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No legal fees for warranty suit (vetoed bill)

Published (5/29/2009)
By Mike Cook
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Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill that would have made homeowners who successfully sue a builder or contractor for a warranty violation eligible to receive reasonable attorney fees and any other suit-related costs.

“The availability of legal fees can prolong litigation, and it does little to address the underlying issue of home defects,” Pawlenty wrote in his veto letter. “Moreover, attorney’s fees are typically available only in limited circumstances, and Minnesota should be careful not to overreach in that regard.”

Supporters said that builders, contractors and their insurance companies often drag out a case, hoping a homeowner will exhaust their financial resources and settle for less than needed to repair their home.

The bill also would have required the commerce and labor and industry commissioners to work with interested parties to review homeowner warranty statutes and find ways to make such agreements more effective for all parties and report to the Legislature. Among the parties that would have been consulted are the construction section of the Minnesota State Bar Association, Builders Association of Minnesota, Association of General Contractors and homeowner and consumer representatives.

“I support provisions in the bill that would bring interested parties together to develop a timely and prescriptive process for resolving homeowner warranty disputes without litigation,” Pawlenty wrote. “My administration will move forward with that process even though this legislation was vetoed.”

Rep. Marsha Swails (DFL-Woodbury) and Sen. Kathy Saltzman (DFL-Woodbury) sponsor the bill.


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