A Wauwatosa-based remodeler is accusing a former sales consultant of trying to delay a lawsuit by not responding to a summons and complaint and intentionally avoiding attempts to have papers delivered to him in person.
Knutson Bros. Design-Build, of Wauwatosa, filed a lawsuit in August against its former sales consultant Troy Fullerton, alleging that Fullerton had directed leads from a trade show to his own company, thus stealing them from Knuston Bros.
Bob Schulz, business manager at Knutson Bros., said he has tried for months to initiate a lawsuit but that Fullerton has purposely avoided a process server’s attempts to deliver summons and complaint paperwork. Once those documents are formally served, the suit will be initiated and Fullerton will have 21 days to respond.
Schulz says he has heard from many homeowners who say they were duped into thinking Fullerton was performing work on behalf of Knutson Bros. At least three people have complained that work that Fullerton had performed on their houses was either shoddy or left unfinished.
Fullerton, for his part, disputed the idea that he was trying to avoid being served the papers. He called the lawsuit “frivolous” and threatened to counter-sue.
According to the legal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court’s Eastern Wisconsin District, Fullerton established his own company named KB Roofing & Remodeling LLC without telling Knutson Bros., where he had worked as a sales consultant between 2015 and 2016. Fullerton then set up a booth at a home-remodeling trade show and, rather than represent Knutson Bros., handed out his own sales brochures that featured Knutson Bros.’s photographs, logo and text but listed his own company’s contact information.
The lawsuit accuses Fullerton of infringing on a trademark, cybersquatting, competing unfairly and providing false representation, breaching his duty of loyalty and stealing trade secrets. It asks the court to ban Fullerton from using Knutson Bros.’s trademarks and calls on him to disgorge any gains his company obtained from those practices and to pay back three times his profits to Knutson Bros.
Fullerton pushed back on Wednesday on the charges, saying that Schulz has known about KB Roofing for some time and that he filed a lawsuit only after Fullerton had started receiving more business than Knutson Bros.
Lawyers representing Knutson Bros. wrote to the court in late September to contend that a process server had tried unsuccessfully several times to serve Fullerton the summons and complaint. Likewise, court records show that the process server had tried 12 times between August and October to deliver the papers to a Waukesha address belonging to Fullerton.
Rather than delivering the papers in person, Knutson Bros. ended up serving Fullerton by publishing a notice in a local newspaper, said Andrea Murdock, a lawyer representing Knutson Bros. in the suit. The notice was last published on Oct. 27, giving Fullerton until Friday to respond.
If Fullerton doesn’t respond by then, Knutson Bros. could ask for a default judgment, although Murdock declined to discuss their legal plans.
Fullerton said he has not been avoiding the process server. He said he’s likely been out in the field every time a server knocked on his door, since it’s not uncommon for him to be out working 12 hours a day. In fact, he said, he can be easily reached by phone or email.
“I have no problem fighting this lawsuit; I look forward to this,” he said, later adding that “no process server has ever tried to call me (or) email me.”
Schulz said he’s not the only person who is unhappy with Fullerton.
Donna Fleming was one of the people who contracted Fullerton’s company to perform work on her house. Fleming agreed in July to pay him $24,000 to repair sub-par work performed by a previous contractor on a house, on Milwaukee’s south side, that had once belonged to her aunt. Fullerton’s job was to repair the bathroom’s tile floor , remove and refinish carpeting, put in new patio doors, and install a kitchen peninsula.
Fleming said that Fullerton had promised the work would be done by Oct. 31. Yet, walking through her home on Monday, Fleming had little trouble pointing to repairs that still had to be made. Whatever work has been done, she said, appears to be shoddy.
Fullerton said he had told Fleming the work would take 60 days, meaning he still has time to complete it. He also accused Schulz of reaching out to her and other clients to tarnish his company’s reputation.
“The guy is a con man, and all he does, he’s been calling every customer I’ve had to try to get them to complain about me,” Fullerton said, adding that “95 percent” of them have asked Schulz to leave them alone.
Schulz denied that contention, saying that customers have been calling him, not the other way around.
Jerad Albracht, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said on Thursday that the agency has received three complaints in total about Fullerton and his business, KB Roofing. He added that department officials are considering each complaint “on a case-by-case basis,” adding that it is too early to say what might come of them.
Fleming, meanwhile, said she does not have much hope that she’ll be able to recoup any of the $17,000 she had already paid to Fullerton. She said that she spoke to a lawyer recently and was told that she didn’t have much of a chance of getting the money back.
“My goal at this point is to put a stop to Troy Fullerton,” she said.Follow @alexzank