No Settlement in $58M Judgment Against Texas Homebuilder

March 24, 2010

Mediation efforts were unsuccessful March 22 between an elderly Fort Worth, Texas-area couple and the politically powerful Houston homebuilder who lost a $58 million judgment to them, the couple’s lawyers said.

Van Shaw and Dan Hagood, attorneys for Robert and Jane Cull of Mansfield, said they failed to reach an agreement with lawyers for Perry Homes owner Bob Perry, once considered one of the nation’s largest political donors. A Fort Worth judge had ordered the mediation to avoid appeals after the $58 million verdict against Perry and a home warranty company earlier this month.

The Culls’ attorneys said they were not surprised by the lack of a settlement.

“We expected the Perry camp to continue in their unfair treatment of the Culls,” Shaw said.

In an e-mailed statement, Perry Homes spokesman Anthony Holm said, “Today Perry Homes attended mediation in good faith, and it takes two parties to settle a dispute.”

The Culls sued Perry Homes and a home warranty company in 2000 over problems with their house’s foundation and construction. They claimed the home, which gave them a view of a pond and evening sunsets, had structural and framing defects that caused its appraised value to plummet from more than $233,000 when they bought it in 1996 to $41,000 by 2001.

Court records show Perry Homes agreed to arbitration. After an arbiter awarded the Culls $800,000, Perry Homes claimed the couple had waived their rights to arbitration and went to court.

A district and appeals court ruled against the homebuilder. But the Texas Supreme Court in 2008 overturned the judgment, ruling that the Culls potentially benefited by initially going to court under one set of rules, then seeking arbitration under another.

Justices on the Texas Supreme Court each received political contributions from Perry and his family totaling more than $260,000.

The retrial ended earlier this month, with a jury awarding the Culls $58 million. A Perry spokesman dismissed the verdict at the time as “jackpot justice” and vowed to appeal.

“You can contribute to judges but you can’t contribute to juries,” Hagood said.

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