Huntsville Christian Academy Files Lawsuit Against Tornado Masters, Jesse Stutts Over Storm Shelter

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A Huntsville school filed a lawsuit Thursday against a local general contracting company in connection to complaints with a Tornado Masters storm shelter.

Huntsville Christian Academy brought the six-count lawsuit against both Jesse Stutts Inc. and now-shuttered Tornado Masters of Alabama, claiming the storm shelter installed at the school in 2009 – with a capacity for 144 people costing $80,000 — was faulty and that the school was misled about quality of the shelter.

The lawsuit does not specify the monetary claims it is seeking.

Tom McGrath, the Huntsville attorney who filed the lawsuit in Madison County circuit court, said this claim is different than claims by private homeowners against Tornado Masters that were settled last year by a judge at a fraction of their worth because the company had limited assets.

“This was a commercial facility that the storm shelter was being installed in,” McGrath said today. “The homes that had storm shelters, in all those cases that I’m aware of, the home owner (obtained) the permit and Tornado Masters installed the shelter. You can’t do that with a commercial shelter.”

Jesse Stutts is touted on its website as the state’s fourth-largest subcontractor. According to McGrath, Jesse Stutts became liable when it acquired the permit to install the storm shelter.

“Jesse Stutts is a general contractor and obtained the permit,” he said. “When a general contractor obtains a permit under state law, they are responsible for the subcontractors and the entire structure meeting the building codes.”

“Even if Tornado Masters has been liquidated, Tornado Masters has insurance coverage. In this particular case, which is different from the home cases, Jesse Stutts is liable for the problems created by Tornado Masters because they pulled the permit.”

The state attorney general’s office began its investigation of Tornado Masters by citing what it described as an unsafe shelter at Huntsville Christian Academy and filed a motion in March 2012 to temporarily restrain the company from doing business and freezing its assets.

In April 2012, Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis O’Dell entered a permanent injunction against Tornado Masters, putting the company out of business.

It led to more than 200 people filing claims against Tornado Masters for a total of $1.5 million. But claimants received less than $1,000 under a December settlement overseen by the court.

From our news partners The Huntsville Times/