Boston Globe: Family imprisoned in a home of horrors

A reader pointed me to this story in today’s Boston Globe about Southborough residents Kathryn and Christian Culley who five years ago bought a home on Lovers Lane, a home that is now crumbling around them.

The couple, who invested their life savings in the million-dollar home, have spent hundreds of thousands of additional dollars seeking help from engineers, contractors, and lawyers. They now have so little left that they cannot afford to heat the 3,500-square-foot home, which the state Department of Public Safety has found to be unsafe to inhabit.

“We’re completely marooned in the house,’’ said Kathryn Culley, 48, a mother of two teenage boys, who stays warm by wearing her winter jacket inside, covering all the windows in plastic, and using space heaters. “We can’t afford to leave, and we can’t afford to fix it. We never thought we would have found ourselves in this kind of situation.’’

The Culleys sued their contractor, broker, and seven others and were awarded $1.1M in damages by a jury this summer. But the judge in the case made the unusual move of overruling the verdict and instead awarded the couple only $140K. With few options left, the Culleys don’t know where they’ll go from here.

You can read the full story in the Boston Globe.

(Photo from Town of Southborough Property Record Card)

13 Comments
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Lisa Braccio
11 years ago

My heart breaks for this family, what a miscarriage of justice. Makes you wonder why that Jury “wasted” a month of their time to have their verdict basically ignored. I will keep this family in my prayers.

rh
11 years ago

This is a terrible story! Someone should contact HGTV’s Mike Holmes of the show “Holmes on Homes.” His show deals with this sort of tragic story.

John Kendall
11 years ago
Reply to  rh

Too bad Mike Holmes is in Toronto

Marthab
11 years ago
Reply to  John Kendall

I think Mike Holmes will travel. Doesn’t hurt to go for it and ask.

Lisa
11 years ago

I too feel for the family, this kind of thing could happen to any new home buyer. Isn’t it amazing how a builder can make a pile of exrement look so incredibly nice?

southsider
11 years ago

I just read the Globe story.
It makes me wonder how they received an occupancy permit.
Where were the people who are supposed to protect the Culley’s interest?
Aren’t there building inspectors and banking procedures that would prevent this family from being saddled with such a huge debt for an improperly built home?

djd66
11 years ago

Yeah, this is a horrible miscariage of justice. I feel really bad for that family and wish there was something that could be done. I like the Mike Holmes idea,… maybe this story would be picked up by HGTV.

Could it happen to you??
11 years ago

Detailed information on this is easily accessible, including the court records, and a case study via Google search.
I say it if for no other reason than to get the names of the builders (Cato/Malegni), out, as they are not mentioned anywhere in the articles. Why??
To the Culley’s, as you can see, I have read details and my heart goes out to you. A realtor, town inspector, your own building inspector, the judge,….should have caught at least some of these red flags, and been your advocate. You have been caught in a system where people are comfy.
By all means continue to keep this in the spotlight.

Michael Moore
11 years ago

Sounds like this family is having a very difficult time. Is there anything we (their neighbors) can do for them? I don’t mean in legal terms, are their immediate needs being met?

JD
11 years ago

This is horrific. I can’t believe someone in our town is going through this. There HAS to be something that can be done. There are lemon laws for cars. There should be some sort of lemon law for houses.

tfran
11 years ago

Unbelievable story. Living in hell with no justice to prevail. What right does a judge have to overrule a unanimous jury verdict after listening to evidence for 5 weeks?

PCL
11 years ago

This is why I’d be reluctant to buy any new house. A house can be built perfectly, above ground, while fatal defects remain hidden underground. A surprising number of new neighborhoods have one or two “lemon houses”. After a few years, most of these problems become obvious. When I was young, the neighbors across the street paid $5000 for a house that would have gone for four times that in good shape. The foundation was drifting apart, plumbing was leaking and the walls were paneled over to stop the rock lathe plaster from peeling. Meanwhile, the houses on our side of the street were stable and dry. As usual, the builder had gone bankrupt. When I was selling my father’s house 10 years ago, the current owner of the lemon house, who had gotten $40,000 discount when he bought it, said he had finally gotten it fixed, but he had to pay more than the discount in repairs. I hope the Culleys succeed in getting a more reasonable award.

Matthew
11 years ago

Is there a website keeping the press and others up to date on the developments? I have read a bit of the available docs and discovered that the burden of 93A was not adequately documented, as in how much it would cost to repair defects. Has this changed? Is the town offering legal assistance in exchange for immunity from a lawsuit?
Peter Johnson goofed big time, is that why he left? Seems the town still owes something to these people and I hope the Culley’s don’t have go to court to get satisfaction.
Have the town’s lawyers issued a position? Have the Selectmen offered a position?

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