In a stressful economic time were homes are being foreclosed on every block this story cuts to the quick. The story of Bob and Jane Cull described by NPR Weekend Saturday will bring you to tears and make you question your faith in the entrepreneur.
As the story goes, the Culls were an upper middle class couple who had decided to build their dream home, a story that sounds familiar to everyone whether we build or buy. They were fortunate to have the time and money to have five years to search for the perfect lot to build on. They found the plans they wanted and hired a builder. They moved into their home and were very happy with it for six weeks. Then the foundation problems began. When a main structural beam weakened, they hired an engineer, who then told them the bad news.
This began their 13-year odyssey. The Culls hired a lawyer and started legal proceedings against their former builder, Perry Homes. Now in Texas, the legal system is never for the average person. Texas is renowned to forgo legal protection to ensure a healthy business climate. In this case, the Culls went to arbitration as the law demanded. They won and the builder was instructed to pay the Culls a settlement of $800,000, remarkable by Texas standards. However, the builder just happened to be the richest and most politically connected builder in the state. Rather than pay the settlement he spent his money stalling. He abused the legal process by appealing, and appealing, and appealing. At the same time he was contributing to the campaign funds of Governor Perry (no connection to the builder), State Supreme Court candidates, George W. Bush, and was the largest single contributor to Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth."
The case finally ended up before the Texas State Supreme Court, whose membership did not have the temerity to recuse themselves due to a conflict of interest. It doesn't stop there. The owner of Perry Homes was able to lobby for and obtain passage by the Texas Legislature of a law to ensure more protection for homebuilders. Yes, you heard it right — for the builder not the owner. And it gets better, the attorney for the Culls' home builder who continued to appeal this case and abused the legal system is now the head of the new agency created to ensure the protection of homebuilders.
Meanwhile, the Texas Supreme Court in a phenomenal miscarriage of justice voted 5 to 4 to throw out the $800,000 Cull judgment, stating that the case should not have gone to arbitration and sent the case back to court. Hence, after 13 years of court challenges, the Culls now have to start all over again, possibly with the same state agency just created and headed by the attorney hired by Perry Homes to appeal their case.
At a time when America continues to measure the ramifications of the mortgage crisis, this incident just cries out for justice. The Culls went through the entire process as prescribed by law at the time and 13 years later they can't sell their home because it would not pass inspection. In addition, they cannot afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix their dream home. All is not completely lost. They do get to begin their case again. Hopefully, they will obtain their judgement and all the money it took to appeal the case and the cost the opposition put in appealing the case. Perry Homes knew they were wrong, yet they continually appealed their case to stall and prevent paying the judgment.
Talk about frivolous lawsuits. This is not only frivolous, it's ridiculous. I wonder how much Perry Homes paid in legal fees to appeal. I bet it would have been cheaper to pay the judgment. Meanwhile, the Culls' home is falling down around them. What can you expect out of a state that follows the golden rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules."