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Federal Judge Throws Out Housing Discrimination and Conspiracy Lawsuit Filed by Multi-millionaire Houston Oil Executive

by Houston Agent

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 broker, their realtor, and the purchaser of their historic home last Thursday, saying that the defendants’ request for a directed verdict were “meritorious and should have been granted.”

Juror's in Jury Box

Juror's in Jury Box - Image by Heide Benser/Corbis

The judge issued the opinion and order yesterday 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” because he had made no offer in writing for the purchase of Matt and Sheri Prucka’s former home on Remington Lane near Rice University.

Mr. Petrello, who possesses a law degree from Harvard and worked as the managing partner for the law firm Baker & McKenzie, earned $71.7 million in salary and bonuses between 2006 and 2009. In addition, between 1992 and 2005, he received $362 million from the sale of stock options.

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 15,000-square-foot, $12 million dollar home, a claim that he later dropped from the lawsuit. Petrello’s final verbal offer at $8.2 million was less than the listing price and the Nath’s offer.

In July 2008, Petrello amended his complaint to include housing discrimination and conspiracy stating that the Pruckas’ 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.

“This has been a clear abuse of the legal system by Mr. Petrello to force the Prucka family to sell their home to him,” says Tom Fulkerson, attorney for the defendants. “Mr. Petrello never presented a contract to the Pruckas. Therefore, Judge Hoyt ruled that without ever making a written offer, no offense could have been committed.”

Judge Hoyt’s order that Petrello’s complaint had no standing in federal court followed a final pretrial conference in advance of a second trial. An earlier mistrial was declared in February 2010 when the jury failed to reach a verdict. Subsequently, Judge Hoyt remanded Petrello’s complaint to the lower 55th Judicial District Court of Harris County.

The Pruckas plan to seek recovery of almost one million dollars in legal fees spent to defend themselves in the dispute. “Mr. Petrello caused the Prucka family tremendous personal anguish, as well as the financial resources to defend themselves against a frivolous lawsuit, all because he didn’t get what he wanted – the house next door,” says Fulkerson. “Judge Hoyt saw through the charade and made right what was a terrible assault on the character of some very nice people who only wanted to sell their home to the highest bidder. They deserve to recover the entire cost of their defense against these baseless charges,” added Fulkerson.

Mr. and Mrs. Prucka sold their medical equipment business after developing specialized cardiac diagnostic equipment that is used to treat life-threatening heart problems. The Prucka family has since relocated to Park City, Utah.

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