A jury has ordered Houston homebuilder Bob Perry to pay $51 million to a retirement-age Mansfield couple who fought for a decade over a defective house that Perry Homes refused to fix. Perry is the biggest campaign contributor in Texas and a major figure in tort reform championed by Gov. Rick Perry (no relation) to limit lawsuits and cap jury awards against business. Bob and Jane Cull say Perry wouldn’t fix their house and so went to arbitration, where they won an $800,000 judgment. The homebuilder refused to pay. He appealed for years through the court system to the Texas Supreme Court, which overturned two lower courts and sent the case back to district court in Fort Worth. Every member of the high court had each received contributions from Perry – more than $260,000 from Perry, his family and his political committees.
On Monday, a jury in Fort Worth ruled in the Cull’s favor – $7 million in actual damages and $40 million in punitive damages. The warranty company that failed to live up to its warranty and fix the house was ordered to pay $4 million more in punitive damages.
“It feels like a modern day David and Goliath triumph. Certainly, God had a hand in this justice,” said Jane Cull’s sister, Judy Noble. “At last, truth and right trumps power and money.”
Anthony Holm, a spokesman for Perry, did not return a telephone call for comment.
The fight between Perry and the Culls underscores the difficulty that some homeowners have in trying to get builders to fix their mistakes – especially politically well-connected businessmen with deep pockets. The Culls began their fight against Perry Homes a decade ago after cracks and other problems developed in their $230,000 home in Mansfield. The Culls said Perry Homes applied some cosmetic fixes, but didn’t repair the house. Instead, Perry launched a long battle in court that the Culls say was apparently designed to wear them down. Perry is the biggest campaign contributor to Gov.Perry, who has supported the homebuilder’s efforts to limit lawsuits against business and who helped create a state agency that critics say was designed to protect homebuilders against complaints from homebuyers. The Legislature last session abolished the agency.
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Perry spokesman Anthony Holm, in an AP-wire news release, called the jury award “jackpot justice” and said it was an abuse of the justice system. But isn’t Houston homebuilder Bob Perry the one abusing the system by dragging this couple through the courts for a decade in hopes of wearing them out? And isn’t it an abuse of the system to contribute millions to the campaigns of judges and politicians? It seems foolish for Perry to issue this press release, since it caused the story of his abusive behavior to be picked up nationally. HOT is collecting more stories that shine light on Bob Perry at http://homeownersoftexas.org/Bob_Perry.html.