Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Brown Recluse House: A Web of Legal Issues

A Missouri couple got more than they bargained for, twice, when they purchased an upscale home next to a golf course in 2007.

First, the couple discovered that their new home was filled with up to 6,000 venomous brown recluse spiders, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Adding insult to injury, the couple prevailed in a lawsuit against the home's previous owners, but was never able to collect the judgment nor were they successful in filing a claim with their insurance carrier.

How did this couple end up tangled in such an unfortunate legal web?

The Spider House Rules: Successful Trial, Unsuccessful Collection

Brian and Susan Trost bought the home in the St. Louis suburb of Weldon Spring for $450,000 in 2007. According to testimony in the civil trial stemming from the lawsuit filed by the Trosts against the home's former owners, the spider problem became apparent almost immediately, with Susan Trost noting the presence of spiders and spider webs -- which had been absent during the couple's final walk-through -- on her first day in her new home.

After attempting to solve the problem using interior and exterior pesticides and other insect extermination strategies, the Trosts filed a claim with their insurance company, State Farm, and sued the home's former owners for not disclosing problems with the house.

Following a jury trial, the Trosts were awarded $472,110 in damages. But the former owners' insurance company, which also happened to be State Farm, claimed that the former owners' policy lacked coverage and refused to pay. The former owners then filed bankruptcy. Although the Trosts have filed suit against State Farm for denying their original claim, they moved out of the house and allowed it to go into foreclosure.

Collecting a Judgment

Although most businesses or individuals who are financially stable will pay a judgment entered against them rather than force the plaintiff to pursue collection, if a judgment debtor refuses to pay or does not have the financial means to pay, it may be difficult to recover the money owed.

Typically, the holder of a judgment can garnish the wages or bank account of the individual owing the judgment. However, in cases where the individual owing the judgment files for bankruptcy, the judgment may be discharged like other debts.

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