Two lawsuits filed by military families at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, N.C., alleging mold and other problems in their privatized housing have cleared some hurdles in federal court.
U.S. District Judge James C Dever III denied the privatized housing companies’ motions to dismiss the lawsuits, while dismissing some specific counts for some of the companies, in separate rulings filed Sept. 13 in Raleigh.
He also denied the companies’ requests to dismiss the cases as class action. A class action is a lawsuit brought on behalf of a larger group of people.
In these early stages, courts don’t generally determine whether the cases qualify as class actions, but allow for the discovery process before certifying the case as a class action, Dever wrote.
“We do not believe that the case is a viable class action, and we look forward to achieving a fully favorable outcome in this case,” said Mary Humphreys, spokeswoman for Corvias, which is named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed on behalf of four Fort Bragg families. She added that Corvias takes the welfare and satisfaction of its residents seriously, “and if they are at any time dissatisfied with an issue concerning their home, they have a variety of avenues available to seek assistance, including our community staff, a local Army-appointed housing advocate, and a binding dispute resolution process overseen by the Army.”
These measures for assistance have been required in privatized housing communities across the services, and are among the measures taken following problems that surfaced with mold, bug and rodent infestations, water problems and other issues in military family housing. Lawmakers held hearings and stepped in to shore up protections for military families, many of whom felt their concerns were not being addressed by housing companies or military officials.
These two lawsuits are among a string of lawsuits that have been filed by dozens of military families seeking damages because of these problems, against various companies.
At Fort Bragg, the lawsuit was filed in August, 2020 on behalf of Staff Sgt. Shane Page and his wife Brittany; Spec. Spenser Ganske and his wife Emily; Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Wilkes and his wife Ashley; and Cpl. Timothy Murphy and his wife Katelyn.
The defendants named are Corvias; Bragg Communities; Corvias Management-Army; Bragg-Picerne Partners; Corvias Military Living, and Corvias Construction. The families allege various problems with water damage, insect infestation, structural damage, wood rot, mold, defective heating and air conditioning systems, lead-based paint contamination, overall disrepair, and other issues such as health problems arising from the toxic environments.
In the case of the Wilkes family, for example, they claim their roof was in such bad shape that a repair worker fell through, causing the interior ceiling to collapse and nearly land on members of the family.
Judge Dever dismissed claims against some of the defendants in the Fort Bragg case: A claim related to the maintenance responsibilities as landlords under North Carolina law was dismissed against all the defendants except for Bragg Communities and Corvias Management; and a claim for the breach of the implied warranty of good faith and fair dealing was dismissed against all the defendants except Bragg Communities.
Among other things, the judge denied the Fort Bragg companies’ request to dismiss the claim that they failed to disclose the presence of lead-based paint and the hazards to the families before they signed the lease agreements.
At Camp Lejeune, Staff Sgt. Garrett Burn and his wife Kalie Burn, along with Cpl. William Lewis and his wife Lakin, sued Lendlease companies alleging numerous problems with their residences, such as standing water and moisture, mold, problems with the HVAC system, and roach infestation. The couples allege the landlord made ineffectual efforts to address the mold but failed to address the root of the problem.
The lawsuit was filed in September, 2020, and originally included another couple, who are no longer part of the legal action, according to a footnote in the judge’s order, with no further explanation. The defendant companies named in the lawsuit are Lendlease Public Partnerships; Lendlease (US) Public Partnerships Holdings; AMCC Managing Member; Atlantic Marine Corps Communities; AMCC Property Management; Atlantic Marine Corps Communities Property Management; Winn Management Group and WR South.
Lendlease officials declined to comment about the lawsuit.
Judge Dever did rule in favor of some of the defendant companies regarding the specific breach of contract claims – dismissing the claims against all the defendants except for Atlantic Marine Corps Communities (AMCC).
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.