A Pulaski County circuit judge on Wednesday awarded nearly $200,000 to a 93-year-old widow who sued a contractor authorities said gulled her out of an insurance settlement and her home in 2013.
After an all-day bench trial, during which the defendant represented himself, Judge Tim Fox found in the plaintiff's favor that Marcus Andrew Dupree breached a contract, breached implied warranties, lied to the plaintiff and violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Gretchen Madison of North Little Rock hired Dupree and his company, Northstar Consultants Inc., in 2012 to demolish her 900-square-foot, mold-infested home and replace it with a 1,216-square-foot residence in three months. However, the partially complete home Dupree built was described by state regulators as "poor" and uninhabitable.
Madison eventually had the home demolished and bought a mobile home for the property.
Last month, Fox ruled that Dupree, who failed to respond to one of the plaintiff's motions, could be required to pay any damages assessed against the Jacksonville construction company, which had its license revoked by state regulators during the fallout from Madison's home.
Fox awarded $64,194 in compensatory damages for the money Madison paid Dupree to build the home and $120,000 in punitive damages.
However, Madison's attorney, Jordan Tinsley, said he is concerned his client may never collect the full amount from Dupree, who has twice declared bankruptcy. Still, Tinsley noted that because the damages are tied to a fraud claim, the debt can't be discharged.
"So unless he wants this judgment following him the rest of his natural life, he will have to do something," Tinsley said.
Fox said the plaintiff may also request payment for attorneys fees.
Madison testified Wednesday that she had lived in the North Little Rock home for 49 years when a leak and mold were discovered. An insurance company paid her about $60,000 to replace the home, and Dupree, who had done business with Madison's daughter, well underbid other contractors for the job.
Dupree built the hull of the home, albeit poorly according to several expert witnesses, before running out of money and exceeding several deadline extensions.
He testified that he was simply waiting on money to come in from his company's other jobs, and he attributed the delay to inclement weather and several design changes Madison requested. Had Madison not barred him from her property, Dupree said, he would've finished building the home up to standards.
Dupree stumbled his way through Wednesday's proceedings, walking through the courtroom with untied shoelaces most of the trial. At several points, Fox had to explain elementary aspects of legal procedure to Dupree, who fired his attorney after a disagreement last year.
Fox spent much of the trial visibly and audibly perturbed with both Dupree and Tinsley's lines of questioning.
Dupree didn't react as the judgments against him were announced, only scribbling frantically on a legal pad. He left without commenting.
Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley previously charged Dupree with felony theft in the case, but a jury acquitted him in 2015.
Madison also sued Dupree's mother, Joy Kinman, and his former Northstar partner, Robert Andrew Walker. They settled with Madison a year ago for $20,000, Tinsley said during Wednesday's proceedings.
Metro on 12/07/2017