Jeff Bagwell is going to have to pay his landscaper after all. A jury decided that the former Houston Astro and Hall-of-Famer will have to remit F&G Landscape Inc. $166,000 for completed work that he had approved, plus another $95,000 in legal fees, according to a story in the Houston Chronicle.
The verdict came after a weeklong trial concerning Bagwell’s alleged stiffing of the Houston area landscape company for work it completed on a $1.3 million project at the former slugger’s home in the elite Hunters Creek Village area.
The 51-year-old former infielder countersued F&G, saying that a former friend took advantage of him because of his wealth. He sought $230,000 in reimbursement for overpayment plus fees.
The jurors listened as the lawyers for both sides went over the details and invoices for the elaborate ditch project Bagwell ordered in his front yard abutting the street. They heard how the drainage system he wanted, one that involved building concealed culverts underneath his lawn, required a special permit.
David Fettner, the attorney for F&G’s owner Kevin Gruber, is reported to have said that the ordinance applying to that culvert project was so specific, so “trailblazing” and “pioneering,” that it came to be known in Hunters Creek Village as “the Bagwell ordinance.”
“Mr. Gruber said Mr. Bagwell told him he wanted his property to be (expletive),” Doggett said in his closing argument, according to the story. “Therefore, he essentially has a blank check to do whatever he wants because Mr. Bagwell wants it to be (expletive).”
The story reports that Bagwell’s lawyer Jeff Doggett told jurors how Gruber befriended the former ballplayer during several years of projects and then deliberately took advantage of his wealthy customer, charging exorbitant rates and adding 20 percent markups for supplies.
The contractor testified that he agreed to charge a fair price, but that’s not what happened, Doggett said, according to the article.
“They invoiced Bagwell $1.49 million,” the story quotes Doggett as saying in court. “He certainly didn’t agree to that. If he agreed to anything, he agreed to pay a reasonable price. Mr. Bagwell always acted in good faith. He paid $1.3 million based on the trust he had with Mr. Gruber. He did that without knowing what the costs were. He did it on faith. He did it because he trusted it would be a fair price.”
Nonetheless, the of jury of six men and six women found for the contractor, and now Bagwell will have to pay up.
According to the article, the jurors were unfazed by Bagwell’s celebrity status as a former Astro. A male and a female juror (they declined to give their names) who were questioned as they exited the courthouse were quoted saying that no one on the panel had been particularly starstruck by the defendant. The female juror reportedly added, “We like him and we are fans, but we had to be fair too.”
Bagwell was quoted as saying that he accepted the verdict but was disappointed that a contractor he had relied upon was “allowed to abuse his trust until the bills got out of control.”
“You get taken advantage of — it’s just a continuing thing that happens whether it’s about a ton of money or a little bit of money, people get taken advantage of all the time,” Bagwell continued, according to the story. “When you do the right things and you try and be a good person, you get sued over somebody taking advantage of you.” He added, “F&G is a company that goes out and puts people in bad positions. They’re getting away with it.”
Doggett is reported to have said, “We are disappointed the jury did not see things the same way we did. Mr. Bagwell stood up for what he believed was right, but we understand that when you go down to the courthouse it doesn’t always work out.”