Panel denies Hanks claim in Ketchum home dispute

AP News
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Posted: May 25, 2011 3:39 PM
Panel denies Hanks claim in Ketchum home dispute

An arbitration panel has rejected a bid by actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, for financial compensation stemming from a long-running dispute with the contractor hired to build the couple's multimillion dollar villa in Sun Valley.

The three-member panel of the American Arbitration Association has concluded the couple failed to make a compelling case that alleged defects in their $10 million home should be pinned on Storey Construction, based in Ketchum.

Hanks and Wilson sought $3 million in damages from the builder. They claim the home north of the ritzy resort town was built with a series of flaws, including a roof that leaked and nearly collapsed after the house was finished in 2002.

The arbitration panel also sided with Hanks and Wilson in a counterclaim filed by the contractor who alleged the couple pursued the damages out of malice, the Idaho Mountain Express reported Wednesday.

"Over the years, we have experienced a number of serious problems with how our home was designed and built," Hanks and Wilson said in a statement. "For various legal reasons, including the passage of time, the arbitrators did not share our view of the contractor's portion of responsibility. While we disagree with the outcome, we are pleased that the contractor's counterclaims were rejected."

The decision is the latest twist in a case that has played out in a variety of state courts in Idaho.

Both sides have turned to arbitration to settle disputes over payment and construction defect claims. Several years ago, Hanks and Wilson pursued a second round of arbitration after finding latent construction defects. Storey Construction challenged the move, saying those matters had been settled in the initial round of arbitration, prompting a new lawsuit by Hanks and Wilson.

The Idaho Supreme Court then ruled that a second round of arbitration was allowable under the contract.

The arbitration panel's decision followed a 10-day hearing in the case held in Ketchum last year.

While the panel cleared Story Construction for the flaws, it blamed the problems with the home on poor design and bad architectural and engineering advice provided by Lake Flato Architects Inc., a firm based in San Antonio, Texas.

Hanks and Wilson settled with Lake Flato, receiving $900,000 in the deal reached last fall after one day of arbitration.

In its ruling, the arbitration panel found that problems with the home included leaking roofs, inadequate drainage, fireplaces that did not vent properly and an inadequate air-conditioning system. In 2003, sliding snow from the roof damaged kitchen windows and roof components.

The panel determined that evidence in the case showed "overwhelmingly that the architectural and structural plans were very poorly executed and contained numerous design errors and deficiencies."

Lake Flato representatives did not immediately return telephone messages left Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Miles Stanislaw, the lawyer for Storey Construction, said the ruling vindicates the work done by the company.

"It is shocking and disgusting that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson would treat anyone the way they treated Gary Storey," said Stanislaw, referring to the owner of Storey Construction. "The emotional and financial damage they have done to Gary Storey and his family is incalculable."

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Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, http://www.mtexpress.com