State investigating builder of home that flipped during Rutherford County tornado

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Tornadoes cause serious damage but it is rare to see a single home sustain major damage while others are left unscathed. During a November tornado outbreak, a home in Christiana was torn off its foundation and flipped onto its roof.

41-year-old Angie Walker and 14-year-old daughter were inside the home at 7812 Midland Road on November 6 when an EF-2 tornado hit it. 

Angie was killed while her daughter was able to crawl out of the home with minor injuries.

“If human error is to blame for the loss of my kid’s mother, my wife, something should be done about that,” Scott Walker told News 2.

Walker is now suing one of the builders of the home. 

More: Husband of woman killed in tornado files lawsuit against home builder

The lawsuit filed in Rutherford County Circuit Court claims if the anchor bolts, which keep the home fastened to the foundation, were properly installed then the home wouldn’t have flipped. 

After seeing the damage, News 2 pulled the building permit for the home. It was issued in March 2017.

The contractors are listed as Michael Jones, who was the homeowner at the time, and Ralph Baxter. 

News 2 found out Baxter didn’t have a contractor’s license. Neither did Michael Jones, but it is not illegal for a homeowner to build his own house without a license if he lives in it for two years. He can also sell the home if there is a life-changing event like a divorce or job transfer. 

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance regulates contractors. It filed a complaint against Baxter using the information News 2 showed them.

The agency is investigating if Baxter operated as the primary contractor and broke the law by having the homeowner pull the building permit. A contractor must have a license if the work they perform is valued over $25,000. The home was worth nearly $500,000.

News 2 spoke with Ralph Baxter in December when the state initially launched its investigation. 

“What I’m doing is not against the law. Holy moly there’s hundreds of people doing it,” Baxter said over the phone. “Basically all I do is coordinate. They pay all the bills. There was no contract between us. It was like ‘hey will you help me do this?’ It was a handshake. I live close, I stop by daily and looked at it. To hold me liable for that. It’s crazy. It really is.”

Baxter did not want to comment on the lawsuit.

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