In Supreme Court Showdown, California Appeals Courts Choose Sides Regarding Whether Right to Repair Act is Exclusive Remedy for Homeowners

by Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP

Earlier, we wrote about an appellate court split concerning the Right to Repair Act (Civil Code sections 895 et seq.) which applies to construction defects in newly constructed residential properties including single-family homes and condominiums (but not condominium conversions) sold after January 1, 2003.

The California Court of Appeals for the Fourth District, in Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Brookfield Crystal Cove LLC (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 98, held that the Right to Repair Act does not provide the exclusive remedy when pursing claims for construction defects involving “actual” property damage (e.g., a defectively constructed roof causing actual physical damage due to water intrusion as opposed to a defectively constructed roof that while constructed improperly does not cause actual physical damage). However, the California Court of Appeals for the Fifth District, in McMillin Albany LLC v. Superior Court (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 1132, which is currently pending before the California Supreme Court, held that the Right to Repair Act does in fact provide the exclusive remedy when pursuing claims for construction defects whether they involve “actual” property damage or merely “economic” damages. For homeowners, they would prefer the option of pursuing remedies under either or both the Right to Repair Act (which includes detailed pre-litigation procedures and statutory construction standards) or under common law claims such as negligence (which do not include pre-litigation procedures and have more flexible standards of care).

The California Court of Appeals for the Third District has now thrown its hat into the ring . . . on the side of McMillan.

Gillotti v. Stewart

In Gillotti v. Stewart, Case No. C075611 (April 26, 2017), homeowner Ann Gillotti sued developer Knotty Bear Development, general contractor Knotty Bear Construction, Inc., grading subcontractor Rick Gerbo doing business as Gerbo Excavating and others for damage to trees on her property due to construction. Specifically, Gillotti claimed that trees on her property, located in Truckee, California, were dying due to the addition of mounds of soil on top of the tree roots in order to level the driveway of the property’s sloped lot.

After the jury found in favor of Gerbo, Gillotti filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, motion for new trial, arguing that the trial court improperly barred her from pursuing a negligence claim against Gerbo. The trial court denied Gillotti’s motions, noting that while its decision conflicted with the Fourth District Court of Appeals’ decision in Liberty Mutual, that it believed that the case was wrongly decided and because it was decided in a different appellate district that it was not binding in the trial court (note: the trial court was wrong that issue. Court of appeal decisions, irrespective of what appellate district they were decided in, are binding on all superior courts. Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court (1962) 57 Cal.2d. 450).

Gillotti appealed.

The Court of Appeals Decision

On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Third District affirmed the trial court, stating that it “disagree[d]” with the Fourth District’s decision in Liberty Mutual which did not analyze the language of Civil Code section 896 which provides:

In any action seeking recovery of damages arising out of, or related to deficiencies in, the residential construction, design, specifications, surveying, planning, supervision, testing, or observation of construction, a builder . . . . , a general contractor, subcontractor, material supplier, individual product manufacturer, or design professional, shall, except as specifically set forth in this title, be liable for, and the claimant’s claims or causes of action shall be limited to violation of, the following standards, except as specifically set forth in this title.

Civil Code section 896, explained the Court of Appeals, “as well the other sections (897, 931, 941, 943, 944) clearly and unequivocally expresses the legislative intent that the [Right to Repair] Act apply to all actions seeking recovery of damages arising out of, or related to deficiencies in, residential construction, except as specifically set forth in the Act” and “[t]he Act does not specifically except actions arising from actual damages.” “To the contrary, it authorizes recovery of damages, e.g., for ‘the reasonable cost of repairing and rectifying any damages resulting from the failure of the home to meet the standards. . . . ‘”


The California Supreme Court granted review of the McMillin case on November 24, 2015. Since then, briefs have been filed, including numerous amicus curiae briefs from the Consumer Attorneys of California, the California Building Industry Association and the California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors. Until the Supreme Court weighs in this will remain an open issue in California.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP

Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.