First World Problems

Appeals court rules against Anthony Petrello in 5-year Shadyside lawsuit over home sale

Appeals court rules against Anthony Petrello in 5-year Shadyside lawsuit over home sale

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The Nath's long-contested home in Shadyside
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Anthony "Tony" Petrello, right, and wife Cynthia at a dinner party earlier this year in Houston. Cynthia Petrello , Tony Petrello Courtesy of Kaylynn Photography
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The good news for Rahul and Usha Nath is that the four-and-a-half-year legal case over the purchase of their historic mansion in Shadyside is finally over. The bad news is that the man who sued them is still their next-door neighbor.

Anthony Petrello, the CEO of drilling firm Nabors Industries, took his current and former next-door neighbors to court after his verbal offer to purchase the home was rejected. Petrello claims he wanted to buy the house from Matthew and Sheryl Prucka and renovate it to accommodate his disabled daughter, offering $6.5 million before the home was even on the market.

 The judgment concludes that Petrello was not "qualified to purchase" because an oral offer is not considered enforceable under Texas law and his offer was for substantially less money and did not come with "earnest money," making it legally dissimilar. 

The Pruckas instead sold to the Naths, who offered the full asking price, $8.3 million, and gave $75,000 upfront as "earnest money," while Petrello only countered with an oral offer for $8.2 million.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, described the legal battle as "[Petrello] claimed breach of contract in state court — and lost. In federal court, he pursued claims under and related to the Fair Housing Act … and lost." Now he's lost his appeal, as the Fifth Circuit affirmed the ruling of the lower courts.

The judgment by the Fifth Circuit concludes that Petrello was not "qualified to purchase" (a requirement for a violation of the Fair Housing Act, which Petrello asserted due to his daughter's handicap) because an oral offer is not considered enforceable under Texas law and his offer was for substantially less money and did not come with "earnest money," making it legally dissimilar.

The court also struck down Petrello's claim of a "civil conspiracy," since there was no evidence of an FHA violation, and affirmed the attorney's fees awarded by the U.S. District Court — a total of $960,000 to the Pruckas and the Naths for both the trial court and the appeal — as appropriate in part because that amount is lower than what the families actually spent, against a claim the Fifth Circuit describes as "groundless."

Maybe the moral of the story is not to live near Anthony Petrello, who was also the subject of a scathing Vanity Fair article in 2011 about a 10-year standoff over a plot of land in the Hamptons that resulted in a situation that threatens to evict the White family, which has owned and farmed the property since the 17th century.