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Tornado Masters Ruling

Tornado Masters Ruling

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Published by: The Huntsville Times on Apr 03, 2012
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04/03/2012

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IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF MADISON COUNTY, ALABAMA
STATE OF ALABAMA,)Plaintiff,))V.)Case No.: CV-2012-000187.00)GRADY HOLT,)LESLIE A. HOLT,)SAFESTEEL INC., a corporation, and )TORNADO MASTERS OF ALABAMAINC., a corporation,)Defendants.)
ORDER GRANTING PERMANENT INJUNCTION AND OTHER RELIEF
This matter came to be heard by the Court on March 16, 2012. At that time, the Courtconsidered Plaintiff’s Verified Complaint for Injunctive, Declaratory and Other Relief, and thePlaintiff’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Appointmentof Receiver. All parties to this matter were served with notice of the hearing, providing all partiesthe opportunity to address the Court concerning the pending Motions. The State of Alabama wasrepresented at the hearing through its Office of the Attorney General, and the Defendantsappeared through counsel. Also present was the Receiver appointed by the Court on March 5.The State served all Defendants but SafeSteel, Inc., by personal service on March 5. Nine dayslater, SafeSteel was served by personal service on Grady Holt. Defendants have not filed anAnswer or any other responsive pleading.The Court has considered the testimony and evidence presented at the PreliminaryInjunction hearing along with the State’s Verified Complaint for Injunctive, Declaratory andOther Relief, and the Plaintiff’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, PreliminaryInjunction and Appointment of Receiver. Based upon the foregoing, and upon a full
ELECTRONICALLY FILED4/3/2012 2:24 PMCV-2012-000187.00CIRCUIT COURT OFMADISON COUNTY, ALABAMAJANE C. SMITH, CLERK
 
consideration of the record in this action, the Court makes the following findings of theprocedural history of this action, uncontested facts and findings of fact, conclusions of law, andissues the following Orders in response to the Motions of the State:A.PROCEDURAL HISTORYThe State filed a verified complaint with supporting affidavits seeking a TemporaryRestraining Order in the Madison County Circuit Court on March 5, 2012, pursuant to Ala. Code§ 8-19-8 (1975). An emergency
ex parte
Temporary Restraining Order hearing was held onMarch 5 with Judge Donna Pate presiding because the undersigned judge who was assigned thiscase was conducting a jury trial in another case. After considering the State’s testimony andevidence, Judge Pate granted the Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and appointed aReceiver, William J. Gibbons, Esq., to oversee Tornado Masters of Alabama, Inc., and SafeSteel,Inc. Judge Pate set the hearing before the undersigned on the State’s Preliminary InjunctionMotion for March 16. Upon the conclusion of the Preliminary Injunction hearing on March 19,the Court renewed the Temporary Restraining Order and Appointment of Receiver pending adecision on the request for preliminary injunction.B.FINDINGS OF FACT - DECEPTIVE TRADE PRACTICESThe State has brought allegations of multiple violations of Alabama’s Deceptive TradePractices Act. Having considered all of the evidence and testimony properly before it, this Courtmakes the following findings of fact:1.Defendants Leslie and Grady Holt operated two businesses in Alabama, both of which ostensibly sold tornado shelters to the public. In conducting business, both companies usedonline and hard-copy advertisements to represent that all of their shelters exceeded specifications
 
of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standard number 320 and wouldwithstand the destructive force of an “EF-5” tornado (as rated on the Enhanced Fujita Scale).2.Similarly, the Court finds that Tornado Masters, through Leslie and Grady Holt,advertised that the concrete and anchors in the shelters met FEMA specifications, that TornadoMasters offered only structurally engineered doors, and that Tornado Masters was fully licensedand insured. The vast majority of the State’s evidence was uncontroverted. No officer of eithercorporate defendant or any of the individual defendants offered testimony. Because multiplewitnesses were both believable and unchallenged, the Court finds that Leslie Holt did state thathis shelters had been tested at Texas Tech University where they met approval.3.The Court finds and there is substantial evidence admitted that none of thoseshelters on which the Court received testimony and documentary evidence exceed nor do theymeet FEMA 320. On this point, the Court has considered testimony and evidence from Dr.Donald Kinser and Mr. Larry Keith Dunbar, a defense witness. Because Dunbar has neither seennor inspected any of Defendants’ shelters including those that Kinser examined, and becauseKinser testified that most of the shelters did not match the defendant’s own designed drawings,this Court finds Dunbar’s testimony to be of limited value. Kinser’s testimony and reports makeclear that he is qualified to reach conclusions on the characteristics and quality of the shelters.Kinser conducted a thorough review of the background materials, and his conclusions about theshelters are comprehensive, detailed, and authoritative. The Court finds the testimony of Dr.Kinser to be compelling and the Court finds his research, methodology, and conclusionssubstantially and inadequately challenged by the Defendants.4.The Court finds, based on expert testimony, that, as to the shelters on whichtestimony was elicited, many would not withstand an EF-5 tornado. Given that the Defendants

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