Just when you thought Tom Hank’s Idaho construction lawsuit got knocked out by the district court in Blaine County, the Idaho Supreme Court’s recent, September 30, 2009 decision allowed Hanks to pick himself off the mat to fight another day in the judicial ring.
In the left corner, Tom Hanks and wife, Rita Wilson as beneficiaries of the Sun Valley Trust, had a home built near Sun Valley, Idaho. In the right corner you have Storey Construction, the construction company hired in 2000 to build the star-studded duo’s home. However, unlike Hollywood films where happy endings are expected, a dispute arose between the parties when construction of the home was nearly complete. In 2003, an arbitration hearing was held (via an arbitration provision in the construction contract) lasting nine days. The arbitrators dealt what at the time was believed to be a devastating knock-out blow to Mr. Gump by awarding the contractor damages exceeding 1.2 million dollars and denying the Hollywood couple’s counterclaims for then unknown construction defects.
Later, during the winter of 2005-2006, Hanks and Wilson alleged water intrusion in the home which was not known at the time of the 2003 arbitration. Accordingly, Hanks and Wilson put the gloves back on and demanded arbitration of the newly discovered defects. The contractor argued that the arbitrator dismissed any claims for defects back in 2003 and therefore barred Hanks and Wilson from raising these claims any further. The district court agreed with the contractor and threw movie star’s claims out.
Down but not out, Hanks and Wilson countered with an appeal to the Idaho State Supreme Court. The Idaho Supreme Court bandaged the eye of Hanks and Wilson by reversing the district court’s ruling and ordering the district court to have the parties proceed to arbitration again in order to hear the construction defect claims that were discovered after the 2003 arbitration. Thus, Hanks and Wilson stay on their feet to duke it out a few more rounds with the contractor. Only time will tell as to who will deliver the final knock-out blow. Was the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision grounded in sound legal reasoning or Hollywood star power? You be the judge.____________________________________________
About the Author:
Chad E. Bernards is an attorney at the Idaho Business Law Group, PLLC, located in Meridian, Idaho. You can find him at idahobusinesslawgroup.com, email at email@example.com.