Strange obtains TRO against storm shelter company

Bryan Cohen Mar. 6, 2012, 1:31pm


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange announced on Monday that he has obtained a temporary restraining order against a North Alabama storm shelter company.

The Madison County Circuit Court granted the request for the order against Tornado Masters of Alabama Inc., Leslie A. Holt, the company's chief operating officer, Grady Holt, an employee of the company, and SafeSteel Inc., a Tennessee business incorporated by the defendants that does business as Factory Direct Tornado Shelters. The company and the employees are based out of Toney.

The court has scheduled a hearing for March 16 to consider a preliminary injunction.

"(The defendants) violated multiple provisions of Alabama's Deceptive Trade Practices Act by soothing people's fear of tornadoes with the false guarantee that their storm shelters will shield purchasers from the most powerful tornadoes," Strange said.

The defendants allegedly represented that their shelters exceeded Federal Emergency Management Agency specifications and represented that the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the shelters and would award grants to reduce the cost to consumers.

The shelters were allegedly inadequately anchored, built on concrete slabs that did not meet the required thickness, poorly welded and built with materials meant to be used indoors. The shelters allegedly had frequent leaks, standing water and defectively designed ventilation shafts allowing for flying debris to enter. The shelters also allegedly posed a risk to occupants on fair weather days due to inadequate or no ventilation.

Strange alleges that the shelters lacked a manufacturer's label, operating instructions or warning information. In addition, the defendants allegedly have not acquired compulsory licenses, including building permits, Alabama Manufactured Housing licenses and city business licenses. The defendants allegedly advertised that they were authorized to build community-sized shelters even though they have not been licensed by the General Contractor's Licensure Board. GCLB licenses are required for projects that cost more than $50,000.

In addition to the restraining order, a receiver has been appointed to protect consumer interests.

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