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Sandra Bullock takes on builder in court

Claims his work on her luxury home left it unlivable.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Miss Congeniality is waging a legal battle.

Sandra Bullock was in Travis County court Wednesday in a dispute with the Austin developer she hired to build a luxury home that she says is defective.

The developer, M.B. “Benny” Daneshjou, claims the movie star owes him money and that the Lake Austin home was fine. He filed a lawsuit against the actress and she countersued.

Travis County District Judge Paul Davis barred cameras from his courtroom for the trial that’s expected to last more than a month. “In the courtroom, I want her to be a regular person,” Davis said.

The star of the “Speed” movies and various romantic comedies including “Miss Congeniality” has been entangled in litigation with Daneshjou for several years.

Bullock was in the courtroom for jury selection Wednesday as potential jurors were asked if her celebrity would be a factor in reaching a verdict.

Bullock laughed when one woman said she didn’t realize she was a movie star but had thought instead she was a former wife of the late Texas political giant Bob Bullock, a former lieutenant governor and state comptroller.

Another woman said she enjoyed Bullock’s movies and questioned whether she could be impartial when hearing the evidence. “I loved ‘Speed.’ I love ‘Miss Congeniality,”’ she said. “I’m not in love with her, but she’s a movie star.”

Bullock, 40, first contracted with Daneshjou in 1997 to build the lakefront house. She also agreed to become a partner with him in a development project.

But she now says that she spent millions on a house that was unlivable. She said the home needed massive repairs and that Daneshjou committed fraud in the development project in which she invested more than $300,000.

In previous legal filings, Bullock claimed she spent $6.5 million on the house.

Daneshjou claims she caused the delays on her home and that any finding of shoddy construction should be blamed on the project manager, who under contract assumed responsibility for the job.

Opening statements in the case could begin as soon as Thursday.