Former Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich and his wife, Sophie, are liable for up to $3 million in damages for not disclosing water seepage and mold within a Pacific Palisades home they sold in 2007 to a money manager, an attorney told a jury Wednesday.
Attorney H. James Keathley, in his closing argument in the trial of Steven Bardack's lawsuit against the couple, said his client did not expect after spending $6.5 million for the 6,600-square-foot mansion that he would be faced with prohibitive costs to fix all the damage.
"They're trying to saddle Mr. Bardack with the cost of repairing this house," Keathley said. "He did not agree to buy a home that leaks like a sieve."
Attorney Paul Fine, on behalf of the Tomjanoviches, said his clients were honest in their dealings with Bardack, but were not sophisticated when it came to the complex language of homeowner-seller agreements.
"There was no intent to conceal facts," Fine said.
Tomjanovich, who coached the gold medal-winning U.S. men's Olympic basketball team of 2000 and played in the NBA as a small forward for the Houston Rockets, also was not familiar with the construction and maintenance of homes, Fine told the Los Angeles Superior Court panel.
"Tomjanovich is a jock and a coach, not an architect and a contractor," Fine said of his 63-year-old client. Tomjanovich was looking for a home in Los Angeles in 2004 after he was lured from Houston to replace Phil Jackson when the legendary Laker coach left after his initial stint with the team, according to trial testimony.
Tomjanovich settled on the San Onofre Drive residence and bought it from "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis for $4.25 million. But Tomjanovich resigned after 41 games due to health issues. He remained with the Lakers in an administrative and scouting capacity, eventually left the team and decided to sell the Pacific Palisades home and return to Houston.
According to Keathley's court papers, the Tomjanoviches knew as early as September 2004 that glass railings surrounding the patios were installed in a way that allowed water to run down the glass and under the stone on the decks. Two months later, rain came through a skylight and caused damage to a foyer and and flooring, but instead of hiring a contractor to fix the problem, the Tomjanoviches had a handyman repair the damage, according to Keathley's court papers.
"Within a few months of escrow closing, during the rains in January and February 2008, Bardack discovered that there were water intrusion problems emanating from leaking windows throughout the house and a skylight area in the entry," Keathley's court papers state. "The ceiling in the foyer collapsed. The wetness of the exterior stucco revealed areas which appeared to have been patched."
Keathley maintains the Tomjanoviches did not disclose the existence of reports detailing the various problems with the home to Bardack and that they had the exterior of the home painted to hide patching and prior water leaks.
Keathley and Fine had different opinions concerning the credibility of actress Ryanne Duzich, who lived with the Tomjanoviches for nearly two years. She testified thta she saw no water stains under the home's balconies even though several other people said they were very visible.
Keathley implied that she likely was biased, but Fine said Duzich spent more time at the home than anyone and was in a position to know best. Duzich had a role in the 2004 film "Friday Night Lights" that starred Billy Bob Thornton.
Bardack still lives in the home, according to Keathley, who made two alternative recommendations for damages. Under a breach-of-contract approach, jurors can award Bardack up to $3 million, he told the panel. However, under another theory involving concealment, intentional and negligent misrepresentation and negligent non-disclosure, the jury can order the Tomjanoviches to pay Bardack up to $2.8 million, he said.
Fine urged the panel to find the couple liable for no damages. But he said that if they find they should pay something to Bardack, it should be limited to $650,000.
The Tomjanoviches have also filed a cross-complaint against their real estate company, Coldwell Banker, alleging the firm should share any liability they may have to Bardack.
The Tomjanoviches sat behind their attorneys as they listened to the closing arguments. The jury is scheduled to begin deliberating Thursday.