Texas Builder Uses His Cash to Limit His Liability
The New York Times today published a profile of Texas builder Bob Perry, a big donor to conservative and tort reform causes, and a recent loser on the wrong side of his own forced arbitration clause. According to the Times, Perry has donated $7 million to the conservative group American Crossroads since September. He is known to give generously to multiple conservative political and judicial campaigns in and out of his home state. In fact, his generous donations to Texas Supreme Court justices caused a stir when the court decided a case involving his company in his favor.
The decade-long case involved an elderly couple, the Culls, who sued Perry Homes and the warranty provider for construction defects in their home. The warranty provider invoked the arbitration clause, but Perry Homes did not, so the case proceeded in court. The couple then decided to take the case to arbitration, where an arbitrator awarded the them $800,000 in damages. Perry Homes appealed the case to the Texas Supreme Court, which then struck down the arbitrator’s award, claiming the couple waived their right to arbitration. The Texas court’s decision sparked some controversy, given Perry’s generous donations to the justices.
The Culls’ case returned to the trial court, where, according to news reports, a jury in March awarded the Culls $58 million – $47 million against Perry Homes, and the remaining amount against the builder’s warranty provider. News reports state that Perry will appeal the case – maybe all the way to the Texas Supreme Court for a second time.
Home builders and other businesses usually prefer to arbitrate claims because the system is set up to benefit them, while forced arbitration clauses severely restrict homeowners’ options for settling disputes. As it turns out though, the Culls received actual and poetic justice against Perry Homes in a civil jury trial – a longstanding right that we seek to have returned to all consumers and employees who are forced into arbitration.