W.Va. high court rules against RichRod in house-sale case
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Supreme Court reversed a lower court's ruling and unanimously agreed with a Weirton couple who sued former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez and his wife over a house sale on Cheat Lake.
The high court unanimously agreed with Weirton attorney Raymond Hinerman and his wife, Barbara, who sued Rodriguez and his wife, Rita, for fraud and wrote that the case shouldn't have been thrown out without a sufficient opportunity for discovery in the case.
The case will be sent back to Monongalia County Circuit Court.
The dispute began in 2010, when the Hinermans agreed to purchase the Rodriguez's house on Cheat Lake for about $1.3 million.
Shortly before the sale, Rita Rodriguez discovered a water leak in one of the basement rooms. After the purchase was made, the Hinermans filed suit, claiming the leak and the damage it caused had not been fully disclosed and had been fraudulently concealed from them.
Monongalia Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot ruled in favor of the Rodriguez family. He determined that the leak and damage were disclosed, that the Hinermans purchased the property anyway, and that they were not entitled to relief.
Hinerman, representing himself, argued that the purchase agreement's "as is" language applied at the time the contract was signed, but that the damage occurred later.
Hinerman contended that he and his wife had inspected the property themselves, but the room with the leak was filled with toys and not able to be inspected.
Gary Wigal, the lawyer for the Rodriguez family, argued that the Hinermans had full knowledge of the problem before they purchased the house and that they had the option to obtain professional inspection of the home, and since they declined to do so, they gave up any right they might have had to have repairs completed at the Rodriguez family's expense.
"Upon further analysis of the Purchase Agreement, this Court concludes that the buyers are correct in their contention that the 'as is' and 'no repair' language of the Agreement relate to the condition of the property as it was on the date the Purchase Agreement was signed," the court's opinion states.
The court ruled that a number of questions surrounding the water leak were left unresolved by the circuit judge's ruling.
"The buyers argued that discovery was needed to explore such matters as: when the water leak began; when it was discovered; the extent of the damage and its impact on the fair market value of the property; whether the sellers were at fault in causing or neglecting the leak; whether they concealed the problem; and whether any representations concerning the water leak were made to the buyers prior to the closing."
Quoting earlier decisions, the high court said under circumstances in this case, the circuit court's ruling was premature and deprived Hinerman and his wife from developing the facts of their case.
However, the court refused Hinerman's request for judgment in his and his wife's favor, saying that action also would be inappropriate at this stage of the case.
Rodriguez, a Marion County native, left his job abruptly as head football coach at WVU in December 2007 to become head coach at the University of Michigan. He was fired there after three seasons, and is now in his first season as head coach at the University of Arizona.
The lawsuit will be sent back to circuit court for deposition of witnesses and for trial before a jury, if necessary.
Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1723.