California judge dismisses 'Extreme Makeover' orphans' home claim
By Christopher Rocchio, 07/17/2007
It looks as though the five orphaned siblings featured on a March 2005 episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition won't be receiving a new house from ABC anytime soon.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul Gutman dismissed a case against ABC Television filed by the five Higgins orphans who alleged the broadcast network broke a contract to provide them a permanent residence following their appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The dismissal came a week after Gutman granted a motion for summary judgement, according to The AP, which ruled the five siblings failed to prove their case against ABC; Home Editions' production company; as well as the house's builders.
The five Higgins orphans -- ranging in age from 14 to 21 -- were featured on the reality series when renovations of a house belonging to the Leomitis family in Santa Fe Springs, CA took place. The Higgins and Leomitis families had attended the same church and the five-member Leomitis family took the Higgins in after both their parents died in the spring of 2004.
However when the Extreme Makeover crew was finished, it was not happily ever after, as the Leomitis family evicted the Higgins. Last summer, ABC told the orphans it could not help them because the 24-page contract they signed did not give the Higgins any legal rights to the new home. In July, California's Court of Appeals allowed the Higgins to sue ABC and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition over their eviction from the house.
In March, Gutman ruled that language in the contract the Higgins signed with ABC did not entitle the orphans to an ownership interest in the Santa Fe Springs home built by Extreme Makeover. However despite his ruling, other allegations in the case remained intact, including fraud, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, with a new trial scheduled to begin in May.
But Gutman's dismissal of the case brought an end to the charges brought forth by the Higgins' children -- at least for the time being.
"It's something we can bring to the court of appeal, and we will," the siblings' lawyer, Patrick Mesisca Jr., told The AP.
While ABC, Home Editions' production company, as well as the house's builders may be in the clear based on the dismissal, the same apparently can't be said for the Leomitis family, who according to The AP, remain party to the lawsuit because the motion for summary judgement was only related to business entities. However the Leomitis' lawyer, Robert English, told The AP that Gutman's decision "helps his clients."