Plaintiff Garden Homes by E.L. Inc., owned by E. Leroy Yoder, alleges that the Weises in 2008 hired it to design and build a lodge and the first two homes in the proposed development, and Garden Homes carried out that work as contracted. During construction of the first home, Garden Homes obtained a copyright of its designs.
The Weises then hired Rans Custom Homes to build a third house last year, using Garden Homes’ copyrighted plans, alleges the suit, filed recently in the U.S. District Court in South Bend. The suit claims the Weises gave Rans the Garden Homes plans and directed the third home be built making some alterations to avoid the appearance of a copyright violation.
Rans Custom Homes principal Ryan Rans also is named as a defendant.
“The suit is completely without merit,” Rans told The Tribune Monday. In these economic times, for Garden Homes and Jim Groves (its attorney) to bring suit against a charitable cause, that is trying to improve lives in our community, is a shame.”
Rans declined further comment, citing the pending litigation.
“It’s incomprehensible for a builder to sue another builder who is building a home for people with special needs,” Charlie and Maura Weis said Monday night via telephone from Gainesville, Fla.
“We find it peculiar that a lawsuit that involves a building in the Hannah & Friends project turns into a personal lawsuit against Charlie and Maura Weis instead of against the charity.
“I think if Charlie Weis’ name was not attached to this lawsuit,” Maura Weis continued, “that there probably would be no lawsuit.”
Neither the Weises nor Rans had filed a response to the complaint as of Monday.
The Hannah & Friends development, for adults with special needs, is situated on 30 acres located on the east side of Hollyhock Road, between Auten and Adams roads. It is named after the Weises’ 15-year-old daughter, Hannah, who has developmental disabilities.
The Weises have said they ultimately envision 5.8 acres of pasture, surrounded on three sides by 16 single-family ranch homes, a recreation center, stables for horses, a pond and picnic grounds and a greenhouse.
Charlie Weis is the new offensive coordinator at the University of Florida, but the family maintains a home in the South Bend area and remains committed to the project, Rans said.
Tribune staff writer Eric Hansen contributed to this story.
Staff writer Jeff Parrott: firstname.lastname@example.org; 574-235-6320