UPDATE on Perry Homes case

In the ongoing Texas case of Cull v. Perry Homes, Perry refuses to pay or settle after numerous losses in court and arbitration.

Ignoring Jury's $51 Million Verdict, Bob Perry Refuses to Settle Up With Couple

By Robert Wilonsky, Mar. 23, 2010

I've left messages for attorneys Van Shaw (in depositions) and Dan Hagood (in a meeting), so instead we'll have to go with the Associated Press's account of yesterday's court-ordered mediation session between Bob and Jane Cull and Perry Homes' reps. No doubt you recall: On March 1 we broke the news that a Tarrant County jury ruled that Perry Homes owed the Culls close to $50 million for selling and refusing to repair the Mansfield couple's shoddy home back in 1997. A big hunk of that ruling -- $40 million -- was in punitive damages.

The legal case of The Home -- and Home-Builder -- from Hell's been dragging on for the better part of a decade, with the Culls repeatedly coming up losers before the Supreme Court of Texas, which, most recently, vacated an arbitration award in the couple's favor and kicked the case back down to a lower court. Perry Homes' namesake and Swift Boater Bob Perry, it's often noted, has contributed big money to each and every justice.

After the jury handed down its ruling, the judge ordered the parties into mediation in the hopes of settling this once and for all. It wasn't meant to be: The AP reports today Shaw and former Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Hagood, representing the Culls, had no luck getting Houston-based Perry Homes to cut the Culls a get-outta-here check.

Shaw wasn't surprised, telling the wire service: "We expected the Perry camp to continue in their unfair treatment of the Culls." To which Perry Homes spokesman Anthony Holm responded via e-mail, "Today Perry Homes attended mediation in good faith, and it takes two parties to settle a dispute."

Update at 5 p.m.: I finally spoke with Van Shaw, who can't say much about what went on during the mediation conference, as they are confidential. "All I can really say is we were unable to reach an agreement, and we believe Perry's continuing in their improper actions regarding the Culls," he said. "I was not surprised [by the outcome]. It's just the same way they've acted for the last 10 years. I had no reason to believe they would act any different than they had. And they did not."

Next stop: a hearing to enter the judgment, scheduled for mid-April but subject to change. At which point Perry Homes will file a motion for a new trial and, as Shaw puts it, "seek to argue the same things before the same court again, and then they will appeal it to the Fort Worth Court of Appeals."

I did ask him how the Culls were holding up. He said, "They're doing pretty good. They were buoyed by the jury verdict. and that's given them some inner peace and validation. The money's certainly important, but more important than that is their feelings that they're doing something for somewhat the greater good."



Mediation between Mansfield couple, home builder fails


The Associated Press

DALLAS -- Mediation efforts proved unsuccessful Monday between a Mansfield couple and the politically powerful Houston home builder who lost a $58 million judgment to them, the couple's lawyers said.

Van Shaw and Dan Hagood, attorneys for Robert and Jane Cull, 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 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 that the couple had waived their rights to arbitration and went to court.

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

Texas Supreme Court justices each got political contributions from Perry and his family totaling $260,000.