TAMPA BAY — Fifty Olympus Pools customers have filed more than $1 million in claims in James Staten’s personal bankruptcy case. If a federal judge approves Staten’s petitions, the homeowners won’t get a dime after the former contractor liquidates millions in assets.
The contractor shut down last July leaving more than 400 pools unfinished.
“We are truly the ones that were hurt,” said Pete Sessions, worried that he and others won't recover any of their losses.
This week, Staten’s bankruptcy attorney filed a reorganization plan and asked that the 50 Olympus Pools customers who filed claims be dismissed from the case. Staten’s attorney Joel Aresty does not dispute the customers' claims against the company but says Staten, the individual, is not responsible.
“Ordinarily a company's president or stockholder is not liable for the debts of the corporation,” Aresty said.
Staten asked the bankruptcy court to disallow the $1.4 million fine imposed by state regulators last year. The Department of Business and Professional regulation stipulated Staten pay the fine before being allowed to apply for another pool contractor's license.
Aresty points out Staten lost everything in the bankruptcy and can't be held totally responsible for the company's downfall.
“You must look at COVID 19,” he said. “You have to look at material shortages.”
Staten is also objecting to damages sought by the Florida Attorney General. The AG filed a civil case against the contractor last year after over 200 customers filed complaints.
So, where does that leave all 170 customers who qualified for damages in the state's case? They'll have to apply to the state's construction recovery fund which is limited to $150,000 to cover all claims related to Olympus Pools.
“He is trying to walk away from all of this,” Sessions said. "He had to come up with $26,000 more to get his pool completed, after paying Olympus Pools in full."
Many customers say they are facing paying contractors to finish work Olympus Pools was paid for.
According to the court docket the next hearing is set for the end of February. The Judge is expected to set a schedule for those filing objections to the claims in this case.