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Pulte-Centex Force Homeowners to Binding Arbitration
Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Rivermist owners look to arbitration
Home Owners for Better Building warned Rivermist homeowners about getting suckered into forced binding arbitration. Now after all these years wasted… The claims against Pulte Homes Inc. were dismissed in June after the court found that the parent company itself doesn't perform work in Texas. The case against Centex was dropped in September because the homeowners are subject to a binding arbitration agreement with the home builder, the court documents state. This latest decision affected Pulte Homes of Texas. "We have no choice at this point," Vick said. "It's either that or appeal the ruling on arbitration, which we don't intend to do. I don't agree with the court's ruling, but we certainly are in the process of going to the arbitration side."

Rivermist owners look to arbitration
By Valentino Lucio

             

Nearly a dozen homeowners plan to enter into arbitration with Centex Homes Inc. after a federal judge ruled that Pulte Homes of Texas is not the builder liable for diminished home values in connection to a collapsed retaining wall in the Rivermist and Hills of Rivermist subdivisions.

The action stems from the January 2010 collapse of a 1,700-foot retaining wall, which led to evacuation orders for owners of 91 homes in the neighborhoods. Centex eventually bought back 22 of the 27 homes closest to the cracked retaining wall, which was reconstructed last year.

Centex developed the neighborhoods. Pulte announced a deal to acquire Centex in 2009, and the deal closed in February 2010, according to Courthouse News Service.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez ruled that the plaintiffs, 10 homeowners, failed to show evidence that Pulte was involved in the construction, reconstruction, development or sale of their properties.

Court records show that the plaintiffs filed more than 400 pages of documents but failed to show anything that could implicate Pulte's involvement.

“This court is not required to hunt through such voluminous records in search of evidence, which might or might not exist, in support of plaintiffs' claims; rather, plaintiffs have the burden of pointing the court to the evidence that supports their position,” the court order reads.

Pulte was able to show that Centex developed the two subdivisions. Evidence also showed that Centex contracted with Craig Olden Inc. for the complete design and construction of the repairs to the slope and new retaining wall. Pulte was not involved with or mentioned in that contract, according to the order.

The plaintiffs moved for a continuance but the motion was denied.

Pulte had no comment on the ruling, said Valerie Dolenga, a spokeswoman for the builder.

The homeowners filed the lawsuit this year against Pulte Homes Inc., Centex Homes Inc. and Pulte Homes of Texas. They sought damages including replacement costs for the market value of their homes and property, restoration value and other punitive damages, court documents show.

“Our folks were never interested in a purchase back as much as, No. 1, they had to leave their homes and were out of their homes for an extended period of time; and No. 2, there has been a reduction in the values of their homes as a result of the stigma associated with the collapse of the wall,” said plaintiffs attorney Paul Vick.

“Several of my folks have sold their homes, and they're losing on average $20,000 to $25,000 from the amount they paid for the homes,” he said.

The claims against Pulte Homes Inc. were dismissed in June after the court found that the parent company itself doesn't perform work in Texas. The case against Centex was dropped in September because the homeowners are subject to a binding arbitration agreement with the home builder, the court documents state. This latest decision affected Pulte Homes of Texas.

“We have no choice at this point,” Vick said. “It's either that or appeal the ruling on arbitration, which we don't intend to do. I don't agree with the court's ruling, but we certainly are in the process of going to the arbitration side.”

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