Justices side with Rich Rod in home purchase case

By Chris Dickerson | Jul 1, 2015

CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled in favor of former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez in a lawsuit filed by a couple who purchased their home.

The Supreme Court considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal and stated that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, according to the June 12 memorandum decision.

"Upon consideration of the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error," the decision states. "For these reasons, a memorandum decision affirming the circuit court’s order is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure."

On Oct. 5, 2010, Raymond and Barbara Hinerman signed a purchase agreement for the purchase of a home from Richard and Rita Rodriguez.

Kathy Martin, who was employed by KLM Properties, was the licensed real estate agent handling the sale of the property and before the Hinermans executed the purchase agreement, they conducted two walk-through inspections of the property.

During the first walk-through, the "toy room" door partially was open, but could not be completely opened because of boxes in the room and on the second walk-through, the door was locked. The Hinermans never requested to inspect the toy room after the second inspection.

Raymond Hinerman, who is an attorney, testified in his deposition that he noticed evidence of prior water infiltration in the basement electrical room and garage, and, after viewing this, he inspected the exterior of the property and did not find any visible indications of water problems outside the home. He also testified that he concluded any prior water damage was not active and was something he could take care of.

Days before the closing on the property, Raymond Hinerman received a phone call from Martin stating that the property had suffered water damage in a room in the basement and, on Dec. 22, 2010, he and his wife entered the toy room and discovered the carpet was wet, two large fans were running, there were rotting oak boards and one- to two-inch watermarks on the baseboards.

After the walkthrough, the Hinermans declined to have the house inspected by a third party, stating that they believed the seller's disclosure statement was false and that they could get out of the purchase agreement based upon Raymond Hinerman's inspection of the toy room.

On Dec. 27, 2010, the Hinermans filed suit against the Rodriguezes, alleging they breached the terms of the purchase contract and that they committed fraud by intentionally concealing a defect in the home, which they specifically identified as a water leak.

The closing too place on Dec. 31, 2010, and the Hinermans purchased the home for $1.3 million.

On May 15, 2013, the Rodriguezes filed a motion for summary judgment and on Aug 20, 2013, the circuit court granted partial summary judgment and dismissed the fraud, conspiracy, economic or business duress and intentional infliction of emotional distress causes of action.

A jury trial was held on the Hinermans breach of contract claim from Jan. 7, 2014, until Jan. 10, 2014. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Rodriguezes and the Hinermans filed post-trial motions, which were denied by the trial court.

"With respect to the purchase agreement at issue, in our previous decision we expressly held, that 'in the context of this action, it would likewise be inappropriate to conclude that the buyers are entitled to judgment as a matter of law;' and remanded the matter for discovery," the decision states.

At the close of discovery, the circuit court reviewed the evidence presented and dismissed all claims except the breach of contract claim, which was properly submitted to the jury.

"Petitioners do not present any substantive argument to support their contention, nor do petitioners cite to the record regarding rulings or testimony which, viewed in the light most favorable to respondents, are legally sufficient to overturn the jury verdict in this matter," the decision states. "Further, this court's review of the record reveals that there is sufficient evidence to sustain the jury verdict. Accordingly, we also find this assignment of error to be without merit."

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Hinerman did not provide enough evidence to support his claims and therefore affirmed Monongalia Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot's orders.

Rodriguez left WVU in 2007 to take the head coaching job at Michigan. After three seasons there, Rodriguez was fired. He worked as an analyst for CBS Sports during the 2011 season before returning to the sidelines at Arizona, where he has coached since 2012.

W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 14-0371

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