California judge throws out 'Extreme Makeover' orphans' home claim
By Christopher Rocchio, 03/07/2007
A California judge has thrown out an allegation made by five orphaned siblings who claimed that ABC Television broke a contract to provide them a permanent home after their March 2005 appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.
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 over their eviction from the house.
"We were promised a home. [ABC] broke that promise," Charles Higgins II said when the suit was filed, The AP reported.
However last Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul 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 for Extreme Makeover, according to The AP.
"[ABC generated a] sad, sad story to get ratings, then told them at the end of the day, 'You don't get anything,'" the Higgins' lawyer Patrick A. Mesisca Jr. told Gutman in court on Friday, according to The AP.
But ABC held its ground, as the broadcast network's attorney Mark L. Block told Gutman one could "search in vain" to find language in the contract that supports the orphans claim that they were promised a permanent home.
Despite the ruling, other allegations in the case remain intact, including fraud, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial is scheduled to begin May 14.
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