Legal Question in Personal Injury in California

Was contacted by a major network regarding doing a remodeling show. Soon after the filming ended I started noticing a foul smell coming from one of my walls. I contacted the general contractor (gc) and he said it was probably just a dead mouse and to let nature take its course and let it dissipate. A couple weeks later we contacted the gc again and told him that the smell was getting worse and asked that he come and check it out. He told us to contact the production company first because he needed permission before coming out. When contacting the production company, we were told that their obligation as well as any obligation from the general contractor (gc) or their sub contractors was complete and if we called one of them out we would be billed and held responsible for it.

I tried several other times to get the gc down and to get the production company to send someone out, stating each time that the smell was getting worse and seeming to be more and more potent. We described the smell as a dead animal and rotten eggs. All of our requests were denied repeatedly by both parties.

A couple of days ago the smell was so bad that we had no choice but to use our savings to hire another plumber. He immediately knew the smell was sewer water, and told us he would have to open up the walls in order to find the source. Luckily the first place he opened he was able to see that the original plumber, who the production company hired, had forgotten to connect one end of the sewer line for the house which caused it to drain into the soil under the house. We immediately contacted the gc and let him know what we found, and he stated that after discussing it with the production company, that we could call the plumber out but we would be responsible for his time and he would bill us for the visit.

When the original plumber got to our home, it didn't take him long to realize the mistake he had made. He had his guys come and vacuum out 190 gallons of waste water, which they then poured into our yard. The original plumber also scheduled an Emergency Restoration Services company to come out and do the cleaning. The Emergency Restoration Services guys classified the sewer water as a category 3 waste, but apparently didn't do a complete job because its been over 24 hours since they finished and my house still smells like rotten eggs and rotting flesh.

During the last three months, before we ever knew anything about this leak) my entire family has been getting sick. My son and I were diagnosed with asthma, when there was never any sign of it before, I have had numerous CT Scans, MRI's and other tests done because of these intense headaches I started having, as well as other minor ailments, that once the leak was discovered, our doctors were able to pinpoint why we had been getting them, when before they could never give us a medical reason why all of it was happening. I was even in the ER twice for the headaches and shortness of breath. I would like to mention that all of us were in great health before this.

Before filming we started, we were required to sign a contract with the production company on behalf of the cable network and the contractors that worked in our home. It basically states everything we had to do and that it was the sole discretion of the producers if they ever had to do anything in return, that we were doing this for the sole reason of "consideration". At the bottom of this long contract that stated everything that was expected of us while putting no obligation on them, there was a "Release, Agreement Not To Sue, & Indemnity" clause that stated we hold them harmless to "WITHOUT LIMITATION, CLAIMS RELATING TO ANY ALLEGED OR ACTUAL ACTS, OMISSIONS, NEGLIGENCE OR MISCONDUCT"

Does this mean we are basically out of luck and cant file a lawsuit even though they messed up big time when working on my home and then refused to fix it and repeatedly instructed any of their contractors NOT to come down as well?

Thank you in advance

Asked on 8/24/13, 12:26 am

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2 Answers from Attorneys

Timothy McCormick Libris Solutions - Dispute Resolution Services

A release of unknown claims and claims made prior to the liability occurring is invalid except in the case of hazardous activities. It is extremely unlikely that the release will hold up in court.

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Answered on 8/26/13, 11:47 am

Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

Your remedy is to sue all parties involved in this and let them fight it out among themselves. I doubt any court is going to leave you without recourse for this. However, since this is still being worked on by the plumber and company, you are premature about suing. If they fully clean up and solve the problem and repair the house, there will be no need to sue unless you incur substantial financial damages. If you end up needing to sue, or need legal intervention to get them to perform, feel free to contact me.

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Answered on 8/26/13, 1:36 pm

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