04/11/04 — Homeowner sues county over inspection

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Homeowner sues county over inspection

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on April 11, 2004 2:03 AM

An unlicensed Wayne County building contractor, a county building inspector and the county are being sued by a homeowner who says her house that was destroyed in a fire was poorly rebuilt.

Alice McCoy's home at 223 Slapout Road was destroyed April 29, 1998. She is suing contractor Jerry Coker of Mount Olive, building inspector Jimmy Wade and Wayne County for triple damages and medical expenses.

The suit alleges that Coker had assured Ms. McCoy's insurance carrier that he could do the work for $62,000. When he applied for the permits, he said, the work would cost only $29,000, because the state requires any job of more than $30,000 to be done by a licensed contractor.

As Coker rebuilt the home, the suit contends, Wade inspected the work for county and state code violations and passed the building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical inspections.

Then in July, 1999, after moving in to the home near Mount Olive, Ms. McCoy hired an independent inspector who found defects in the reconstruction. The suit says excessive mold growth occurred as a result of the defects, leading to Ms. McCoy's health problems and rendering the home uninhabitable.

Ms. McCoy continues to make the $376 monthly mortgage payment on the home but now has a $300 monthly rent payment on another residence, the suit contends. She also has developed asthma as a result of the mold.

Ms. McCoy, who now lives in Lillington, contends that the three defendants were negligent, willfully overlooked defective construction that led to her health problems and committed unfair trade practices. She also contends that Coker breached the contract and warranties and committed fraud.

Ms. McCoy is represented by lawyer Jason O. Wunsch of Lillington. The defendants have not answered the suit.

In February 2002, the North Carolina Code Officials Qualification Board found enough violations in Ms. McCoy's house, inspected by Wade, to justify a hearing on charges of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

The violations included: no fire and draft stopping, light-fixture boxes not secured and sealed, debris in crawl space, no insulation, utility room constructed without a permit, incomplete inspection records, a bathroom exhaust vent that terminates in attic, and insufficient gas tubing supports.

The state said the construction costs might not have been evident when the county issued the permit, but should have been evident during on-site inspections.

There were no inspection reports available and there were no permits for the construction of the utility room.

The board stopped short of recommending the hearing because Wade retired from the Inspection Department for medical reasons and returned all his standard certificates to the state.

"In the event Wade recovers from this disability and reapplies for his certificates, then a hearing should be held prior to the re-issuance of the certificates," the board said.

After Wade retired, Joe Nassef was promoted to the position of chief building inspector.