Give Me Back My RIGHTS Campaign

| 4 Comments | No TrackBacks

A national campaign to stop Binding Mandatory Arbitration (BMA) has recently been mounted by a group of national consumer advocates to help shed light on the growing practice used by various corporations to place "You Can't Sue Me" clauses in consumer contracts. The campaign, entitled "Give Me Back My Rights" is similar to, yet unaffiliated with my book, Give Me Back My Credit. The campaign's website is: Their message is clear--Stop binding mandatory arbitration, and stop stomping on our constitutional right to access the justice system.

It's easy to understand why corporations are so eager to jump on the "You Can't Sue Me" bandwagon while systematically making binding mandatory arbitration the norm. Essentially, BMA quietly sweeps settlements under the rug. Arbitrators are not bound by the law -or by legal precedents the way judges are. The rulings are made by an arbitrator, usually a retired judge, who hears both sides of the story and makes a decision that is confidential and binding to both parties. There is no precedent setting case law and there is no right to an appeal.

Buried in the fine print in the information pamphlets we receive, are often hidden clauses that specifically bar us from suing our credit card companies, insurance companies, banks, or even our computer manufacturers. (This includes both individual suits and class actions). Instead of filing a lawsuit, the consumer is required to submit all disputes to an arbitrator that is hired by the company, and the consumer is often expected to pay the arbitrator's fee too!

Making us waive our right to sue is just another way corporations place themselves above the laws that are created and intended to protect us. By taking away our right to gain access to the courts, corporations no longer have to worry about their wrongdoings being exposed. As a result, if they don't adhere to governmental regulations, who will know about it? Access to the courts is our most effective means of holding companies accountable for their actions and forcing them to adhere to state and federal consumer protection laws. Binding mandatory arbitration does not afford us access to vital and relevant case law that might deter corporations from heaping the same abuses on others.

Without the threat of large fines or penalties for their potential negligence or recklessness, and without consumer access to the courts, corporations have little incentive to assume corporate responsibility. What will force them to take effective measures to ensure that our disputes are handled properly? Consumers now face the expense and duress of utilizing arbitrators who may or may not follow the letter of the law the same way that judges do when presiding over a lawsuit. What happens to our justice system when cases are settled behind closed doors and then confidentially swept under the proverbial rug, leaving not a shred of case law behind for the next victim to use when seeking justice? I can't help but wonder what our founding fathers would think of this new method corporations have found to hide from accountability.

The Give Me Back My Rights Campaign involves both state and national legislative efforts and focuses on educating consumers about the way Corporations have systematically created their own private system of justice and how and why consumers need to fight to protect our rights.

In order to make this campaign work, they need your help. The Give Me Back My Rights Campaign needs consumer stories! Please go to givemebackmyrights and send your stories to The best way to shed light on any important social issue is to put a human face on it. Your story can help them-help us. Your story can illuminate what happens to consumers when we are denied access to justice and "You Can't Sue Me" clauses are used to avoid accountability when consumers have been wronged.

Please read Why you should be afraid of mandatory arbitration agreements" posted by Cyrus Dugger. There, you will also find a true story written by Jordan Fogal of Houston TX "...if you were an arbitrator would you rule against your continuous meal ticket or against one poor homeowner who will probably never be able to afford another home in their lifetime?"

Thinking of buying a home? Beware! A must see...

For more insight see links at creditboards

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:


What Denise calls "You Can't Sue Me" clauses also are very common in employment -- often buried in employment applications or the sheaf of papers employees sign when they first start work. Check out this page of the website of the National Employment Lawyers Association: NELA is a founding member of the "Give Me Back My Rights" coalition.

Tremont Homes builds for you again and yet again!

When you buy your Tremont Home ... realize that in your earnest money contract you are giving away your right to sue your builder. If you do not find everything wrong with the subject property,( all of the defects during your walk though) ... you are screwed. You will need more than an average inspection to catch them. They do not disclose defects, water intrusion, mold or faulty roofs. They do however do a great job of hiding them. They seem to have contempt for their own buyers. You will need an air quality test, moisture tests, an engineering and architectural report. It may cost you a little more up front, but maybe it will keep you from being homeless in less than two years with a 30 year mortgage.

Tremont and Stature Construction have been thrown out of the Better Business Bureau and used as the BBB's poster child for bad business: As Tremont/Stature Construction. Be sure you find out who is actually building the Tremont house no matter what their signs say.

These homes have the eye candy to entice you.
But we have houses with eye candy...and thirty year mortgages than didn't last two years. Some have been empty for two or three years. No one will buy them and they sit growing mold and deteriorating.

These men built Hyde Park Crescent and admit in their own sworn testimony they knew all 44 houses were defective when they sold them. They also knew these homes had toxic mold. but do not consider that a problem.

They had many decks needing complete repair, leaks and other problems on their Knox Street development.

Thomas Thibodeau and Jorge Casimiro and Armad Al Bana were the general partners that bought you the 3 year old uninhabited Tremont Tower on Yupon and Westheimer. Drive by that fiasco, please.

They were fired building the police station in Bunker Hill after the job was 7 months behind and had $120,000 dollars worth of mold remediation.

They were not allowed to register, yet another company with the TRCC because of the problems, complaints and the fact that the head of their legal department and warranty division was a convicted felon.

They have new projects all over town including. Memorial Park Village 11, Sheller Street, 77007, This new projects is just laying in wait for you in presale.

Jorge Casimiro remains on the Harris County Housing Authority: even though he is being sued by many in Hydepark Crescent and other developments. These builders have on going cases in court and in AAA arbitration.

Please check them out on the Internet under HOBB, Homeowners for Better Building and HADD, Homebuyers against Defective Dwelling: Both are national organizations that try to warn consumers. These builders can also be can be read about under Tortdeform, Ralph Nader's web sight. Or google my name Jordan Fogal.

Ask your Tremont salesman if Tremont houses are of such excellent quality ... and built by such sterling individuals, why they need to be protected from responsibility by arbitration clauses? Ask them if they believe in their product will they sell you a home without one?

This group of individuals made." Contractors from Hell," in people magazine and were the subject of a seven page expose in "Mother Jones Magazine." Hopefully this information will assist you in making a more informed decision.

"He will cheat without scruples, who can cheat without fear."
Thomas Jefferson

This article in Money Magazine is no different than what happenings everday, here in Houston. All over the US, big bad Builders continue to fleece the public and prosper enormously. The small bad builders takes advatage of a few, the big bad builder take advantage of entire subdivisions and no one does anything.
George Washington said: "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is a force: like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful Master, Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action." That Master has reduced us to subjects instead of citizens. Our story was in Washington Monthly, People and Mother Jones Magaines, nobody cared and nothing changed.

Dark side of the housing boom: Shoddy work
Steps you can take if you find yourself living in a poorly made home.

By Sarah Max, Money Magazine contributing writer

February 14 2007: 11:07 AM EST

(Money Magazine) -- Less than a year after moving into her new 2,100-square-foot house in Lenexa, Kans., Susan Sabin has strung up lemon lights in her front window.

The lemons, she says, go perfectly with the home's most prominent features: jammed doors, warped windows, bent pipes and cracked walls. "The house is essentially splitting in two," says Sabin.

At the peak of the recent housing boom, home buyers scooped up a million newly built homes every year while homeowners poured more than $200 billion into renovations. But now stories of shifting soil, leaky roofs, damaged stucco and other construction defects abound.

Though many builders have worked to improve the quality of their houses over the past decade, says Alan Mooney, president of Criterium Engineers, a national engineering firm, the building frenzy also opened the door for unskilled labor, unscrupulous contractors and untested products.

"When everyone is out there building as fast as they can, that does result in more defects," he says.

Contractor problems rank among the most common consumer complaints, according to the Better Business Bureau, and a recent Criterium Engineers study found that 17 percent of new residential construction projects inspected by the firm in 2006 had at least two significant problems.

If you've been gnashing your teeth over defects in your new or recently renovated home (and complaining to the builder hasn't solved them), it's probably cold comfort that you're not alone.

What do you do? A lawsuit is bound to be expensive and messy, if you can even get in front of a jury at all; many builder's contracts nowadays include a binding-arbitration clause that essentially waives your right to a jury trial.

Real estate flipper stung by slow market

Of course, your best bet is to catch the problem early, before you've paid for the work. But even after the job is long done, you still have a powerful tool on your side: the builder's need to protect his reputation.

Here's how to evaluate the likelihood that you'll be able to get your home repaired at minimal cost, and your plan of action.

Check your warranty

Your builder or remodeler likely gave you what's called an "express" warranty, which typically covers everything from cosmetic flaws to serious defects for a year (most common) to 10 years (pretty rare).

If the warranty names the defect you're complaining about, gather your documentation and ask your contractor to repair the damage at no additional charge. If your warranty has expired, you aren't necessarily out of luck.

Depending on the state you live in and the nature of the defect, your house may still be covered by a so-called implied warranty of habitability for another seven to 10 years. But it will be up to you to prove that the defects are so severe that they are a health or safety hazard.

Learn how to spot a real defect

Your next step is to figure out whether your problem is a bona fide defect under the terms of the warranty (or in the eyes of an arbitrator) or what home builders define as an acceptable imperfection.

"There is no such thing as a perfect house," says Mooney. "A lot of what people consider defects are really not defects."

According to the National Association of Home Builders' performance guidelines, small cracks in the interior concrete slab are normal; only those exceeding 3/16 of an inch should be repaired. Hammer marks or nail pops visible within six feet are acceptable, but marks you can see farther away are not.

You may not agree with these definitions, but it's tough to fight them. (You can order a copy of the NAHB's "Residential Construction Performance Guidelines" for $39.95 at

Gather the evidence

Document problems with photos and detailed notes. Record everything from conversations with your builder or contractor to the exact time - and the weather conditions - on the day, say, your basement flooded.

"Make the assumption that this will end up in a significant dispute," says Mooney.

To bolster your case, you may need to pay for expert advice. An independent inspector or structural engineer will charge about $250 to $500 to give your house a full examination, along with a detailed report of the problems at the heart of your dispute.

Small projects that pay off big

After Ann and David Richardson's contractor put a two-story addition on their Kansas City house last year, it failed city inspections twice. The couple then hired an engineer who found that, among other problems, inadequate roof support was putting pressure on the walls and forcing them to bow.

"He said the walls were life-threateningly out of plumb," says David. Faced with this assessment, the contractor agreed to do the repair (though he later declared bankruptcy before he finished).

Find greater strength in numbers

If your housing development was constructed by a single builder, see if your neighbors are having similar complaints. "You'll often find that their houses are having the same problems as you," says Nancy Seats, president of Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings, a group that helps homeowners fight back against construction defects.

After Pam and Jeff Cobbs noticed that the windows on their new home in Bend, Ore. leaked during rain storms, they teamed up with other neighbors who were having similar problems.

As it turned out, the windows and siding on more than 20 houses on the block had been installed improperly, causing water damage and, in some cases, mold.

Just a few months after the group complained, the builder sent in crews to remove all of the siding and trim, reinstall the windows, wrap the houses, put on brand new siding and repaint everything.

Know your state rules

If you aren't bound by a binding-arbitration agreement and you think you might have a case for a lawsuit, be aware that in recent years, 30 states have adopted "notice and opportunity to repair" laws, which require homeowners to give builders a chance to assess and remedy the problem before they go to court.

Typically, you have to submit a written complaint to the builder or contractor, who then has a certain amount of time to inspect the property and make repairs - usually up to 90 days.

Unfortunately, these laws, designed to protect builders, says Janet Ahmad, president of Home Owners for Better Building, don't obligate the builder to fix your problem (after an inspection, they may tell you that the fault is unrelated to their construction).

But your builder may patch up your home to avoid a lawsuit. If not, you are probably free to sue. To find out about your local "fix it" laws, start by calling your state attorney general's office.

If all else fails, get creative

When the first cracks began appearing in Susan Sabin's home shortly after she moved in last June, she contacted Pulte Homes, which sent in engineers and contractors to repair minor problems. But Sabin still believes they're ignoring major defects.

"They keep fixing the symptoms," she says. "I want them to fix the source of the problem."

So Sabin has strung up lemons and opened her house to anyone who wants to see the cracks. Soon after, her story made the local news.

Pulte, which says the problems with the home are a result of soil expansion underneath, has so far not agreed to rebuild Sabin's home from scratch. But it certainly is not ignoring her complaints.

"Structurally her home is as sound as any other home we've built in the city," says Todd Lipschutz, Pulte's division president in Kansas City. "We will make the necessary repairs."

Don't build a lemon

Know your builder. Make sure your builder is licensed with your state, and see what complaints have been filed with the attorney general's office. Get references, but remember that a builder isn't likely to refer someone who has complained. A better bet: Ask people in the neighborhood what they think of their house and how the builder handled any problems.

Question whether the builder is in over his head. Many builders don't have the equipment or the technical expertise to deal with very large projects. So if your home is the largest project the builder or contractor has ever done, proceed with caution. The same holds true if it's the company's first big housing development.

Have a lawyer read your contract. If it includes a binding-arbitration clause, you'll waive your right to a trial. Ideally, you want to strike this section or at least ask to name what arbitration firm will be used, says Nancy Seats, president of Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings. Check that the warranty spells out what problems are covered.

Be a regular at the job site. Show up frequently while your house is in the process of being built or remodeled and ask questions. For a big project, consider hiring an inspector or an engineer to look things over.

My name is Jordan Fogal. I was born on a farm in Taylorville, Alabama.I watched animals and insects. I learned they have a special sense concerning weather changes. For example ants will build higher hills right before it rains so the water does not run inside.We the people are also like these worker ants. We sense the imminence of a storm before the obvious. We know our groceries are costing more. We know the dollar does not go as far. We feel the pressure of our co workers being laid off. We know we must then do the work of two or we may not have a job at all. We get the same pay and are afraid to complain. We have families to feed. We knew there was a recession long before the mention of the word. When the economic sanomie was finally recognized by our economic geniuses, they blamed us, the stupid worker ants that bought more than we could afford. We the people: who work, pay our taxes and follow the rules of the law are the ones to blame?
We were too busy working to think up ways to cheat others out of their hard earned money. But those in power have made the path of their ill gotten gains difficult to trace with all the corporate high jinks.
Greed has infected corporate America and our government. They no longer work for the people who voted for them.They are beholden to big business. Big business bought their seats and their votes. We have no voice. We spend hours and days, we needed to work, trying to reach "our" consumer protection agencies and "our" representatives.
We are shown over and over just how insignificant we are, like the worker ants serving the queen. Our job is to work and shut up. Road blocks are in place so our voices are silenced. We try to call and are met with computerized voices that send us no where except to other agencies that send us to other agencies that keep us on hold and play music for us. If by chance a human should be reached it is not their fault, it is not their responsibility, and we are referred or rerouted or... oops you are disconnected. Hours we waste taking to computers. They wonder why consumer confidence is so low? We are beyond frustration. We are a nation of angry people. And from this womans' prospective we have every right to be angry. We write emails that disappear in the black hole of cyberspace. If they get a response it is a computer generated, signature stamped email or letter that does not even address the subject in question.
Millions of us have been neatly hidden under the title sub primes. We know what really happened. But no one will listen because then action would have to be taken. A blind eye was turned and now knee jerk reactions pay the real culprits. And they pay them again with our money. Bail outs... pay offs to make us, the stupid people think we will be the recipients of assistance. The government can give no money it does not take from someone else.
When the worker ants are destroyed who will feed the queen?

Leave a comment

A memoir exposing the steep price consumers pay when facing mortgage servicing errors, inaccurate credit reporting, illegal debt collection practices, identity theft and weak consumer protection laws. THE BOOK » DENISE'S STORY »