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Mountain Top Condominium Ass'n v. Dave Stabbert Master Builder

December 18, 1995

MOUNTAIN TOP CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION

v.

DAVE STABBERT MASTER BUILDER, INC.; JOSEPH HUFFMAN WALTER SEIPEL; SUSAN SEIPEL, PROPOSED INTERVENORS IN D.C./APPELLANTS.



APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS (D.C. Civil No. 90-00215)

BEFORE: STAPLETON, LEWIS and WEIS, Circuit Judges.

LEWIS, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED AUGUST 15, 1995

Filed December 18, 1995)

OPINION OF THE COURT

In this appeal, Walter Seipel and Susan Seipel ("appellants") seek the reversal of a district court order denying their motion to intervene in a proceeding pending in that court. The district court held that while the appellants' motion may be timely, "[t]he plain fact is that they have no interest at stake in the litigation, and no standing to become involved in it." Mountain Top Condominium Association v. Stabbert, et. al., No. 1990/215, slip op. at 4 (D. V.I. Dec. 9, 1994). Appellants argue that as a matter of law, their interest in the litigation is sufficient to support intervention as a matter of right under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2). We agree, and will reverse the district court's denial of appellants' motion to intervene.

I.

A.

The Seipels allege the following facts in their motion to intervene and their proposed "Complaint in Intervention." These facts are not disputed in the present record and appear to have been accepted by the district court in ruling on the motion to intervene.

On September 17, 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck the Virgin Islands and wreaked tremendous destruction. Included in this natural disaster was the damage and destruction of several buildings which comprised the Mountain Top Condominiums, located on the island of St. Thomas. The Mountain Top Condominiums are governed by the Mountain Top Condominium Association ("MTCA"), which is comprised of all of the condominium owners in the development. The owners had delegated certain powers and duties, including the repair and restoration of the condominiums, to the MTCA's Board of Directors (the "Board") pursuant to the MTCA's bylaws and Virgin Islands law, Title 28 V.I.C. Chapter 33.

Pursuant to Article V, Sections 2 and 3 of the MTCA's By-laws, the MTCA's Board was required to appoint an Insurance Trustee to approve the adjustment of any loss, and to receive all insurance proceeds for losses in excess of $50,000. There is no dispute that the Board did not comply with these requirements.

Instead, the Board took it upon itself to approve the insurance adjustment and to determine how the reconstruction and repair proceeds were to be distributed. As a result, the Board adjusted the hurricane loss and received $1,538,613 from its insurance carrier. The Board then deposited this fund into a separate account specifically designated for hurricane reconstruction. Rather than apply all of the insurance proceeds to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Hugo, however, the Board decided to distribute some of the proceeds to the individual condominium owners according to the size of the various condominium units, *fn1 minus fifteen percent (15%) for the Board's supervision of the individual owners' reconstruction efforts. Under this plan, a larger unit would receive more from the fund than a smaller unit regardless of the damage sustained, and there was no requirement that the money be used to benefit the condominium units. The appellants allege that this in turn has provided certain unit owners with a cash windfall. The Board also included in the repair costs the reconstruction of five "deck extensions" which were not covered by the MTCA's insurance policy. *fn2 Finally, in order to receive any money from the hurricane restoration fund, the Board required unit owners to sign general releases. Apparently, the appellants are the only owners who refused to sign a release.

B.

As part of its reconstruction plan, the Board entered into an agreement with David Stabbert Master Builder, Inc., for construction work on the condominiums. *fn3 The Board, however, was dissatisfied with the quality of the work performed by Stabbert and its subcontractors, and a dispute arose between the parties. As a result of this dispute, Huffman and Stabbert filed construction liens against the condominiums in the hope of recovering payment for their work. The Board responded by filing a complaint against Stabbert and Huffman, alleging fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, unfair trade practices, slander of title, injunctive relief, breach of contract, and damages. Huffman and Stabbert filed counterclaims against the MTCA.

Later, Huffman and Stabbert agreed to release the liens. In return, the Board deposited $250,000 of the insurance proceeds in escrow in the registry of the district court. This sum represented all that remained of the hurricane reconstruction fund. In February, 1994, ...


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