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Another Fort Bragg family joins housing complaint class-action suit

Corvias Group Founder and Chief Executive Officer John Picerne testifies on Feb. 13, 2019, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

CARLOS BONGIOANNI/STARS AND STRIPES

By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: January 9, 2021

(Tribune News Service) — Another Fort Bragg family has entered into a class-action complaint against Fort Bragg's housing provider, Corvias, as Corvias looks to have the class-action complaint dropped.

On June 24, three Fort Bragg families filed complaints against Corvias and its partners.

The plaintiffs dismissed their claims Sept. 1 against Corvias founder John Picerne and Heather Fuller, operations director for Corvias at Fort Bragg, but amended the complaint for Corvias and its affiliates to remain on the complaint.

The remaining defendants include Corvias Group LLC; Bragg Communities LLC; Corvias Management-Army LLC; Bragg-Picerne Partners LLC; Corvias Military Living LLC; and Corvias Construction.

The amended complaint also includes new plaintiffs Cpl. Timothy Murphy and his wife, Katelyn Murphy.

Staff Sgt. Shane Page and his wife, Brittany Page, Spc. Spenser Ganske and his wife, Emily Ganske, and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Wilkies and his wife, Ashley Wilkies, are listed on the original and amended complaint.

Lawyers for the defendants have asked the court to strike the class allegations in the amended complaint for not meeting requirements for class certification.

The complaint alleges the defendants "conspired to conceal harmful environmental and structural housing defects from unsuspecting service members and their families and failed to comply with applicable building and housing codes."

The complaint continues to allege that the defendants "knowingly leased substandard homes" while "charging grossly excessive rents swallowing up the whole of servicemembers' basic allowance for housing."

It alleges service vendors were instructed to "conceal defects from tenants" and maintenance recordkeeping was "misleading."

"The court need not take plaintiffs' word for it: a critical mass of tenant pleas for help has led to congressional and federal governmental agency investigation, hearings and reports which have revealed the unreasonable practices and intolerable conditions," the complaint states, referring to Government Accountability Office reports and congressional hearings.

The Pages started living in Fort Bragg housing in 2016.

The Ganskes started living at Fort Bragg in September 2018, the Wilkeses have lived at Fort Bragg since March 2017, and the Murphys have lived at Fort Bragg since February 2019.

The defendants are seeking class-action damages exceeding $5 million

On Oct. 30, lawyers for the Corvias the defendants asked the court to strike the allegations in the complaint, stating it does not meet requirements for class certification.

"Plaintiffs assert a series of individualized claims arising from diverse and distinct maintenance issues and housing experiences that allegedly occurred in the homes they rented from Defendant Bragg Communities, the defense attorneys wrote in their motion.

The defense response states that a class-action complaint would require inquiries of tenants of more than 6,000 homes on Fort Bragg.

"Plaintiffs' claims all arise out of these individual allegations, and not from any general conduct directed toward the class as a whole," the response states.

The response states that "proving that one Plaintiff's house had a particular maintenance issue does not prove the same issue occurred at any other plaintiff's house."

"This remains true even if one accepts (the) plaintiffs' allegation that (the) defendants are guilty of consistently poor maintenance practices—an allegation that (the) defendants categorically deny," the response states.

The defense states that Corvias maintains more than 6,500 homes across Fort Bragg spread across 11 different communities that were built at different times by different contractors.

The majority — including the units the plaintiffs live or lived in — were constructed prior to when Corvias signed an Aug. 1, 2003, ground lease and started operating at Fort Bragg, the defense states.

In a Dec. 21 motion response to the defense's motion, the plaintiff's lawyers filed a motion stating that their clients' claims are "well-grounded."

"These service members are excellent individuals and credible claimants and they and their families deserve access to justice," their attorneys wrote. "A judicial remedy is further appropriate given as that, to date, legislative remedies have only sought to reform privatized housing practices prospectively, without making any provision for compensating servicemembers."

Lawyers filed a motion Tuesday seeking a Jan. 18 extension to respond to the plaintiffs' opposition to dismiss the class allegations.

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