DeAyala Prevails in Landmark Housing Discrimination Case

After three years of litigation in state and federal court including a jury trial, Federal Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed a housing discrimination and conspiracy lawsuit filed by Anthony G. Petrello against Matthew W. Prucka, his wife, their real estate professionals, Heritage Texas Properties and Peggy McGee, and the purchaser of their historic home. Heritage Texas Properties and McGee were represented by Buck Keenan Partner Mano DeAyala. In what may be the largest fair housing lawsuit in the country, whereby Petrello was seeking, in addition to other remedies, the rescission of an $8.3 million home sale, Judge Hoyt found no discrimination or conspiracy to discriminate by Ms. McGee, the Prucka’s realtor.

The judge issued the opinion saying that the plaintiff, oil executive Anthony Petrello, deputy chairman, president and chief operating officer of Houston-based Nabors Industries, Ltd. “failed to establish a federal claim” and that “[t]here is no evidence that McGee engaged in conduct that was unethical, immoral or illegal.”

The lawsuit was filed in December 2007 by Petrello after the Pruckas sold their home for the listing price of $8.29 million to Dr. and Mrs. Rahul Nath. Petrello originally claimed that he had an oral “last look” agreement with the Pruckas to purchase their home next door to his own 17,000-square-foot, $12 million dollar home, a claim that he later dropped from the lawsuit.

In July 2008, Petrello amended his complaint to include housing discrimination and conspiracy stating that the defendants had declined to accept his oral offer because his daughter is disabled. Petrello stated in his testimony that he wanted to turn the Pruckas’ historic home into a facility for his daughter and her medical caregivers.