Alicia and West Dixon, back center, are pictured with their four children (left to right) Kylie, Jax, Kade and John. The Youngsville family recently sued home builder D.R. Horton, alleging construction errors and improper repairs made during warranty claims have led to toxic mold in their home.

Alicia and West Dixon purchased their first newly constructed home from D.R. Horton in 2014 because it was in the school district they desired and they liked the home's layout.

Now, eight years later, they feel trapped in their Youngsville house, which they say has toxic mold because of faulty construction that the builder didn't properly address during the home's warranty period. 

"We're still living in the home right now," Alicia Dixon said in a Thursday interview. "We can't afford to move, and we don't have any family in the area."

"You're essentially a prisoner in your own home," added her husband, West Dixon. 

The Dixons have become the face of what attorneys hope will become a class action lawsuit against D.R. Horton and one of its subcontractors.

Ten south Louisiana attorneys sued D.R. Horton and Bell Mechanical Services in state court this week on behalf of the Dixons and thousands of other homeowners in Louisiana. The attorneys, who filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish, have asked for a judge to rule on whether the case may proceed as a class action lawsuit.

"Based on our experts' investigation, some D.R. Horton designed homes are prone to leakage, high interior humidity levels, and mold or mildew growth," the attorneys said in a Thursday statement. "We anticipate that thousands of homes across Louisiana and the South with experience these issues."

The petition was filed by Lafayette attorneys Lance Beal, Alan Haney and Yul Lorio; Baton Rouge attorneys Lewis Unglesby, Lance Unglesby, Jordan Bollinger, Adrian Simm Jr. and Jamie Gontareck; and Denham Springs attorneys Calvin Fayard Jr. and D. Blayne Honeycutt. 

Together, they allege that homes built by D.R. Horton after 2012 were not constructed to withstand "normal and typical Louisiana weather."

D.R. Horton and subcontractor Bell Mechanical Services allegedly "conspired together to intentionally mislead" the Dixons and other homebuyers in a "scheme of fraud and racketeering" while installing and repairing HVAC systems in the new homes, the attorneys said.

The lawsuit alleges that the Dixons' home was constructed with improper attic ventilation and an improper air-conditioning system that created a negative pressure environment in the home, which draws warm, moist air inside.

When the Dixons took their concerns to D.R. Horton during the warranty period, Bell Mechanical often did not address problems until months after warranty claims had been submitted, the lawsuit says.

Repairs and corrections to known design defects were dragged out "to conceal the home issues and defects with quick fixes, including installing dehumidifiers in the petitioners' homes," the lawsuit says. The homeowners were required in the terms of the home warranty to use only Bell Mechanical to service their HVAC system for problems.

The lawsuit says Leslie Gulliken, D.R. Horton's city manager of the west division of Louisiana, said in a recorded conversation that the building company follows federal building codes that may not be "designed for houses in south Louisiana."

"We build to the federal mandate code, and we are regulated by federal law," Gulliken said, according to the lawsuit. "We build in that code and that code was not designed for very humid markets."

The Dixons and others have paid for inspections and repairs, lost home value, lost use and enjoyment of their home, paid more for electricity, experienced health problems and expenses and suffered inconvenience and mental anguish as a result of D.R. Horton's and Bell Mechanical's actions, the lawsuit says.

Attempts to reach a spokesperson at D.R. Horton's Baton Rouge office and Bell Mechanical's Baton Rouge office Friday were unsuccessful. 

Beal is also representing homeowners in two similar cases currently working through the Lafayette Parish court system. In a Thursday phone interview, Beal said he realized the magnitude of the problem as his team worked on those cases.

"My firm started with the initial cases, and we worked things and continued to investigate and get deeper and deeper into the issues," Beal said. "Once you get into suits this big, the burden becomes high. That's why we wanted to file the class action lawsuit."

The Dixons, who have four children between the ages of 9 and 18, recently refinanced their $252,000 house in Youngsville's Sugar Ridge neighborhood to take advantage of a lower interest rate. They have 14 years left on their mortgage. 

Although the Dixons say they raised numerous concerns during the warranty period, they didn't realize how severe the problems were until a few months ago when they had the home inspected for mold at the recommendation of neighbors with similarly designed homes.

"It turned out to be way worse than we imagined," West Dixon said. "We've only been in the house for eight or nine years. It was just unfathomable that it could be this bad."

Alicia Dixon, who works as a hospital nurse, attributes some health concerns to the home's condition. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a few years ago and suffers from a host of symptoms ranging from brain fog and insomnia to anxiety and depression. 

Her symptoms have become so debilitating at times that she's had to miss work. She said her 16-year-old daughter, who is allergic to mold, has also undergone allergy shots and takes medication twice a day to alleviate her symptoms.

In addition to the Dixons, the attorneys say plaintiffs in the case include those who purchased a new home constructed and sold by D.R. Horton between Jan. 1, 2013, to present day who have experienced problems with mold or mildew growth and damage to their homes.

"We hope this gives people who were clueless kind of like us the courage to speak out," West Dixon said. 

"The reason why we're doing this is because we don't ever want anyone else to have to deal with the things we've dealt with," Alicia Dixon added.

A few days before the Dixons' suit was filed, another Lafayette Parish resident shared concerns about her D.R. Horton home currently under construction in a north Lafayette neighborhood.

Nureaka Ross said in a Facebook video that she witnessed workers nailing shingles directly onto plywood and using only a cardboard-like material instead of plywood behind a brick-and-mortar wall on the exterior of a home. She walked through the construction site with an independent contractor, who explained why those actions and others shown in the video would have negative consequences down the road, especially during a hurricane. 

"It breaks my heart because I was excited to be in a new home," Ross said. "And it's not worth it, especially knowing the exterior wall is literally just cardboard. There's holes everywhere, literally, in addition to the roof with shingles directly on the plywood."

Ross said she plans to get out of her contract with the home builder and that she posted the video on Facebook so other home buyers would be aware of what to look for.

The video, which was recorded live on March 4, has been shared more than 5,000 times.

"I was one of those, thought I was getting a nice, brand new D.R. Horton home, newly built, and unfortunately, that is not the case," Ross said. "I just have the privilege to see it being built and not be purchasing it later."

Beal said homeowners in other Southern states have taken D.R. Horton to court over similar problems.

A lawsuit was recently filed in Alabama against D.R. Horton for "critical mistakes" in houses constructed in the Mobile area between 2015 and 2021 that have left homes at risk of "catastrophic failure."

In 2016, a federal bankruptcy judge in Florida ruled that D.R. Horton engaged in deceptive practices that forced the bankruptcy of a homeowners association in Miami.

"This is something that affects hard-working, middle class Louisianans," Beal said. "A house is one of the most important and expensive investments that any person makes, and when you see a commonality of issues, we had to do something." 

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