”

The lawsuit doesn’t seek punitive damages, he said.

“All we want is for the consumers to be made whole, at the end of the day to have the consumers have what they paid for,” Cereghino said.

A roof replacement on a typical, modest home runs between $20,000 and $30,000, he said.

The law firm has set up a Web site to sign up Cal-Shake consumers in the class-action lawsuit at www.berding-weil.net.

In August, a Stockton-born class-action lawsuit alleging defective cement-based roof shake shingles earned a final settlement that brought the total payout to $140 million.

A San Joaquin County Superior Court judge granted preliminary approval to a $75 million insurance settlement in a class-action suit against American Cemwood Corp., now defunct.

Three years before, that judge approved a $65 million partial settlement with parent companies Weyerhaeuser Ltd. and MacMillen Bloedel of Canada. Weyerhaeuser purchased Cemwood’s parent company, MacMillen Bloedel, after manufacturing of the shakes had been halted.

Brad Lease, co-owner of Stockton Roofing, said his company shied away from the cement-based products and installed only one such roofing product at the request of the homeowner.

“We like products being out on the market longer, rather than wonder how long it’s going to last.”

Read article on BuildingOnline website.
By Bruce Spence, Record Staff Writer
Published: October 13, 2003 12:00 AM