Family says TV show left an unhappy ending By Shia Kapos
Special to The Tribune
Published July 21, 2005
A Lemont-area family featured last year on Fox's "Renovate My Family" filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the network, the Hollywood production company, an Illinois developer and DuPage County, claiming shoddy work created safety hazards in their home.
Gary and Sharon Rosier were selected for the reality show because their home needed to be made accessible for their son Steven, 18, who lost the use of his limbs after a snowboarding accident two years ago. When the seven-day project was done, the Rosiers say, they found wobbly railings, dangerous and incomplete electrical work and inadequately designed rooms.
"This family had already been dealing with the tragic situation of their son's horrible accident," said their attorney, Mark Belongia. "Then they went from the thrill of someone offering to get help to this situation, where their entire lives have been made worse."
The Rosiers signed a contract with Rocket Science to be part of the reality home-makeover show, which has been canceled but will air never-seen episodes starting Aug. 8. Their lawsuit says Rocket Science used pressure tactics and gave the Rosiers false information--including promises to find doctors to cure Steven-- to get their cooperation.
The producers, the Rosiers say, promised to bring joy to a family torn apart after Steven's accident. The goal of the show, according to Fox's Web site, was to make the home accessible to Steven by adding a wheelchair ramp, wider doorways and an exercise pool.
The work was done in seven days, which TV industry experts say was designed to create tension and bring viewers to the show.
When the renovated home was "revealed" to the Rosiers on July 23, 2004, producers had to re-film the scene a few times because the family didn't look happy enough, Gary Rosier said.
"We were horrified at what we saw," he said.
The suit also says that general contractor David Dressler Inc. performed "incompetent" and "negligent" work on their home. The suit lists some of the "hundreds" of problems with the renovated home: smoke alarms that didn't function; mold growing inside the house; exposed electrical wiring; the furnace installed in an inaccessible crawl space; and improperly installed plumbing, electrical wiring and railings along the wheelchair ramp. The Rosiers say the refurbishment also eliminated needed storage space, forcing them to use boxes throughout the home to hold their belongings.
Work done in Steven's bedroom and bathroom also is problematic, his parents said during a recent tour of their home.
Round doorknobs were installed instead of the latches Steven needs because he has limited use of his hands. And once he wheels into the specially designed shower, Steven says, he can't reach the faucet.
The lawsuit also says DuPage County failed to inspect the home, a claim chief inspector Steve Cyrier says "is not true."
"It was done. It happened ... I did some of the final inspection. At the time of inspection it [the house] met code," Cyrier said, adding that he couldn't explain without more research why the Rosiers or their attorney haven't been given a copy of the final report.
He acknowledges there could be problems with the home, but he said they aren't the kind of things a final inspection would reveal.
"If something gets built in a week, you can expect problems," he said. "We just do the best we can. The code is a minimal standard."
Dressler, a high-end home builder in northern Illinois, did not respond to repeated calls to talk about the Rosier case.
Fox officials referred calls to Rocket Science. Matt Laviano, business and legal affairs manager for the producer, said he could not comment on pending litigation, but before the lawsuit he had said Fox and the production company were trying to find a way "to make everyone happy. ... We want to find a way to work this out."
The Rosiers say their original home essentially was paid for and had the homey touches of Gary Rosier's carpentry expertise. After the renovation, the home's estimated value was $350,000, their lawyer said, "and it needs $350,000 in repairs. It's essentially worthless."
The Rosiers' lawsuit seeks monetary damages and asks that a judge set aside the contract based on "fraudulent inducement in getting the family to sign," Belongia said. Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune