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WV Supreme Court remands Rich Rodriguez house suit to circuit court

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Two buyers of a former West Virginia University football coach's home will get a second chance in court after they alleged they were not told about water damage in a basement storage room until after signing the purchase agreement, state Supreme Court justices recently ruled.

Raymond Hinerman and Barbara Hinerman filed the lawsuit against Richard Rodriguez and his wife, Rita Rodriguez, seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

According to court documents, the Hinermans said they conducted a personal inspection of the house before signing the agreement but they were unable to inspect the basement storage room at first because it was "full of children's toys stacked from floor to ceiling."

"Later attempts by the buyers to inspect the room were unsuccessful because the door to the room was locked or jammed shut," court documents state.

However Rita Rodriguez said she immediately reported the leak when she came back to the house, court documents state. She also had the room professionally dried, documents further state.

After finding out about the leak, the Hinermans noted a "strong musty smell and obvious water leak."

According to court documents, the Rodriguez family told the Hinermans they must take responsibility for the leak if they wanted to go forward with the sale. The Hinermans refused.

The buyers filed a lawsuit in December 2010 alleging the leak was the sellers' responsibility. The Hinermans closed the sale and later amended the complaint seeking compensatory damages for the cost to fix the leak or an amount "reflecting the diminished value of the property" because the leak was discovered after signing the agreement.

A Monongalia County Circuit Court judge awarded partial summary judgment in favor of the Rodriguez family, however, saying the Hinermans did not have to go through with the sale since they knew about the leak before closing.

However, the Hinermans said the circuit court shouldn't have entered summary judgment before entering a scheduling order or before allowing completion of discovery.

In a Nov. 9 per curiam opinion, the state's highest court remanded the case back to Monongalia County Circuit Court.

Justices ruled the court erred by failing to direct the sellers to have the language "free and clear of all liens and encumbrances" in the deed.

The opinion also noted parties can conduct additional discovery to find out when the leak occurred, "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."