Lawsuit over massive Pensmore home is settled

Published: Jul. 28, 2017 at 6:32 PM CDT
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A federal lawsuit over the construction of a massive home in southern Christian County has been settled. The settlement avoids a trial that was scheduled to start Monday in U.S. District Court in Springfield. The details of the settlement are not public.

The lawsuit was over the 72,000-square-foot castle-like home called Pensmore on a hilltop south of Ozark. Owner Steve Huff says a construction company intentionally didn’t mix the concrete the way he ordered. He asked for $63 million in damages and said he wanted the home to be torn down and rebuilt.

U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips posted this order about the lawsuit on Friday:

“This case has reached settlement. The trial setting is removed from the docket. The parties are ordered to file either dismissal paperwork or a joint status report by August 4, 2017.”


Previous report from June 29, 2016:

HIGHLANDVILLE, Mo. - It was built to withstand a bomb blast, an earthquake, or the strongest of tornadoes. But a legal storm is now shaking Pensmore to its core.

The core of the massive mansion's strength is Helix, a proprietary material consisting of strong steel fibers mixed with concrete.

Homeowner Steve Huff paid for more than 200,000 pounds to be used. But, a federal lawsuit alleges, Huff didn't get what he paid for.

In 2014, a whistleblower claimed a builder in the project (the Plant Manager of City Wide Construction) cheated Huff by shorting him on the material and hiding the difference (72,000 pounds) so he could later re-sell it.

Huff is suing the company, Monarch Cement and subsidiary City Wide Construction, in the lawsuit. Huff wants $63 million in damages, and for his castle to be torn down and rebuilt correctly.

"We find the plaintiff's allegations of an intentional scheme to short steel fibers to be without merit, and there is no evidence even suggesting there is a shortage,” said an attorney for the defendants.

A new amendment to the complaint reveals where some of that 72,000 pounds of steel fiber may have gone. It accuses the plant manager of City Wide Construction of using the Helix on projects, such as a new home for the company's Chief Financial Officer. That house in Shell Knob was patterned after Pensmore. The lawsuit claims the company officer knew the Helix came from the Pensmore stash, but she paid the plant manager to include it in her own home anyway.

The lawsuit also says the manager in question used Helix to construct a swimming pool in a subdivision in Chestnutridge.


Previous report from May 11, 2016

HIGHLANDVILLE, Mo. -- The owner of the 72,000 square foot Pensmore Castle near Highlandville wants it knocked down and rebuilt, because he believes it wasn't constructed as strong as it should have been. The Steven Huff family is suing the concrete company, claiming it left out a core component to make the structure disaster-resistant.

The Huff family alleges in its lawsuit that the concrete company that worked on Pensmore intentionally shorted the amount of reinforcing materials they were supposed to be putting in the concrete as it was mixed.

Pensmore was designed to withstand an EF-5 tornado or even a bomb blast, with small pieces of a reinforced steel called Helix inside the concrete walls.

But the lawsuit says a former employee of City Wide Construction Products came forward in October 2014, claiming that he and other workers were ordered to short the amount of Helix in the concrete, and the Helix that wasn't used was possibly re-sold.

The lawsuit says he tried to stop the practice, but failed and felt "lousy" about what occurred. The suit says Pensmore did core testing, which confirmed the whistleblower's account. The man also claimed another additive called plasticizer to strengthen the walls, was watered down or not used at all.

We contacted an attorney for City Wide and Monarch Cement Company, named collectively as defendants. In a statement, attorney Michael E. Callahan said, "We find the plaintiff's allegations of an intentional scheme to short steel fibers to be without merit, and there is no evidence even suggesting there is a shortage. The Monarch Cement Company and City Wide Construction Products are known for their high-quality products and longtime commitment to customer service. They will defend their hard-earned reputations against the plaintiff's allegations all the way through trial, if necessary."

The Steven Huff family is asking for $63 million in damages and for specific performance, which would require the defendant to tear down and build Pensmore back right.