Lawsuit seeks to fix moldy, leaking Wichita home

Lawsuit seeks to fix moldy, leaking Wichita home

Source: Wichita Eagle, September 13, 2012
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Three-year-old Kalen Perrault has a wracking cough so severe that his mother, Amy Perrault, has to take him to Derby many nights to sleep in the clean air of his grandparents’ house.

His father, Iraq veteran Jason Perrault, and mother blame mold in their 2-year-old $184,000 home at 10457 E. Fawn Grove Court. They say faulty windows and construction have left the house, built by Clint Miller Homes of Wichita, essentially unsealed to the elements. The Perraults say the home is plagued with leaking water during storms, and environmental cleanup specialists have found mold that will cost about $47,000 to remediate.

Meanwhile, Kalen has run up more than $200,000 in medical bills for treatment of severe breathing problems aggravated by the house, his mother said, problems that still leave him sick about three out of every five weeks.

“He can’t even sleep in his own home,” Amy said during an interview this week. “He can’t spend the night with his brothers. I can’t spend the night with my husband. … This is what you buy a new home to avoid.

“It just isn’t right.”

The Perraults filed suit July 9 in Sedgwick County District Court against Clint Miller Homes and MI Windows & Doors, a Florida-based firm that made the windows used in the house. The suit was a last resort after Miller refused to work with the Perraults, said Ed Robinson of Joseph and Hollander, the couple’s Wichita attorney.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 and accuses Miller and the window firm of “either faulty construction or faulty windows supplied by MIWD” leading to the mold problem. It accuses Clint Miller Homes of breach of contract, negligence and private nuisance that has rendered the Perrault home “substantially uninhabitable … during rain and snow events.” It also accuses MIWD of negligent design or manufacture of the windows.

Wichita attorney Jeff Spahn, representing Miller’s insurer Mid-Continent Casualty, denied the suit’s allegations Wednesday.

MI Windows is represented locally by Mark Biberstein of the Foulston Siefkin law firm. Biberstein could not be reached for comment Wednesday. There was no answer Wednesday at the company’s Florida headquarters.

The Perrault lawsuit isn’t the first complaint Miller has faced about the workmanship in his Wichita homes.

A three-month Eagle investigation in late 2010 led city officials to substantially tighten the regulations governing the construction of slab homes, or homes built solely on concrete foundations set in the soil without a basement. A city task force, formed in response to the Eagle investigation, found that a half-dozen newer slab houses built by Miller in the Maple Shade subdivision at Harry and Webb Road were cracking apart because of unstable soil, drainage problems and a lack of foundation reinforcement. However, the task force determined that the houses were built to city codes, which The Eagle found weren’t as stringent as in several Kansas communities.

Robinson said he’d prefer a quick resolution without a lawsuit — repair of the Perrault house and remediation of the mold. No such repair has been forthcoming, despite almost two years of negotiations, he said. Robinson said his clients want the home fixed as soon as possible, and are willing to pursue arbitration or mediation.

“The reason we filed suit is to identify the subcontractors because Clint Miller wouldn’t tell us who they are,” Robinson said. “We think the subcontractors may have been involved in some of the faulty construction, and we need to make them parties to the litigation. Once we have all of them identified, we can proceed with mediation, arbitration or litigation. An important first step is identifying everyone who may be at fault and getting them involved in the process.”

New construction

The business Clint Miller Homes cannot currently get permits to build homes in Wichita, according to interim city central inspection head Donte Martin, because it lacks insurance renewal verification. The company’s membership in the Wichita Area Association of Builders has been suspended due to unspecified problems, WABA president Wess Galyon relayed through staff Wednesday.

However, Miller and his family are continuing to build five homes in the Fawn Grove subdivision, just south of Kellogg off of Webb, under the business Build Wichita, a Class B licensed group with Kevin Miller as the qualified builder, Martin said. Other names on the license are Steve and Sally Miller. Any involvement by Clint Miller as an individual in those projects would not be in violation of city code, Martin said.

On Monday, The Eagle asked workers at one of those new homes where Clint Miller could be reached. Workers said Miller was gone for the day but would be back Tuesday to continue work on the home.

Tom Atambo, president of the Fawn Grove Homeowners Association, said Miller’s wife, Brigid, runs an office on site and is actively involved in the supervision, advertising, marketing and subsequent closing of all home sales within the subdivision.

“All construction to the best of our knowledge (in the subdivision) is being done within the Clint Miller family,” Atambo said.

Attempts to reach Miller through the Clint Miller Homes office at 14114 E. Twinlake Drive and through one of his representatives, Wichita attorney David Crockett, were unsuccessful this week. Crockett declined comment on the case.

The telephone at Miller’s office was busy Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Perraults say their goal is to live in their new home worry-free.

“We have offered many times to just replace the windows, replace the doors, remediate the mold and we’re happy,” Amy Perrault said. “We do have a lot of medical expenses, and getting some of those reimbursed would be fantastic, but that’s not my goal here.

“My goal is to make sure my son has a healthy environment to live in.”

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