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Couple Links Bridge Work to Cracks in Their House

July 17, 1988|SHELDON ITO | Times Staff Writer

"When we moved in here, we didn't have to put in wallpaper, we didn't have to paint, we didn't have to do anything. I couldn't believe it. It was in A-1 condition. That was in January, 1982. In August, 1984, they started building the bridge, and our house started falling apart."

--Kate Korman

There are cracks crisscrossing like fault lines across Frank and Kate Korman's patio. One crevice has nearly split their kitchen from floor to ceiling. Their cabinets won't close, and their floors sag.

Frank, a chemist, and Kate, an administrator with RAND Corp., said their 3-bedroom house on a quiet cul-de-sac in Culver City has suffered more than $100,000 in damage, and they say the city of Los Angeles and two construction companies are to blame.

The Kormans' insurance claim was rejected, and a lawsuit against the two Los-Angeles-based construction companies, Advanco Constructors Inc. and Macco Constructors Inc., was dismissed a few weeks ago by Superior Court Judge Sara K. Radin.

Bridge Rebuilt

Their problems started in August, 1984, when the city of Los Angeles rebuilt a bridge on Sepulveda Boulevard about 300 feet from the Kormans' house on Orville Street, said Frank Korman.

He said that when the contractors started driving piles for the bridge, vibrations shook the house so severely that plaster fell from the ceiling. "I could feel the house shaking as though we were having an earthquake every five minutes, each time they went 'kerplunk' with that pile driver," he said.

They first started noticing the cracks a few weeks after the pile driving stopped. A few months later, they decided to file a claim with their insurers, Farmer's Insurance Co, he said.

Farmer's rejected the claim, saying the Kormans weren't covered for damage caused by earth movement, Frank Korman said. But he said five neighbors with almost identical coverage were paid by their insurers.

Too Late to Sue

By the time they tried to sue the city of Los Angeles, it had been a year and a half since the construction. State law says claims against public entities must be made within a year after an incident takes place.

So the Kormans sued the construction companies, Advanco and Macco. But the companies successfully argued in court that they merely carried out the city's plans and specifications and could not be held liable for any damage, said Sam Jackson, attorney for the two companies.

In addition, Jackson said the companies argued that vibrations from the pile driving were insignificant outside a 5-foot radius.

But Frank Korman, 59, said that was "out-and-out lying."

"Every time they were pile driving, I could feel the house shaking," he said.

The Kormans said they will appeal Radin's ruling.

Frank Korman said they have spent a large amount of money on attorney fees, including money saved for their son's college education, and so far have nothing to show for it.

"It's been a nightmare," he said.

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