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Equity One, Inc. v. City of Pittsburgh

May 30, 2006

EQUITY ONE, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PITTSBURGH, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Stewart Cercone United States District Judge

Electronic Filing

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Equity One, Inc. ("Equity One"), and Defendant, City of Pittsburgh ("the City"), have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. After careful consideration of the motions, the memoranda of law in support and in opposition and the supporting materials supplied by the parties, this Court will grant the motion for summary judgment submitted by Plaintiff and deny the motion for summary judgment submitted by Defendant.

II. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Equity One brings this action, alleging that the City violated its procedural due process rights under the federal and state constitutions when it condemned and demolished property in which Equity One held a mortgage without providing it with notice and an opportunity to be heard. The City does not deny that Equity One did not receive notice of the condemnation and demolition, but contends that Equity One has not alleged or provided evidence that its loss resulted from a policy or custom of the City.

Facts

The parties agree that, on October 12, 2000, property located at 3112 Sacramento Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15204 (the "Property") was transferred from Josephine E. Dettling to Richard Lonick; that on that same day, a mortgage secured by the Property was executed and delivered to Equity One by Lonick; that on May 31, 2002, after the City had initiated a Treasurer's Sale on the Property, the deed and mortgage for the Property were for the first time recorded by Equity One with the Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds; that the City acquired an interest in the Property via Treasurer's Sale on or about July 11, 2002; that on October 4, 2002, Equity One instituted a mortgage foreclosure action against Lonick in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County through the filing of a complaint at G.D. No. 02-018644; that the docket entries for this matter also reflect that a default judgment in the amount of $50,808.16 was entered against Lonick, the owner of the Property, by Equity One on June 30, 2003; and that on March 11, 2003, the Property was inspected by the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection.

The City asserts that, on March 12, 2003, in response to the dangerous and rundown condition of the Property, a Dangerous Condition Notice was mailed to and physically posted on the Property. Equity One contends that the City initiated demolition proceedings because it determined that the Property was not marketable. It cites a letter, dated September 15, 2003, in which Mary Lou Tenenbaum, the City Manager of Real Estate, explained to Equity One's counsel that:

The City of Pittsburgh acquired the above property via Treasurer's Sale on July 11, 2002 for non payment of City and School District Real Estate Taxes.

Upon inspection of the property the Sales Coordinator determined that it was not marketable, and recommended demolition. The structure was inspected by the Bureau of Building Inspection and condemned in March 2003. It was demolished in May 2003. (Docket No. 36 Ex. A.)

The Property was condemned on March 13, 2003. On May 12, 2003, bids for the demolition of the Property were opened. The contract was awarded to Tom Sipes Demolition. Demolition of the Property was completed on June 9, 2003. No notice of the condemnation or demolition, other than the posting on the Property, was provided to Equity One. (Def.'s Answers Pl.'s Interrog. Nos. 7-8.)*fn1

Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on October 29, 2003. Count I alleges a claim for denial of Equity One's procedural due process rights under the Pennsylvania Constitution. Count II alleges a claim for denial of Equity One's procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and it is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

On November 26, 2003, Defendant removed the action to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. On December 20, 2005, a motion for summary judgment was filed by Defendant. On January 20, 2006, a cross-motion for summary judgment was filed by Plaintiff.

III. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is appropriate "'if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Woodside v. School Dist. of Philadelphia Bd. of Educ., 248 F.3d 129, 130 (3d Cir. 2001) (quotingFoehl v. United States, 238 F.3d 474, 477 (3d Cir. 2001) (citations omitted)). In following this directive, a court must take the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all doubts in that party's favor. Doe v. County of Centre, PA, 242 F.3d 437, 446 (3d Cir. 2001); Woodside, 248 F.3d at 130; Heller v. Shaw Indus., Inc., 167 F.3d 146, 151 (3d Cir. 1999).

When the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party's burden can be "discharged by 'showing'--that is, pointing out to the District Court--that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the moving party has carried this burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party who cannot rest on the allegations of the pleadings and must "do more than simply show that there is ...


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