Fort Worth Couple Still Fighting City Over Home Demolished by Accident


But in this case, the contractor's attorney had a surprising take on the situation, claiming his client actually did homeowner Jessie Vernon a favor.

"I think Mr. Vernon actually benefited from what my client did," Mark Riable, the contractor's attorney said. "This was not a house Mr. Vernon lived in ... it was scheduled to be demolished, eventually. My client just hastened what was probably inevitable."

The city had previously told Vernon to get a permit to fix up the house or demolish it. He claims he was planning to repair the house to rent it out.

Tom Carpenter, city Attorney for Little Rock, claimed the city will "do everything we can to help," but that the fault lies with the contractor.

"The city's contract was not to tear down the wrong house," Carpenter said. "The city's contract was to tear down the right house ... the people we hired didn't do what we hired them to do. No, I don't think that we have a legal responsibility for that."

But don't worry, the city was offering to be a "good witness" for Vernon in his lawsuit against the demolition company.

For Vernon, that was little reassurance.

"It would cost me money to sue. And I shouldn't have to pay a dime for something that ... already caused damage to me," Vernon said.

According to New Jersey contractor Lou Santora, who has properly demolished dozens of homes, with all the red tape and protocol involved, human error shouldn't even be possible.

Consider the paperwork. "Letters from your asbestos company, letters from the gas company, there's letters from the cable TV provider. There's neighbor notification letters, as a courtesy. There's letters from the sewers company. There's letters from the water company," Santora said. "If you're a competent contractor, things like this shouldn't happen."

Talk is all David Underwood has heard, even though the city admitted it made the error.

In a statement to "20/20," the city said it has "...reviewed City policies and procedures and as a result added a series of additional checks..." But months later, it still hasn't paid the Underwoods.

In fact, even though the house was appraised by the county for years at $82,000 for tax purposes, after the city knocked the house down, the city ordered a new appraisal, in which the price was knocked down to $25,000.

Chad Fillmore, a lawyer for the Underwoods, said they couldn't build anything "close to what they lost" for that price.

When the city declined to speak to "20/20" on camera, ABC News went to the city council's open public meeting to ask for an update. The Underwoods' city council representative told ABC News that the six-month delay is "probably not reasonable," but Fort Worth is negotiating with the family, and he hopes they will soon have a figure agreeable to both parties.

The Underwoods said they still hope they can salvage their dream house and rebuild, but the memories they had -- those have been demolished.

"We're going to have to build a totally new house now," David said. "We're going to do that, but it's just not going to have any kind of special. There's not going to be that tie to my childhood ... If I'd want it torn down, I'd have torn it down."

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