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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M

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[#1] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 09:20:40 AM
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A civil lawsuit wending its way through the Harris County Texas district court system has the potential, if the plaintiff prevails, to set an alarming precedent that could have a chilling effect for home inspectors everywhere.

On June 25th, 2009, a Houston attorney, homeowner Gary R. Maze and his wife filed a lawsuit against Houston inspection firm Fox Inspection Group and specifically, inspector Rubin Santillan Jr., alleging tortious interference with prospective contracts. In his complaint, Maze alleges that Santillan, who is not a licensed engineer, made structural assessments that amount to the illegal practice of engineering about Maze's house and that Santillan's report defamed the complainants' business (the transaction). Maze is seeking $250,000 - the amount he'd been selling his home for before the sale collapsed - plus exemplary damages of $750,000.

To read Maze's complaint, click here, to see a copy of Santillan's disputed inspection report in its entirety, click here and to view all documents pertaining to the details of the case to date, click here and then click on the "documents" tab. (Warning: These documents take a long time to open; even on high-speed cable.)

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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#2] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 09:54:10 AM
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Hey Mike...
I got everything to open but the inspection report????


ooooops, did not wait long enough to let open....

Jerry

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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#3] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 09:57:01 AM
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Jerry,
It took long time for it to open. But it did finally open!

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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#4] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 09:59:29 AM
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Damn scorned seller! Although, the inspector really shouldn't be calling out termite damage if he is not a licensed SPI. Will be insteresting to see this one out.
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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#5] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 10:11:07 AM
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Jerry,

What Les said, I added a warning to the original post that they take a long time to open.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#6] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 10:23:17 AM
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Boy that critter does take a while to download. I made a sandwich and just about finished it before it downloaded.

If it gets to court my bet is that it won't get very far. I don't think he offered any engineering advice in the report.

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[#7] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 10:53:44 AM
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What BS! The buyers made an ammended offer after the inspection of $240,000 which, based on what looks to be a thorough and NORMAL report, was more than reasonable. So, the inspection would have cost the sellers a maximum of $10K had they accepted that. Surely they didn't/don't think their POS was in perfect condition? I smell stupidity, greed and an ambulance chaser.

You are right that this would be an "alarming precedent" but I can't believe this will get very far in court. Hopefully, TREC, etc will support the HI, unless they want to see the home inspection business disappear.

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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#8] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 11:38:50 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by Richard Moore

What BS! The buyers made an ammended offer after the inspection of $240,000 which, based on what looks to be a thorough and NORMAL report, was more than reasonable. So, the inspection would have cost the sellers a maximum of $10K had they accepted that. Surely they didn't/don't think their POS was in perfect condition? I smell stupidity, greed and an ambulance chaser.

You are right that this would be an "alarming precedent" but I can't believe this will get very far in court. Hopefully, TREC, etc will support the HI, unless they want to see the home inspection business disappear.

TREC will not support the HI. I get the feeling they would just as soon see HI go away. There is the state mandated SOP that spells out the minimums that should be included in any inspection that should help though.
My guess is this will get thrown out pretty rapidly. The seller and/or his wife are reported to be lawyers from what I hear. If they had paid for legal advice, this would have never been filed in the first place. I hope they wind up having to pay the HI's legal fees.

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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#9] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 12:07:21 PM
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Jim - since TREC will not support them why not approach a national organization? It would be interesting to see what ASHI or NAHI would say since it would obviously affect all inspectors irregardless (sp) of what state they were in. After reading the report I don't think the idiot or his wife have a leg to stand on but who knows what a "jury of your peers" will say. They are ambulance chasers to the max!! Make a quick buck and take a long vacation!
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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#10] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 12:13:25 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Robert Jones

Damn scorned seller! Although, the inspector really shouldn't be calling out termite damage if he is not a licensed SPI. Will be insteresting to see this one out.

After reading the report, I did not see where the HI called out termite damage. There was reference to 2 reports and termite damage by the agent.
Likely there was a seperate WDI report that addressed that.
This is a totally bogus attempt to extort money from the HI because he did a good job for his client and caused him to lose a sale.
This clown would be the first one to sue his HI if something was missed on his home.

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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#11] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 12:21:39 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Paul N Frey

Jim - since TREC will not support them why not approach a national organization? It would be interesting to see what ASHI or NAHI would say since it would obviously affect all inspectors irregardless (sp) of what state they were in. After reading the report I don't think the idiot or his wife have a leg to stand on but who knows what a "jury of your peers" will say. They are ambulance chasers to the max!! Make a quick buck and take a long vacation!

Paul, TREC is the state regulatory agency charged with protecting consumers and regulating the real estate industry, not part of their business to aid inspector.
I don't know about the voluntary organizations but there will be and E&O insurance company involved although who knows if this is covered.
If it makes it to a jury trial and the jury gets to see the report, any jury outside of Austin will laugh him out of the court house. (Austin is the state capital and full of lawyers)

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Angry Texas Seller Sues Inspection Firm for $1M
[#12] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 12:25:52 PM
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That house is a POS. If those lawyers had any brains they'd have taken the offer. The HI seems to have done a good job, and his report is well laid out. Everything he claims is supported with references and really nice diagrams. If anything is gonna hurt him it's all the boiler and the odd sentence structure that it causes.

That's pretty shitty of the licensing body to not intervene.

Tom


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[#13] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 12:47:42 PM
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Folks, it is not the job or the purpose of any licensing agency to intervene in a civil lawsuit. This is why we have the court system. Hopefully the inspector has E&O that will help cover the cost of his defense and hopefully they will file a counter suit to reclaim the cost of that defense.
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[#14] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 1:47:18 PM
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"After reading the report, I did not see where the HI called out termite damage. There was reference to 2 reports and termite damage by the agent."

Not that it really matters but on the top of page 14, he calls out termite damage to the wood veneer south side of the garage. I think this ambulance chaser is just trying to get some kind of settlement. It is obvious the inspector did nothing wrong.

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[#15] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 2:00:07 PM
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I agree with everyone else. I don't thing the guy did anything other than a home inspection.

What software package is that?

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[#16] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 2:09:02 PM
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Quote: The seller and/or his wife are reported to be lawyers from what I hear.

Why am I not surprised to hear that? Item 10 in the background facts suggests they were occupant homeowners. So we supposedly have two lawyers living in this place. It doesn't exactly reek of success does it? Something tells me that they may not have been top of the class at Harvard.

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[#17] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 2:59:49 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Robert Jones

"After reading the report, I did not see where the HI called out termite damage. There was reference to 2 reports and termite damage by the agent."

Not that it really matters but on the top of page 14, he calls out termite damage to the wood veneer south side of the garage. I think this ambulance chaser is just trying to get some kind of settlement. It is obvious the inspector did nothing wrong.

Your right, I missed that.

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[#18] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 3:23:59 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by kurt


What software package is that?


Looks like 3D to me

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[#19] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 6:28:15 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by inspector57

Quote: Originally posted by Richard Moore

What BS! The buyers made an ammended offer after the inspection of $240,000 which, based on what looks to be a thorough and NORMAL report, was more than reasonable. So, the inspection would have cost the sellers a maximum of $10K had they accepted that. Surely they didn't/don't think their POS was in perfect condition? I smell stupidity, greed and an ambulance chaser.

You are right that this would be an "alarming precedent" but I can't believe this will get very far in court. Hopefully, TREC, etc will support the HI, unless they want to see the home inspection business disappear.

TREC will not support the HI. I get the feeling they would just as soon see HI go away. There is the state mandated SOP that spells out the minimums that should be included in any inspection that should help though.
My guess is this will get thrown out pretty rapidly. The seller and/or his wife are reported to be lawyers from what I hear. If they had paid for legal advice, this would have never been filed in the first place. I hope they wind up having to pay the HI's legal fees.



From the submittance of the plaintiff papers look who signed it... and what KIND of attorneys they are... I lke how FIG wants them to produce every document ever made within last 10 years pertaining to real estate, income tax returns last 5 years, and more such as any property they own etc. But they were granted the protective order to basically pay thier lawyers back (maze).. even though they ARE attorneys and representing themselves... hmmmm

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[#20] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 6:36:02 PM
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Sorry to hear you're still dealing with that, John. I thought it'd have gone away by now. Bummer being part of a precedent, isn't it. I hope it turns out for our side.
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[#21] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 7:14:36 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Bain

Bogus or not . . . this kind of thing happens. It happened to me. The trial is scheduled for early next year.

I don't want to get into details for obvious reasons, but these lawsuits rarely get thrown out because the judge is supposed to view a motion for dismissal "in the light most favorable to the plaintiff."

We have no contractual privity with, or duty of care toward, the sellers of houses we check out. But that doesn't stop a judge from letting matters move forward.

As for support, I've received none. Just the opposite.

I predict I'll delete this post later tonight, just so's you know . . .


Me too. Mine went away during discovery, though. They just didn't have anything. My customers paid me for my opinion, the sellers agreed to let me in their house to provide that opinion, so by agreeing to let me in their house to supply the opinion, they were leaving the door open to whatever might happen. IOW, they were some party to the activity; I didn't kick the door down and yell "don't buy the house".

The same thing will probably happen to you. Tortious interference means you came in unasked and messed with someone's business. It occurs when a someone intentional damages a plaintifs contractual or business relationship. Well, that's not what home inspection is. They have to show intent to damage. They can't, not unless you wrote down someplace "don't buy this house".

Things rarely get thrown out. Judges were attorneys at one time, and the club likes to keep things busy. They like considering new things, and HI's are new things.

Support? No way. We're meat.



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[#22] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 7:34:32 PM
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Just curious, below is from Indiana's Home Inspection law. Do other states have something similar? Would this stand up in the court?


"IC 25-20.2-9-2 Immunity from liability if not party to contract
Sec. 2. A licensed home inspector is not liable to a person for damages that
arise from an act or omission relating to a home inspection if the person is not a
party to the contract under which the home inspection is conducted.
As added by P.L.145-2003, SEC.7."

Bryan

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[#23] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 7:59:44 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Bain


As for support, I've received none. Just the opposite.

It don't matter squat, but you've got my support. You're a stand-up guy.

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[#24] Posted: 10/06/2009 - 8:25:12 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by kurt

I agree with everyone else. I don't thing the guy did anything other than a home inspection.

What software package is that?

The comments look somewhat familiar so I am guessing AHIT Inspect It for Texas but I could be wrong.
The format (Check boxes, order, font, and opening two pages) is dictated by the state so it should be the same for all Texas reports for one to four family properties.

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[#25] Posted: 10/07/2009 - 07:31:13 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by Bryan

Just curious, below is from Indiana's Home Inspection law. Do other states have something similar? Would this stand up in the court?


"IC 25-20.2-9-2 Immunity from liability if not party to contract
Sec. 2. A licensed home inspector is not liable to a person for damages that
arise from an act or omission relating to a home inspection if the person is not a
party to the contract under which the home inspection is conducted.
As added by P.L.145-2003, SEC.7."

Bryan



That is Third Party language, I know Mississippi has it and Tennessee just added it this year to its law. I would say it is fairly common and if your state law does not have it, you should be working on getting it added. Problem is that it might not stop the lawsuit as third party lawsuits have been upheld in prior cases around the country. They circumvent it by saying that you were negligent.

About the only thing in a license law that really helps an inspector from being name in a lawsuit is the time frame for an action or claim to be made. I was shown some data from an insurance company and those states that have a one year limit of liability have less lawsuits against home inspectors.

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[#26] Posted: 10/07/2009 - 3:53:52 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Robert JonesI think this ambulance chaser is just trying to get some kind of settlement. It is obvious the inspector did nothing wrong.
Another typical bullshit law suit by a shyster lawyer.

Little wimp probably got made fun of in grade school so he is taking it out on everyone now.

 
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