Homebuilder Bob Perry, who’s spent a lot of money and energy during his 42-year career trying to get laws passed that prohibit large jury awards, got a big one levied against him earlier this week: a Fort Worth jury ordered his Houston-based company, Perry Homes, to pay $51 million to a couple in Mansfield, Texas, who bought a Perry Home in 1996 and have been trying to get Perry Homes to fix all the problems with it ever since.
Outside of Texas homebuilding circles, Perry is well known as the chief financial backer of the 2004 “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” PR campaign directed against presidential candidate John Kerry. He’s also well known to members of the Texas Supreme Court — because he’s contributed substantially to the election campaigns of every justice who sits on it.
Those same justices may have thought they were helping Perry in 2007, when they overturned a “binding arbitration” award that required the homebuilder to pay $800,000 to the Culls — and sent the case back to district court. But that decision only set the stage for Monday’s much larger jury award.
How much of the $58 million awarded them ($7 million in actual damages and $44 million in punitive damages, plus another $7 million from the Warranty Underwriters Insurance Company) will the Culls see?
None — if Perry Homes can help it. The company will likely appeal the verdict — who knows? maybe . . . all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court.
A few Houston news outlets more accustomed to publishing or broadcasting ads for Perry Homes and other homebuilders than reporting on the occasional homebuyer lawsuit have run a brief Associated Press item that features complaints about the verdict from Perry Homes spokesman Anthony Holm. In that story, Holm claims that the Culls refused an offer from Perry Homes to buy back the house at full price.
But you’ll need to read Wayne Slater’s report in the Dallas Morning News to hear a response from the Culls’ attorney, Van Shaw: that the couple would have lost $100,000 if they had accepted. More from Slater:
The Culls say they have had to live in a house with a broken foundation, cracked walls, windows that won’t open and joists that move.
Jane Cull said she worries when the grandchildren come over to play. The case has cost the couple their savings and their health, she said. Bob Cull, who is 72, sat through the trial in a wheelchair.
During the trial, the Culls’ lawyers argued that the structure continues to shift and move. Attorneys for Perry countered by arguing that the Culls were overstating the problems.
- Mansfield couple gains ground after latest ruling on defective house, Mansfield couple’s fight with powerful homebuilder back in court, and Couple’s dream home a 10-year legal nightmare [Dallas Morning News]
- Spokesman: $51M verdict in Perry Homes lawsuit is ‘jackpot justice’ [KHOU]
- Spokesman: $51 million award ‘jackpot justice’ [Houston Chronicle]
- Did Builder’s Clout Trap Couple In Dream Home? [NPR]