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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Monday, Nov. 6, 201706:45 AM EST

Pro Bono: Substandard roof repairs kept child from home

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Attorney Matt Tonuzi negotiates settlement with contractor.
by: By Kathy Para | The JBA Pro Bono Committee chair

What does a family do when the roofing contractor they hire refuses to remedy its substandard repair work and they can’t afford to hire an attorney?

In this case, it meant that one of the children could not be discharged from a hospital because of the environment in the home.

Legal and medical professionals of the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership and Wolfson Children’s Hospital identified this civil matter and sought legal assistance. Attorney Matt Tonuzi agreed to assist the family and provides this information about his case.

What were the basic facts of your case?

My client is a wife and mother to eight children. The family owns and operates a small business in order to provide for the children.

They purchased a mobile home and, in 2014, sought repairs to the roof through a contractor. Although verbal and written warranties were provided to my client and her family regarding the contractor’s work, the job was poorly executed. The shoddy work resulted in significant leaks throughout their home, which then caused mold growth.

One of their children is diagnosed with leukemia and mold is dangerous to his suppressed immune system. After some of the child’s treatments at the hospital, the child could not be discharged to their home due to the conditions caused by the faulty repairs.

The roofing company refused to provide adequate repairs and stopped taking my client’s phone calls. The family was very worried they would not be able to pay for additional repairs, a critical need due to their son’s illness.

What were you able to accomplish for your client?

Through extended negotiation with the contractor’s attorney, we were able to secure a monetary settlement for the family. The money will allow them to make needed repairs to the home including mold remediation.

Why was the outcome important to your client?

Repairs to the home were critical to ensuring that my client’s son had a safe and healthy place to live while recovering from his cancer therapies.

Why was the experience important to you?

The experience helped me to understand that, just because I’m a construction law attorney, my skill set is extremely valuable to legal aid clients; it is not limited to private, paying clients or large companies.

What is the name of your firm?  In what areas do you practice?

Rogers Towers. Construction litigation and dispute resolution.

What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono involvement?

Offer your assistance in whatever capacity you’re able. The impact of your work will have immeasurable benefit for someone in the community who needs a champion.

In this case, the family was faced with significant stress factors: The inability to pay for repair work badly needed on their home, the serious illness of a child and the inability to care for the child at home. This is a formula for additional uncertainty and hardship in the lives of all members of the family.

Sincere appreciation is extended to Tonuzi for his assistance in this case and to the hundreds of attorneys who are providing advocacy to low-income clients who otherwise would not have a voice in the justice system.

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities are encouraged to contact [email protected]. To review cases in need of placement with pro bono attorneys, go to floridaprobonomatters.org and type in your county in the search field.


 

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