My Toll Experience

Lawsuit

Throughout the litigation, Toll has displayed what I consider to be a complete lack of integrity. They have routinely lied to me and about me.  They have submitted inaccurate documents to me and to the court, and have misrepresented facts to at least two of the Superior Court judges who have presided over this case – on the record!  I have compelling evidence that they have tampered with at least one of the judges assigned to my case, as well as with one of the engineers who had been hired to serve as one of my expert witnesses.  (All of this has been turned over to the appropriate investigative agencies.)  They have threatened and bullied me, and have threatened one of my lawyers on at least one occasion.  (Several of the Related Articles indicate that they are doing this to many others, as well.)  Based on questions asked at my deposition and reports from several of my neighbors, it appears that Toll has been in effect spying on me in the hopes of finding something they can use to discredit me.  It appears that they also have an inappropriate relationship with at least one township employee.   (Township officials have steadfastly refused to acknowledge any problems with this house; they have also steadfastly refused to come see the house for themselves or to send an engineer to look at it.) 

If these sound like strong statements, consider the following: when I was interviewing people for my video, I located an attorney who alleged to have an entire “banker’s box” full of documents that described payoffs made by Toll Brothers to code inspectors all over her state.  I also located a former Toll employee who alleged to having seen signed inspection stickers in his project manager’s drawer before the ground had even been broken for the houses for which these stickers were intended, and a Toll Brothers homebuyer who had in his possession a number of documents that he alleges prove that Toll has exerted undue influence on several judges in Southeaster PA.  (I have the interview with the former Toll employee on video for any of you who would like to see it.)   Lastly, consider the words of a member of the N.J. State Senate Investigation Committee who is familiar with the many problems with my house: “How else could this house have ever gotten a CO?” 

I will set forth the facts, and let you decide for yourself about any possible corruption or collusion.  (Many of these facts are on the record.)  I also encourage you to view the video of my interview with the former Toll employee, which is at https://vimeo.com/51718954.

From the day I filed suit, in July 2001, until the day we showed up in Judge Derman’s courtroom in September 2004 to select a jury, Toll had made no effort to settle this case, or even to depose me, although they continue to assert otherwise.

What Toll did during those three years was file endless motions in an effort to force me into arbitration (and waste my time and money), even though the provisions of their own sales contract granted me the right to litigate.  (When Judge Rosemary Williams, who was originally assigned to the case, pointed out to Toll’s attorney that his client’s own sales contract included language that allowed me to litigate, he replied that they had not meant to include that language in the contract, and actually asked her to reconsider on that basis.  This same attorney later asked Judge Derman how to tighten up the language in the contract to ensure that future homebuyers would be forced to arbitrate, making it clear that Toll was not interested in building better houses, but only in avoiding accountability.) 

Toll’s attorney deposed me that very day. In the process, not only did he make a remark that made it very clear that at least one employee of Montgomery Township had an inappropriate relationship with Toll, but he also tried to slip past me a document that had been falsified and to which someone on Toll’s behalf had very conveniently signed my name -- an evaluation form on which I had allegedly rated my satisfaction with my house and with Toll’s customer service, and had given rave reviews to both.  (This is on the record.  See Nevins Deposition, Parts 1 and 2.)   This document was located very near the bottom of the three-inch high stack of papers that he had me examine as part of the deposition.  (I have since been apprised by two other Toll Brothers homeowners who are or have been in litigation against Toll that Toll’s attorneys also tried to slip falsified documents past them during their depositions.)

When the judge made it clear that she did not want to try this case, I agreed reluctantly to a settlement that she herself proposed.  Even then, I had little faith that Toll would honor the settlement: I suspected that they just wanted to get this case off the court calendar and get a gag order in place so they could continue to jerk me around in an effort to get rid of me.  And as it turns out, I was absolutely right.

A copy of the settlement agreement is attached.  Several provisions are pivotal:

1.  I was to get “the house [I] paid for” – Judge Derman’s words – meaning a house that was 100% up to code and up to the standards of the 7 model homes I had viewed prior to going to contract with Toll.  (At one point during the negotiations, Toll’s attorney actually asserted that I had “no right to expect a house that was up to the standards of the model.”  If this is not a tacit admission of “bait and switch, I don’t know what is.) 

 2.  A third-party “neutral” was to examine the house, identify all of the structural and cosmetic problems that had to be remediated in order to give the “the house I paid for,” and determine the costs of same.  The opinion of this expert was to be final, and binding on both parties.  No cap was set on the cost of repairs.  I would not have entered into the settlement had the provisions stated otherwise. 

3.  A gag order was put into effect immediately.  I was prohibited from discussing the problems with the house and the terms of the settlement with anyone.  I honored this restriction to the letter: the only person with whom I ever discussed the terms was Montgomery Township’s code official.   

For a number of reasons, the settlement agreement was not reduced to writing until August 2005 – 11 months after it was agreed upon verbally.  This delay, along with Toll’s endless frivolous motions and the subsequent mishandling by the court, which is addressed below, are what have caused this case to be dragged out for 12 years.

When it was time to choose a third-party “neutral” to evaluate the house, Toll’s attorney said Toll would not be able to offer any suggestions, as all of the engineers he knew did work for Toll, and use of them would constitute a conflict of interest.  Accordingly, I came up with a list of 12 potential candidates, which we submitted to Toll. Toll’s attorneys then selected the neutral from this list.  In fact, they narrowed it down to two candidates, a builder and a structural engineer; because the builder decided he would need an engineer to work with him, both men were selected. 

It took two years for these men to complete their inspection of the house and to propose a course of remediation, for two reasons:

  • Because of the communications restrictions inherent in the agreement, I was not allowed to have any communications with either of the men, nor was either  attorney allowed to talk to them without the other attorney being involved in the conversation.  This made scheduling their visits an extremely cumbersome process.
  • When the two neutrals submitted a preliminary report, and it became obvious to Toll that the gentlemen were going over the house with a fine-tooth comb, as the settlement required them to do, and were finding many very serious problems that would be costly to fix, Toll stopped paying them.  It took several motions and hearings to get this resolved and get the bills paid, which only dragged things out further.

The two men filed their final report in July 2007.  Their estimate to remediate all of the problems noted was $981,000.  However, they also emphasized the fact that they could not be sure they had found all the problems, because they had not been allowed to do any destructive testing.  They concluded that the only way to be sure all problems were addressed was to demolish the house and rebuild it in its entirety, from the seriously flawed foundation floor and walls to the seriously flawed roof.  (This opinion has subsequently been expressed by two other structural engineers who have inspected the house.) 

Immediately after the two men completed their report and submitted it to the attorneys, Judge Derman was transferred to Chancery Court, and my case was assigned to Judge Anthony Picheca. 

Even though the settlement agreement made it clear that the findings of the third-party “neutrals” were to be binding, Toll’s attorneys immediately filed a motion seeking to get the neutrals’ report thrown out.  They claimed that the neutrals had been “tainted,” first by me, and then by Toll’s failure to pay their bills in a timely fashion.  They offered no substantiation whatsoever for either of these claims.   

The motion was heard on December 21, 2007, at 10:00 a.m.  Judge Picheca gave Toll everything they asked for, and then some.  Not only did he denounce the settlement as “crap” – his exact word, although this somehow was mysteriously missing in the copy of the transcript I later received of the proceedings, but he also threw his copy up in the air with his left hand to emphasize his point, and then criticized Judge Derman for ever having approved the settlement in the first place – and yes, this too was somehow missing in the copy of the transcript I later received. 

He then threw out the entire settlement agreement, with one significant exception:  he refused to lift the gag order.  He even forbade me to speak with the county prosecutor about the inappropriate relationship I had uncovered between Toll’s attorneys and Montgomery Township officials.  (When I relayed this to the member of the county prosecutor’s staff with whom I was scheduled to meet to present my evidence, he replied, “That’s crazy.”)

Judge Picheca then advised us that we had three months to work out another settlement.  If we had not done so by then, he said that he would schedule a trial date and, at the same time, he would also lift the gag order.

Toll’s attorneys then set out to (again) force me to settle on their terms, but knowing the leverage that the removal of the gag order would give me, I was not receptive.  I might add that at no time have they been willing to acknowledge the severity of the flaws in my house, and the difficulty that I will have selling this house once those flaws are disclosed to potential buyers.  (I am required to disclose these, by law.)  They insist that my house can be repaired in full for less than $100,000.

When it became obvious to Toll that they were not going to be able to manipulate me as planned, they did a complete about-face, and filed another motion with the court, this one asking Judge Picheca to enforce the very settlement that they had moved to have thrown out just seven months earlier, the same one that he had denounced as “crap” and thrown out at their request.  And lo and behold, what did the judge do?  Exactly what they asked him to do: he enforced the settlement – but not without making some very major changes, all of which worked very much in Toll’s favor and deprived me of any and all of the rights I had been granted by the original settlement.  To wit:

  • The original settlement had called for a third-party “neutral” to come in, examine the house, and detect any and all problems with the house, not just those that had been identified in 2004 when the settlement was first proposed.  Yet at Toll’s request, Judge Picheca decided that only those problems that had been identified as of 2004 could be considered when assessing repair costs. 
  • Instead of a trial by jury, which had clearly and specifically been requested in the original complaint, a “proof hearing” would be held to determine the extent of the repairs needed – and hence, my award.  Not only would this keep things nice and quiet for Toll, but it would also make it impossible for me to pursue my claims of consumer fraud and collect triple damages and all of my fees.  (Only later would I learn that Real Estate developers, such as Toll Brothers, are the only group who are excluded by N.J. law from awards of triple damages for consumer fraud.  When I asked a N.J. legislator why this is so, he candidly replied: “Because half the legislators in this state are in the builders’ pockets.” ) 
  • The gag order was left in effect.

When it became clear to me that Judge Picheca was going to try to force upon me this greatly altered settlement to which I had not agreed, my attorney assured me that Picheca would be overturned on appeal.  But if Picheca was flat-out wrong to even try to force it upon me, I could not see dragging this entire legal fiasco out another year waiting for an appellate court to get involved – I had been waiting for this house for 12 years already, during which time Toll had had the use of $600,000 of my money, and I saw no reason why I should wait an additional year because of incompetence or corruption on the part of a judge.  So I began talking to appellate lawyers.  To a person – and I spoke with several of them – they told me that Judge Picheca was completely out of line.  One of the attorneys, who specializes in "difficult litigation," went so far as to ask me if Judge Picheca was still sitting cases. When I replied in the affirmative, the attorney said:  "Well, he shouldn't be.  He is either dirty, or he is woefully ignorant of the law."

At that point I went to the Somerset County Ombudsman, and explained the situation to her.  She listened to the tapes for every one of the court sessions (for my case) that had been heard by Judge Picheca.  She then asked me to go in to her office and fill out a request for Judge Picheca to recuse himself from my case.  I did so, and while I was there I asked her what would happen if he refused to do so.  Her exact response:  “Then you let us know, and we’ll take care of it.”  Once I submitted the papers, Judge Picheca did recuse himself; he also was immediately reassigned to Family Court.  (Why he was not removed from the bench in entirety, I will never know.  Any number of lawyers have told me that he SHOULD have been.)

After Judge Picheca recused himself, Judge Yolanda Ciccone took over my case.  In June 2009, she threw out the original settlement – ALL of it this time, even though Toll’s attorney asked her to leave the gag order in place.  She then instructed me to find another expert witness, as the neutrals’ report had been thrown out along with the settlement.  Accordingly, I selected a structural engineer named Peter Wilner. 

I hired Mr. Wilner because he was reputed to be an honest and competent engineer.  He was, in fact, referred to me by the managing director of the local office of a well-known national engineering firm who uses Mr. Wilner’s services whenever he needs a structural engineer, as he has none on his own staff.

When I discussed the problems with the house with Mr. Wilner, I made it clear that I wanted him to be as thorough as possible.  We agreed that he might need to spend several weeks here in an effort to do so.

I provided him with all of the drawings and reports that had been done to date, and asked him to check out everything listed.  I didn’t ask him to AGREE with all of it, but I did ask him to check it all out.  I asked him to bring a transit to check out the levelness of the floors, as I already knew that several were very uneven, and I needed him to document this.  I even sent him all of the inspection records from the township, and asked him to check to see whether any of the problems they had noted had been repaired before the CO had been issued.  Mr. Wilner assured me that he would do all of this.  Yet when he got here, he did none of it. 

Instead of several weeks, he spent a total of 3 hours inspecting my house.  Never once did he use a transit, or even a T-Square.  First, in the basement, he made a remark to the effect that, if the lack of vertical rebar had not caused problems in the twelve years that I have lived here, I should not worry about it.  This completely overlooks the fact that the 1993 BOCA code, which was in effect when this house was built, calls for a specific amount of rebar in 8” thick concrete walls having 7 feet or more of unbalanced fill – which my basement walls are and do.  (See Criterium-Lockatong Report, Huffman Report, U.S. Labs Report.)  It overlooks the fact that there are many cracks in my basement walls, and not only is there water coming in through these cracks, but also MUD.  (See photos.)  It also overlooks the fact that there was a consumer fraud claim on the table.  And it was a grossly inappropriate remark, AT BEST, to make in front of Toll’s lawyers and their expert witness, all of whom were present at the time.  I truly believe that any honest, competent professional would not have made a remark like that at ANY time, let alone in front of the defendant and his experts.  Wilner also ignored the fact that the front basement wall is only 8” thick, and that code -- and the plans for the house -- require it to be 10” thick, as it supports a front wall comprised of brick.

Then Wilner decided that the ceilings in the family room are not really crooked, that their crooked appearance was an “optical illusion. That happens a lot.”  These were his exact words.  He made no effort whatsoever to quantify this claim.  At no time did he attempt to measure ANYTHING to determine with certainty whether it is or IS NOT an optical illusion.  I truly believe that any honest, competent professional who was truly interested in identifying structural problems in this house would have done so.  I might add that it has since been measured by another engineer.  It is NOT an “optical illusion.”  (See Criterium-Lockatong Report.)  It is a framing problem.  And there are a number of other very serious framing problems in that room as well, many of which are obvious to the naked eye, but none of which he bothered to investigate.

He then came downstairs to advise us that there are no illegally modified trusses in my attic.  This is when he – and Toll – overplayed their hands.  Because there ARE cut trusses in the attic, and only someone who WANTED to do so could have failed to see them.  (See Criterium-Lockatong ReportD’Alessio Report and photos.)  So the illegally modified trusses do, in fact, exist.  And this is a major code violation, a cardinal sin in the construction industry.   

Wilner then told us that he had found the cause of all of the leaks on the second floor: one tiny hole in the roof!  Five other engineers and one roofing expert had spent a total of not less than 50 hours up on the roof and also poking around in the attic trying to find the cause of all the leaks, and they were unable to do so.  But Wilner claimed he was able to do so with absolute certainty within in five minutes. 

After Wilner left, I discussed his conduct with several of the other engineers and builders who have seen this house – engineers who have confirmed the existence of the very problems that Wilner claims do not exist, and who in many hours could not come up with ways to solve the problems that he claimed to have solved within mere minutes.  I asked them what they thought of Wilner’s behavior.  To a person, they said he appeared to be avoiding finding serious problems with this house.

Wilner also refused to prepare a useable report regarding his findings, despite the fact that this is one of the things he was hired to do.  He refused to include any conclusions as to how the problems with the house should be resolved, but instead kept stating that Toll should be allowed to make the recommendations – which defeated the entire purpose of having my own expert witness.  My attorney asked him twice to amend his report to include recommendations, and both times Wilner refused to do so, nor would he give a reason for his refusal. 

At that point, my attorney explained the circumstances to Judge Ciccone, who allowed me to bring another expert on board.  She allowed us to provide this new expert with all of the reports that had been prepared to date, by all parties, including the neutrals, and to accept or reject their findings.  Unfortunately, she allowed him only two weeks to get the job done.  We tried to impress upon her that this was nowhere nearly enough time for the expert to do the job correctly, but she would not allow us the extra time we sought.  (See Seelig Letter and Ciccone Response.)  By that time, Toll’s expert had had more than 7 years to examine the house.

My expert spent many hours at the house over the next two weeks, examining the problems and taking measurements, and he did complete a report by the cut-off date of October 22, 2009.  As had the neutrals, he determined that the house was so seriously flawed and would be so expensive to repair that it would be more cost-effective to demolish it and rebuild it from the ground up.   Because October 22 was the last date on which the court would accept the report, my attorney hand-delivered a copy to Toll’s attorney, who seemed very surprised that our expert had been able to produce a report within the allotted time frame. 

Judge Ciccone set a trial start date of November 1, 2010, for my case.  On October 15, 2010, two weeks before the scheduled start of our trial, Judge Ciccone turned the case over to Judge Coleman.  Toll immediately filed a motion seeking to have my latest expert disqualified and the case dismissed, claiming that his opinion was “net opinion” and that he had never really inspected the house.  In fact, he had inspected the house more thoroughly than Harald Greve ever had.  He had visited the house at least a half-dozen times, and had spent at least 40 hours at the house measuring various things in order to determine repair costs.  He then created his report, which identifies several major problems that are not included in any of the other reports, and also is the only report prepared to date that has included precise measurements and actual calculations.   (See Dowling Report.)  Nonetheless, Toll’s attorneys claimed that this was a “net opinion.”  To my surprise, Judge Coleman accepted Toll’s argument.  He disqualified my expert, and then granted Toll’s motion for summary judgment. 

When he did so, my current attorney, who had been very reluctant to acknowledge any previous tampering by Toll, called me and said, “I am not a conspiracy theorist.  But something is rotten in Denmark.”  He went on to tell me that most of the law that Judge Coleman cited in support of his decision could not be located, and that the law that could be located was not relevant to my case.

Because I have an attorney friend who is well-versed in “net opinion,” I sent him copies of my expert’s report and Judge Coleman’s ruling.  Once he had read them, he called me and said, “Ellen, I have no idea how Judge Coleman came up with his ruling, but he is absolutely dead wrong on the law.”  Fortunately, a panel of appellate judges thought so too: on July 5th 2011, they reversed Judge Coleman and remanded my case for trial.  (See Appellate Court Ruling.)

Of course, Toll did not like that, so they filed a motion for reconsideration with the appellate court.  The appellate court turned them down.  Toll then petitioned the N.J. Supreme Court for permission to appeal the appellate court ruling.  (As expected, this too would be denied.)  

Toll again began filing motions left and right, one of which requested that Judge Coleman hold a Rule 104 hearing to determine my experts’ qualifications prior to the start of the trial.  Toll’s attorneys claimed that the testimony presented might be embarrassing to their client, and that there was no point in having this testimony in front of jurors and on the record if my expert was only going to be thrown out later anyway.  In September 2011, Judge Coleman denied their motion.  But things would change quickly. 

Toll’s next gambit was to insist that the trial be pushed back until after the N.J. Supreme Court had decided whether to consider Toll’s petition.  Toll’s attorneys advised the court that the N. J. Supreme Court had not yet made a decision about Toll’s petition, but was expected to do so shortly.  We learned from the Supreme Court the next day that the Court had made its decision the previous week, and that Toll’s attorneys had known this when they claimed the decision was still pending. 

The judge rescheduled the start of the trial for November 29th.  Toll then filed many more motions, most of them frivolous – including one to allow the jury to take notes during trial, which is something they are allowed to do by law anyway.  The point of this, of course, was to keep my lawyer busy with motions so he did not have adequate time to prepare for trial, and also to waste my money. 

One of the motions was another request that Judge Coleman hold the Rule 104 hearing prior to the trial, despite the fact that Coleman had just ruled on this – and against Toll – in September.  The motions were scheduled to be heard on November 18th.

On the 18th, my attorney and I arrived in court early, so we could confer before court started.  When we entered the court room, we saw Toll’s team of attorneys – all seven of them -- walking out of the doorway from Judge Coleman’s chambers.  Leading the procession was none other than Doug Yearley, Chairman of the Board of Toll Brothers – yes, THAT Doug Yearley, even though he would deny this when I later approached him and asked if it were he.  I immediately found myself wondering why all of Toll’s lawyers were there so early, why they were in the judge’s chambers, and why Doug Yearley was himself in attendance.  

When Judge Coleman entered the courtroom, he prefaced his rulings on the motions by saying that his findings might well be “devastating” to one of the parties, and he suggested that the parties involved might try to reach some sort of a settlement before he announced his rulings. He then sent us all – minus Doug Yearley, who was now sitting in the far left-hand corner at the very rear of the courtroom – to a conference room to discuss a settlement.  At that point, Tolls’ attorneys gave me my laugh for the day when they offered me $125,000 to shut up and go away – this despite the fact that estimates to repair my house and grounds now exceed $1,000,000 and I have spent at least $350,000 on attorneys, engineers, estimators, and all of the other professionals that I have had to hire as a result of this lawsuit. The fact that they made such a low-ball offer was my first clue that Toll was already cognizant of the rulings the judge was about to make -- I do not believe they ever would have risked this otherwise.

When we returned to the courtroom, I got my second clue.  Despite having ruled two months earlier that a Rule 104 hearing would be held during the trial, when it was my expert’s turn to testify, rather than in advance of the trial as Toll had requested, Judge Coleman did a complete flip-flop, and now decided to hold a Rule 104 hearing in advance of the trial, just so Toll would not be embarrassed by the testimony that would be provided by the witnesses who preceded my expert, in the event my expert were thrown out as a result of the Rule 104 hearing.  (See November 18 Transcript.)

The writing was clearly on the wall:  Toll’s attorneys had given Judge Coleman the basis he needed to exclude my expert witness again.  It was already obvious on November 18th exactly what was going to transpire in Judge Coleman’s courtroom on November 29th when the Rule 104 hearing took place.  And the writing came even more sharply into focus when, after insisting on November 18th that he be allowed to inspect my house for "staging" during Thanksgiving Week, Toll’s attorney suddenly had a change of heart and advised the court that he was withdrawing his request to visit my house prior to the start of the trial – and the scheduled jury visit to the house.”  After our court session on November 18th, he suddenly decided that it was no longer necessary.  (See November 18 Transcript and Newman Letter.)   Given the level of paranoia that Mr. Kozachek had evidenced during the 10 years I had been dealing with him, I do not believe that he would have withdrawn this request had he not already known then that my expert was going to be disqualified, my case thrown out, and the jury visit off the calendar.  Given the extent to which Toll’s attorneys liked to inconvenience and harass me, there is no way they would have passed up yet another opportunity to do so for any other reason.  The mere fact that Doug Yearley was himself in court, only to deny who he was when asked and to try to avoid being recognized by my lawyer and myself, just drove the point home further.  If he had a legitimate reason for being in court, why did he not just admit who he was when I walked over and asked him?  Why all the subterfuge, if he had nothing to hide?

What transpired outside the courtroom after the judge made his ruling was just as interesting.  It was then that Doug Yearley denied who he was when I walked up to him and asked point-blank if it were he.  He then got up and exited the courthouse, waiting for the rest of his retinue outside.  It also then that one of Toll’s attorneys came right out and bullied, threatened, and otherwise tried to intimidate me into accepting the $125,000 settlement offer – in front of multiple witnesses, including my own attorney.  She would then resort to yelling at me across the entire fifth-floor foyer of the courthouse, again in front of multiple witnesses, when her efforts to intimidate were unsuccessful.

At that point, I pressed my attorney to file a motion to get Judge Coleman to recuse himself, but again he insisted he could not do so without proof of wrongdoing.  I disagreed: based upon everything I have read about recusal, a judge can be asked – and expected – to recuse himself if there is even the suggestion of impropriety or impartiality.  (See  Title 28 of the United States Code, Section 455.)   But my attorney did not agree and, as an alternative, suggested that I instead write a letter to Judge Coleman, to be read in court on November 29th prior to the Rule 104 hearing – in which I asked him to recuse himself and stated my reasons for doing so.  (See attached statement.)

As the transcript from November 29th shows, Judge Coleman refused to allow me to read the letter, and refused to recuse himself.  He then went ahead and did exactly what I had known he was going to do since November 18th: he threw out my expert witness, based upon the results of the Rule 104 hearing, and dismissed my case for lack of an expert witness.  (See Rule 104 Hearing Parts 1 and 2.)

I am, of course, appealing: Judge Ciccone had given my expert witness just nine days to review all of the existing documentation, visit and examine the 4400-square-foot house, and prepare his report, despite the fact that Toll’s expert witness had had 7 years to visit and examine it, and despite the fact that we had told her that my expert would need more time than this.  She also had ruled that my expert could not submit any additional reports – so she had in fact denied him permission to do the very thing that Judge Coleman ruled he should have done: prepare an amended report that dealt solely with the warranty issues.  In effect, Judge Coleman dismissed him as a witness because he had obeyed Judge Ciccone’s ruling: he had not done precisely what Judge Ciccone had ruled he could not do!

The transcript of the November 29 hearing is worth reading for several reasons.  It makes clear the lengths to which Toll will go in order to avoid being held accountable for the problems with the houses they build, even when many of those problems are well-documented in writing before you even close on the house.  During the hearing, one of Toll’s attorneys went on for at least 30 minutes about the fact that I had not submitted my punch list correctly i.e., by completing the warranty form and sending it to Toll by certified mail.  According to her, attaching a typed list of detailed descriptions of the problems to a copy of the warranty form – which allows very little room for describing a problem – and then hand-delivering that to the Site Foreman or faxing it to the Punch List Supervisor invalidates your right to repairs under the terms of the warranty.  (Neither of these men ever told me that I had to instead send the punch lists to Toll headquarters by certified mail; they both accepted them, within their respective roles as Toll employees.) 

If Toll were truly committed to providing customer satisfaction, and making things right with their houses, the form of submission would not matter: they would welcome the chance to make things right no matter how I submitted the list, instead of going out of their way to find justification for failing to fix things.   (Many other Toll homeowners have reported similar experiences when trying to get repairs made: as one Michigan homeowner put it, “Nothing is ever Toll Brothers’ fault; everything is always the homeowner’s fault.”)

In addition, despite the fact that I had four eyewitnesses who had seen Michael Donnelly remove all of the topsoil from my $20,000 premium lot and cart it off by truck to another site, and despite the fact that the property is graded toward my house (incorrectly) rather than away from it, Toll’s attorney ludicrously asserted that all of my topsoil had been instead washed away by a storm.  She then asserted that the land had been graded correctly, despite the several reports and many photographs in evidence that prove otherwise.  At one point, she actually said I had invalidated my right under the warranty to have my front wall and door straightened because I had altered the property: I had added a storm door.  I might add that the storm door would not have been necessary had the front door been set in correctly in the first place. 

In short, Toll’s attorney pulled every cheap stunt in the book in an effort to get Toll off the hook for making any and all repairs to my house or property, including those that had been recorded as a result of my single abortive pre-closing walk-through and those that had been acknowledged in writing by Gerry Lewis.  (See Lewis letter.) 

That is where things stand.  I have been advised by several attorneys that I stand a very good chance of winning on appeal.  It will be interesting to see what Toll will do then.  Be assured that whatever they try will be posted here, as will all other ongoing developments in this fiasco.  If nothing else, I expect Toll to try to bully me into taking down this website as soon as they find out about it.  The contents of this website have been vetted by an attorney who specializes in First Amendment litigation but, based upon what I have seen so far, I have concluded that Toll’s attorneys know very little about ethics, and I have to wonder how much they know about the First Amendment.  As soon as I find out, I will update this website accordingly. 

Stay tuned, folks.

Update - September 1, 2012

My appeal has been filed and, with typical pettiness, Toll's attorneys have tried desperately to get it thrown out based not on the validity of the arguments it contains, but on the basis of formatting issues, e.g., the pages in the appendix were not labeled correctly. 

They are also trying to bully me into taking down this website.  They have filed a motion to have me held in contempt of court, thinking they would intimidate me.  They are coming after me for $105,000, which represents a refund of the $80,000 I got as part of the settlement that THEY then got thrown out by a corrupt judge, plus interest.  They think this will intimidate me.  They forget that I am already out my life savings at the age of 67 -- despite having worked two jobs most of my life -- as a result of buying one of their very sub-standard houses and then having to fight them in court for 11 years to get them to bring it up to code.  How can another $105,000 possibly hurt me? 

I will post the papers that I receive from them as soon as I have them, so you can see their pettiness for yourself.

Update - December 26, 2012

Toll has challenged my appeal from every angle possible, and even filed a motion to get it thrown out.  Their motion was denied.  I have more papers to file by January 28th, 2013.  They then have until March 4th to respond, and I have 10 days beyond that to respond to their response.  The legal maneuvers never end.  It is obvious at this point that Bob Toll would rather spend $5,000,000 on lawyers than pay out anything to fix a flawed house.  Is a monstrous ego at work here?  Is it the fact that the floodgates will open once the word gets out that Toll Brothers can be beaten?  If anyone knows the answer, please share it with me.

The good news?  This website has enabled several hundred potential homebuyers to make informed decisions about buying from Toll, and the lost sales have cost Toll far millions than it would have cost them to honor the original settlement.  It is gratifying to know that my efforts have played some small part in enabling these homeowners to avoid what I and so many other Toll Brothers homeowners across the country have been through.

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